I'm sure that every reader of this blog post already knows what a frippery was ~ assuming, that is, that we are living in the 1700s. And therefore every reader will also know, again assuming that we are still living in the 1700s, that a fripperer was a person who worked at the frippery. What? You don't know what I'm talking about? Well apparently you're the only one, because everyone else knows that the frippery was where you took your old, worn out or damaged clothing to be refurbished and resold to someone else. Now, does that ring a bell in your memory?
The fripperer, according to the definition in the Oxford English Dictionary, was a 'dealer in cast-off clothing'. Clothing has always been expensive. Look at today's prices. A man's dress shirt costs around sixty dollars; a pair of children's shoes can cost over sixty dollars. If you want three pairs of pants and two shirts, you better take two or three hundred dollars with you when you shop. Two hundred years ago, clothing was just as expensive, though in a different way. In the day and age when the lady of the house had to spin her own thread from flax plants or sheep shorn wool, the 'cost' of producing the material to be used for clothing, in addition to the actual making of the clothing, was expensive in terms of her physical labor and time spent. And even after spinning the thread, the housewife had to either weave the thread into cloth herself, or barter with the local weaver to have her cloth woven. And then, on top of that, she had to cut and sew the cloth into pants, shirts and coats for her husband and children.
The fripperer, usually a man, in trying to make a living, provided a much needed service to people who couldn't afford, in time, material or skill, to make their own clothes. Townsfolk, who couldn't raise either sheep or flax, or at least couldn't raise enough of it to produce the amount of cloth they required for their clothing, might take advantage of the services provided by the fripperer. In the same way that a cordwainer made new shoes while a cobbler repaired old shoes, the tailor made new clothes while a fripperer mended old ones. The fripperer not only collected the 'cast-off clothing', by accepting free donations or paying a fraction of their true worth, but would sew and darn any holes in them.
He would sew on buttons where missing and replace lace where it was torn. He would have washed the clothing and perhaps even ironed them in an effort to make them desirable to his customers.
Certain sources note that fripperers dealt not only in 'cast-off clothing', but also in used furniture and household goods.
So do we have to be living in the 1700s to avail ourselves of the services of a fripperer? Certainly not ~ I can find great bargains in used and refurbished clothing at the local fripperer ~ the Goodwill store. That explains the title of this post. After the 'summer of love' in 1969, as young people cast off the shackles of conventional society in favor of becoming hippies, many found that their newfound lack of money left them without the means to buy expensive clothing. The Goodwill Store became a mecca where they could find cheap, but good clothing. And today, this modern-day fripperer still provides that service to either people who can't afford the high cost of new clothes, or who want 'vintage' clothing.
By the way, the shirt and pants exhibited on this post did not come from a fripperer, although they look like they might have. They are just some of the clothes I wore in the 70s ~ in my 'hippie' days. I simply thought they'd illustrate some clothes that might have been mended and resold by a fripperer ~ they certainly were 'mended'.