Hand-me-downs don’t get the recognition they deserve. But one dress worn by a kindergarten student is getting some attention because it’s not just any second-hand dress. It’s a 67-year-old heirloom dress, and Caroline Hirt wore it to her first day of school back in 2017. The dress has a strong family connection and a compelling story and here’s what you should know.
Caroline’s mom, Jenny Hirt, wore the same dress on her first day of school, her older daughter, Ally, wore the same dress on her first day of kindergarten. And so did 17 other women in her family, for three generations, this handmade dress has been worn. It’s lived in seven different states during that time.
Jenny was the fifth person to wear the unique handmade yellow-and-purple dress; her daughter Caroline was the 18th to wear the dress. The dress was passed along to Caroline’s cousin, Sylvie, who was the 19th person to wear the dress, and chances are it’s seen a few more first days of school in the last few years as well.
Jenny told TODAY that her great-grandmother made the dress for her aunt, Martha Esch, to wear on her first day of school back in 1950, and it’s become a tradition for all the girls in the family to wear it for their first day. And somehow, it’s still in excellent condition.
“Tradition and handing things down has always been a part of our family,” Jenny told Parents.com. “I have several items from my mother and grandmother that have been handed down to me. It is a way to carry on the memories of family members, try to instill pride of tradition in our kids, and bind us together as a family.”
Caroline wasn’t too thrilled to be in on the tradition, according to her mom, but she changed her mind when she heard the history and saw the photos. “She wasn’t terribly thrilled to wear the dress,” Jenny said. “After seeing the photos, especially the one of me, Caroline thought it was pretty cool.” Caroline did hold her ground on one thing, though; she didn’t allow for her hair to be put in pigtail braids, which is also part of the family tradition.
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Some last minute hand stitching repair on the 67-year-old kindergarten dress before my youngest daughter wears it on her first day tomorrow. It's pretty surreal to work on a dress that you know your great grandmother and grandmother made with their own hands. #handmedownsrock #kindergartendress #threegenerationsoflove #familyheirloom
Such a cute first-day-of-school tradition, the family is careful with the dress to help keep it in the best shape so they can keep the tradition going. “For many years, the dress was cared for by my grandmother, Helen, who did the embroidery on the dress,” Jenny said. “The girl would wear the dress and ship it back to my grandma. Now it will be shipped back to my mom, Katy, so she can hold onto it until the next child can wear it. We also pack a spare set of clothes on the first day and let the teachers know if they are going to do something super messy, she can change. This year Caroline got strawberry juice on the dress.”