I need your advice about a situation with my son.

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glider18
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22 Sep 2011, 9:50 pm

I don't know the best answer to this dilemma---it's nothing bad. My 15 year old son is now in high school and is in the marching band. Band is something that he and I have in common---and that's special. After my 11th grade year in high school we got new band uniforms and got to purchase my old one. I showed it to my son last week, and he has taken considerable interest in that uniform. He thinks it's neat because it looks so retro compared to the uniforms today, and because it was my uniform---and he fits perfectly in it. I have overheard him talking to his friends about me letting him try it on and how much he loves it. He wants to wear it on Trick or Treat this year. I am ok with that. But...he asked me tonight if he could wear it to his school's Halloween dress-up today next month. The kids wear their costumes all day. The school he goes to is a rival school to my old school, and that uniform has my school's name all over it. I am afraid something might happen to the uniform---it is special to me, but so is my son's happiness. He has really taken a bond with me because of that uniform. Should I let him wear it to his school's dress-up day with the risk that something could happen to it (though it probably wouldn't---but who knows these days)? He has even taken pictures of himself in that uniform. I just don't know what to do. I really can't imagine him wearing it all day because it is extremely heavy uncomfortable fabric---wool like and stiff. I just wish he didn't want to wear it there. Anyway...help???

I often try to respond back to people who post back to me on my posts. But since it is late here, I might be asleep by the time anything might be posted. And with the hectic nature of my job, I often don't get as much time to do WrongPlanet as I used to (I can read the posts by not logging in on my workplace's computer, but I don't feel like I should log in and post messages on my job time). I often can't post anything until the following evening. And this weekend is busy. But I do plan on reading what you have to say on this troublesome dilemma for me. Thank you for your time and thoughts on this.


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MountainLaurel
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22 Sep 2011, 10:23 pm

Your concern about the rival school issue may be relavant and you're correct that he'll probably become very uncomfortable in the uniform because of the nature of the fabric.

My biggest concern would be that if an over-zealous high school nit-whit were to do something to deface the uniform this would be traumatic to the wearer, your son.

I'd explain to my HS child my concerns;
- You'll be wearing a rival uniform which might insite some agressive behavior in an impulsive classmate. Think seroiusly how you will feel/react to the potential consequences of attracting this kind of attention to yourself.
- Consider how the hot, scratchy fabric will feel after a couple of hours indoors.

Then I'd let him make the decision and suffer any consequences. That's how we learn to make wise decisions as older children.



theWanderer
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22 Sep 2011, 10:33 pm

The first thing that occurs to me is, why not discuss your concerns with your son? Tell him why you're worried. If the uniform is special to him, too, then presumably he won't want it to get wrecked. (Although, when I was that age, my enthusiasm did sometimes lure me into making mistakes I regretted. So this is no guarantee.) Whatever you decide, if you talk the issue over with him, he'll at least understand your thinking on it.

If you do think of letting him wear it, I would suggest you do one other thing. Before he wears it, take it to a tailor / seamstress, and discuss your options for having it repaired if it is damaged. Even an archivist / conservationist who deals with fabric. They can't stop the damage from occurring, but they might have some useful thoughts on just how risky it is and how possible - or impossible - fixing any problems later would be. Which is probably good information to know, unless you just flatly say no. They may even know of a treatment which will make it less susceptible to stains, at least...


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MountainLaurel
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22 Sep 2011, 11:02 pm

Quote:
I would suggest you do one other thing. Before he wears it, take it to a tailor / seamstress, and discuss your options for having it repaired if it is damaged. Even an archivist / conservationist who deals with fabric.


I am a clothing patternmaker by trade, have had a custom clothing business for decades and I do repairs and refurbishing of church vestments.

There is little I could tell you about repair options before damage is done. Same as a body shop couldn't specify anything about auto repair before an accident.

If latex or oil paint; or bleach is thrown onto a fabric, there is no repairing it. If the fabric is torn. it can be repaired. But if you consider any of these possiblities, you realize that were any of these things to happen, the trauma to the wearer would trump the damage to the garment. The damage to the garment in any of these cases becomes a moot point.



SoundOfRain
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23 Sep 2011, 5:55 am

Another point is that your Son wouldn't feel good if it got damaged. Telling him your concerns is a good idea, as it's likely he will end up sharing those concerns too. Only wearing it where you both can be sure it wil be treated with respect it deserves and not be accidently damaged is a good rule of thumb for any item so precious. It sounds like he loves the Uniform so much, and it is a special bond between you. He has other opportunities to wear it with pride where it won't get damaged, and you will both end up with nothing but fond memories of him wearing it.



momsparky
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23 Sep 2011, 10:30 am

Is there a way to compromise? Could he wear part of the uniform (meaning, hats, shoe covers, braids, etc.) and wear something else as his main costume?



theWanderer
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23 Sep 2011, 10:51 am

MountainLaurel wrote:
Quote:
I would suggest you do one other thing. Before he wears it, take it to a tailor / seamstress, and discuss your options for having it repaired if it is damaged. Even an archivist / conservationist who deals with fabric.


I am a clothing patternmaker by trade, have had a custom clothing business for decades and I do repairs and refurbishing of church vestments.

There is little I could tell you about repair options before damage is done. Same as a body shop couldn't specify anything about auto repair before an accident.

If latex or oil paint; or bleach is thrown onto a fabric, there is no repairing it. If the fabric is torn. it can be repaired. But if you consider any of these possiblities, you realize that were any of these things to happen, the trauma to the wearer would trump the damage to the garment. The damage to the garment in any of these cases becomes a moot point.


Well, there's a reason I added that an archivist / conservationist who deals with fabric would be a good idea. :) I don't know specifically about fabric, but with paper records, someone with such training can sometimes offer tips on reducing the potential for damage. As fabric gets older, it ages - if this is a treasured family possession, it is something I'd tend to recommend in any case. Preservationists have special training no one else can match.

Oh, and by the way, my body shop guy certainly couldn't tell me just what would have to be done if I got into an accident in the future - but he has given me advice that certain parts would be hard to find if I ever needed them, and even mentioned that if you have any control over where the impact will be, the doors are not the best choice. Better to take it on the fender... :wink: Now, I'm not saying that information would be very useful in every situation, but it doesn't hurt to know as much as possible, just in case.

As for your other point, I agree, but not entirely. Obviously, the most important priority is to prevent trauma to the wearer. And I would never recommend taking any step which would increase the risks to the person involved. But, if you can also protect a valuable item without increasing the risk, there is certainly no reason not to do so. And, if the wearer values the garment as well, then damage to it might well increase any trauma they suffered from an attack. (Although the item in question was not a garment, I speak from experience here, by the way. I tended to be a bully magnet.)

I can also think of several things - all of which actually happened to me in school - which would damage the garment without even getting his attention at the time. One, someone sneaks up behind him with a 'loaded' paintbrush and lays a few stripes of wet paint across his back. If that paint is latex or oil based, as you already pointed out, it will ruin the garment (although I'm curious - wouldn't it be theoretically possible to find a matching piece of fabric and replace the ruined panel?) even if he doesn't feel a light brush stroke. Two, someone slips up with a pair of scissors and snips at any portion of the garment which is loose enough to present an easy target.


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DW_a_mom
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23 Sep 2011, 12:55 pm

I would tell your son point blank that because the uniform names a rival school, kids are likely to misinterpret why he is wearing it, and that these misinterpretations could cause issues. There are numerous ways kids could read it, and numerous ways they could react.

I wonder if wearing a big, bright button that says, "this was my dad's" would solve it? Something visible from the front, and add something visible for the back, as well. Then practice a few scripts on how to answer the possible rivalry questions or comments.


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Kailuamom
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23 Sep 2011, 1:55 pm

I think it is inappropriate to wear a rival schools uniform to a school function. Period.

My son is in marching band. We have a great program, with a close knit group of 140 kids. It would not be at all well received to wear a rival uniform. Forget the physical damage to the uniform or your son, it's likely he would never really be seen as part of the group again.

We are actually really close with our one rival school - we help each other at competitions and share bingo shifts. I can't even imagine what would happen if one of the kids showed up in the band room one day in one of their uniforms. It would not go well.

I know you want to further the closeness you are feeling with him at the moment, maybe you can even tell him how it would have been perceived back then. I am a big NO on this one.



MountainLaurel
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23 Sep 2011, 4:17 pm

(

Quote:
although I'm curious - wouldn't it be theoretically possible to find a matching piece of fabric and replace the ruined panel?)


No, old fabric is unmatchable because it has faded/worn individually and the differences are stark.



theWanderer
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23 Sep 2011, 4:42 pm

MountainLaurel wrote:
(
Quote:
although I'm curious - wouldn't it be theoretically possible to find a matching piece of fabric and replace the ruined panel?)


No, old fabric is unmatchable because it has faded/worn individually and the differences are stark.


And yet, I've read of instances of old fabric items being restored. Now, I don't have any idea of the cost of such restoration, but I can more or less extrapolate what would be involved from areas other than fabric. And the more I think of it, the more I suspect it would be at least theoretically feasible from a technical standpoint. Now, if you're saying it wouldn't be possible at an affordable price by most standards, you are probably right. I've been a professional genealogist, and done a good bit of reading in the areas of archival conservation and restoration. Thousands, even tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars can be spent to restore a single item - if it is of enough significance to bother. In really special cases, millions are spent... So I'm used to thinking in those terms, not normal repairs. Heck, when it comes to my fountain pens, as long as I can afford the fix, I don't care what the pen is "worth", I just care that I can preserve it.

Which is, by the way, why I advise the OP to seek such a professional no matter what they decide on the immediate question. Conservation is always much less expensive than restoration. And if this uniform is that important to the family, it may be worth the admittedly steep fee (probably hundreds) to learn how best to preserve and protect it. And if there are chemical treatments to help protect paper - and there are; they're even fairly affordable (not pennies, but not thousands or even hundreds) - then I'm sure there are others that will help protect cloth. If the cost of materials to treat paper is any guide, it shouldn't cost more than fifty bucks at most to treat the entire uniform. (Note: that's a guess. I'm going by what it would cost to treat paper, which should be a bit harder to deal with, but actually leaving a bit of wriggle room. But I am not infallible, either.) The real issue is that these things are not found in ordinary stores, but only through specialty providers. For example, the last Gaylord catalogue I looked through had some solutions for fabric items, but I don't remember too much about how good a selection they had or what the prices were, so I'm not sure if Gaylord would be the best option for this. Consumer suppliers will not offer the best options in a case like this, not even ones that toss the word "archival" around like acorns in autumn.

Edited to add: And the precise field matters a great deal. Many archivists know a good deal about conserving and repairing paper. However, I collect old fountain pens. Even the experts (I send my pens out to one of the top two guys in the United States) can't always say precisely what the chemical makeup of an obscure model is, and so may not be sure what to do with it. And even for relatively common materials, such as ebonite (hard rubber), the additives vary, and no one has yet developed solutions for such simple issues as repairing cracks or preventing surface oxidation (other than simply protecting the pen from UV exposure and water). And the early casein pens (a plastic made from - literally - milk protein) are beyond anyone's ability to do much with other than the obvious strategy of protecting them from exposure to just about everything and keeping them in a very stable environment. I am certainly no expert on fabric. So it could be this uniform is made of a fabric no one yet knows what to do with. From my knowledge in other fields, I can say that if it is made of natural fibers (wool, cotton, or linen, for example) there's a better chance someone will understand how it ages and how it can be protected. If it is a synthetic material, or a blend of natural and synthetic fibers, then it will depend very much on whether anyone has had strong enough reason yet to study that particular material in depth. And, even if they have, if it is a difficult material like ebonite, they may not yet have found many answers. So the only way to know for sure is to ask someone who is likely to know. But it does help to know what you're dealing with. If you were to buy an expensive several hundred dollar Montblanc pen, brand new, and happen to lay it down on a table where someone has spilled alcohol, if the "precious resin" ends up in that puddle of alcohol, it will melt. Which is probably something you'd like to know before you find out the hard way...


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MountainLaurel
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23 Sep 2011, 7:25 pm

Sorry Wanderer, but I think you've gone way out on a tangent.

I have worked in fabric all my life and have a very fine sense of it but, no, I am not a restorer of antiquities though such things certainly exist.



glider18
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23 Sep 2011, 10:37 pm

I want to personally thank each one of you for your advice on this situation. I feel fortunate to have such a wonderful support network as all of you here at the WrongPlanet. I have read through each post, and will reread them again. The overwhelming response here is that is not a good idea for him to wear my old uniform to his school---and this is actually the answer I was wanting to hear. I have heard a lot of great advice in your posts---mentioning things I hadn't thought of on this. And that is what I needed to hear. So again, I thank each one of you for helping me on this. I am confident he will understand and respect my decision given the valid concerns that have come out of this discussion.

glider18


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DenvrDave
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24 Sep 2011, 2:51 pm

Hi Glider, I've been away for some time and am just recently getting caught up.

I can relate to your dilemma and find myself in similar situations as I also have a 15 year old son who is trying to survive the craziness of high school. I would like to share a story of my own, and maybe this can help you decide the best course of action.

I try very hard to protect my son from being picked on in school, and to help him fit in on his own terms. Sometimes I try too hard. What I have learned is that no matter how hard I try, ultimately as my son grows older and matures I have to let him learn and grow by making his own mistakes. For example, one weekend before school started I took my son shopping for new school clothes and spent a lot of time talking with him and coaching him about what clothes to select that wouldn't make him stand out or get picked on. I felt very proud of myself for helping him pick some neutral-looking clothes that would not "put a target on him." Later that same week, he shaved off his eyebrows while shaving his face with an electric shaver. He did this in an attempt to trim his eyebrows because one of his school mates told him that bushy eyebrows are unattractive. He didn't intend to shave them off, just to trim them, but given his young age and inexperience he ended up shaving them off. Needless to say, I was flabbergasted...just beside myself...deflated. After all the hard work I do to help him and protect him, and he goes and does this. The only thing I could do was send him to school the next morning with a hat pulled down over his eyebrows and hope the school would let him wear the hat all day. They didn't. Fortunately, one of the girls in marching band pulled him aside and put eye-liner on him which actually fixed things up...it was practically un-noticable with the eyeliner. He came home later that night in a great mood, and I put eye-liner on him every morning for the next three weeks, and it did not turn out to be the life-changing traumatic experience I thought it would be.

From this I learned that you can't protect your high-school aged child from everything, that sometimes situations have a way of working themselves out no matter how hard we try to control the circumstances, kids have to make their own mistakes, kids are resilient, and I also learned how to apply eye-liner.

Perhaps there is a nugget of wisdom in here somewhere that you can use. Perhpaps not. Either way, you are not alone and many if not all of us parents must struggle with these questions at one time or another. I wish you and your family all the best :D -DD

PS: I also learned (or re-learned, as I know this) that there are some very kind souls in this world, angels really, and if you run into them you are lucky indeed. I contacted the girl's parents and told them what a kind and thoughtful daughter they had and thanked them for raising and nurturing such a beautiful soul.



glider18
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24 Sep 2011, 11:11 pm

It's good to see you again DenvrDave. Thank you for your response, it is definitely helping me with my decision here. I appreciate it.


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