I Bought It for Love (or How My New Jacket Made My Mother-In-Law Smile)


Ah, the things we do for love.

I wasn’t supposed to buy those new clothes. Even though I knew full and well about the tradition for Chinese New Year – that you should always start the year wearing new clothing.

Call me frugal. I’ve always been the sort of woman who sticks to her budget, who buys things carefully. Especially clothing, like winter jackets and coats. Growing up, we didn’t necessarily buy new ones every year. Instead, we’d just invest in a nice one that could last several years or more and get as much use out of it as we could.

Besides, this year finances were a little tight. I figured, why not save the money instead?

I was all ready to stick to my “no new clothing” plan for Chinese New Year. That is, until that evening at my in-laws’ house, when my mother-in-law pulled out two shiny new jackets for my husband. She had bought them from the local market, and beamed at John once he tried them on. One was a navy blue, the other a nice tan brown. Even I had to agree he looked handsome.

Yet a guilty feeling washed over me because of the money she spent. She shouldn’t have bought them. It’s something I would have rather done myself – except I hadn’t.

Then she said to me, “I could find something for you too.”

Uh oh.

It’s bad enough when your mother-in-law spends her hard-earned cash on the husband you should have bought for, but worse when she does it for you too. I tried to discourage her with the practical realities of buying for me – namely, that she’d never find my size. Not in the countryside markets where she goes.

But her smile and determination wouldn’t budge. “I can find your size.” Pretty soon she was measuring me up and promising to go shopping the following day.

“Really, you don’t need to,” I pleaded with her, thinking she had better things to do with her time and money than shopping for me.

But, no, she wouldn’t hear it. She said that how you dress is important in the village. That people notice if you’re wearing new clothes or the same thing all the time. It reminded me of something she once mentioned during dinner – that what you wear matters more than what you eat.

And more specifically, it mattered to her. Why else would she have bothered to buy my husband clothes or offer to shop for me? How we look reflects on her. And if we make a nice appearance, she’ll look good too. To put it simply, donning a little new clothing for the new year would make her very happy.

It’s hard not to care about the happiness of my mother-in-law when, frankly, she spends so much of her time caring about ours. She always loads the lazy susan up with vegan dishes just for me (really delicious ones, mind you). She’s been known to get up early on weekends to make steamed bread from scratch for us, or stay up late on a Saturday to fry up flatbread that we can bring to Hangzhou to have for lunches. She has done my laundry more times than I’d like to admit, and often hangs my clothing out to sun. She doesn’t really criticize us that much. And let’s not forget how she bought us all of these necessities when we first moved to Hangzhou, things she totally didn’t need to buy.

In short, she is the most amazing, devoted and loving mother-in-law I could ever ask for. So if wearing some new clothes would make her happy, how could I refuse?

So I said, “Okay, you go out shopping for me.”

The next day, she set out with my husband to the market. (I had to stay home – my foreign face would have jacked up all the prices, since it’s all bargaining.) John sent me photos of jacket after jacket that my mother-in-law hoped to buy for me. They were, to put it nicely, not my kind of clothing. I basically cringed at the thought of wearing them or, worse, being photographed in them. My frugal side shuddered. After all, the only thing worse than spending money on a jacket you really don’t need is a jacket you’ll never want to wear. So I vetoed every single one of them.

But that meant I still had nothing to wear – which wouldn’t do for my mother-in-law. After all, I was doing this to make it a good Chinese New Year for her. I’d have to think of another solution, and fast.

I grabbed my computer and immediately started browsing my favorite online clothing stores – the ones that actually have stuff in my size. Sure enough, they had some lovely jackets on sale that would definitely fit me. I liked them and felt certain my mother-in-law would too.

I still can’t believe how quickly I scooped up those jackets into my online shopping cart. I’ve never bought anything so fast in my entire life!

That, my friends, is how I ended up with this powder blue down jacket (which was, thankfully, discounted 50 percent off the original price.)

So, my bank account is now out a few hundred RMB. But that’s okay. When I tried on that powder blue jacket the other night, my mother-in-law also smiled with such pride – and even complimented me on how I had an eye for choosing good clothes.

In short, she loves it. And I don’t think you could ever put a price on that.

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16 Replies to “I Bought It for Love (or How My New Jacket Made My Mother-In-Law Smile)”

  1. Your mother-in-law is so sweet. And it was nice of you to understand how your choices reflect on her, especially in a small town setting.

    My in-laws don’t seem to care how we dress or look. But that might be a product of living in casual Hawaii. Or anonymously in a big city. Their greater concern is always saving money.

    Or maybe they don’t have to worry about how I look since I did not grow up in Hawaii and always am overdressed. 😉

    1. Thanks for the comment, Autumn!

      Yeah, I’ll bet things are different living in a more casual environment and a bigger city. And especially if you’re always overdressed! Ha! (That’s something nobody will likely ever say about me, the girl who always tried to wear casual sports loafers with her dresses.)

  2. That story is so aaaawwww! And the coat looks very nice on you.

    For the moment I haven’t been forced to buy new clothes for new year… traditions are totally lost on us, haha.

    1. Thanks Marta! Yeah, the jacket turned out nice. Powder blue isn’t normally a color I’d buy, but it was in my size and the style was otherwise attractive, so I thought I’d give it a go. (I also knew my MIL would totally approve of me wearing this color, which was the most important factor!)

      Sounds like you have it pretty easy during CNY — especially since you guys are going on vacation during the holidays! Hope you have fun!

  3. Nice color on you Joss–you should wear it more often! So glad Jun’s family takes such great care of you both–Happy New Year to you all!

  4. That jacket looks wonderful on you! Glad you were able to find it and make her happy.

    Best wishes to you and your family for the coming year!

  5. Aww, such a sweet story. The jacket really does look good on you.
    During Diwali, it is expected that we wear something new, and also that we buy something new for someone. This year we didn’t have the funds to do either, so my brother-in-law bought us new clothes. It was a really sweet gesture.
    Loved reading this!

  6. Oh that sounds so familiar – want to know my secret? I went to h&m and headed straight for the sales section – got a blazer for 70rmb and a nice shirt with lace for 30rmb – CNY outfit for just 100rmb haha. Of course hubs sweater and shirt were over 1000 and mil bought him shoes for thousands of rmb that turned out uncomfortable – I hope she learned her lesson – buying untested shoes what a waste – anyways I always giggle at how my hubs the one with the expensive wardrobe in our relationship 😉

    1. Good idea, Laura! Sounds like H&M has a lot of great stuff. I’ll have to check them out sometime.

      Wow, I cannot believe how much money your MIL spent on your hubby’s clothes, which were clearly not worth the cash. Sounds a lot like what my MIL spent on clothes for my hubby. I think she spent 650 or so on two jackets for him (which totally weren’t worth it) and meanwhile I ended up getting four nice, high-quality pieces of clothing (two down jackets, a cotton-padded jacket, and a sweater) for the same price. It blows my mind what people sell clothing here for, especially in the countryside.

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