Claudette models thrift shop clothes for calendar
In 2018 Claudette Baisden walked away from the job she had worked towards her entire life.
Friends suggested that she have a rethink; that she was likely reeling from the back-to-back losses of her grandmother, Myrtle Baisden, and her mother, Diane Sallin.
“These women made me who I am. They were my inspiration, my rock, my foundation, my guiding light and my North Star. I shall be for ever grateful,” said Ms Baisden, who worked with the Parks Department for 24 years and left shortly after she was promoted to senior superintendent.
“My mom had cancer. After taking care of her for a year, I [decided] life has something else for Claudette. After my mom died, on the Monday I went back to work and I left on the Friday.”
She spent her time focusing on the things she enjoyed: her gardening and volunteer work and fixing up her property to rent on Airbnb.
And then the pandemic hit.
During the April 2020 shelter in place, surprised by the number of people suffering from depression, she decided to do something to inspire them.
“I have passion, I have drive, I have energy and I have style ― and you can’t teach that. That’s what keeps me going every day. I wanted to inspire people to just be the best that they could be,” said Ms Baisden, a “tomboy” who played soccer and field hockey at a competitive level.
“I knew I had a gift that I had to share and give back to the world. I know I have my fitness and people look up to me for that.”
She contacted Lloyd Webbe and set about creating a calendar for 2022. Bermuda’s celebrated photographer captured her at 59, newly bald, wearing designer clothes bought from thrift stores.
Pictured at Gibbs Hill Lighthouse and other tourist attractions, Ms Baisden wanted to show people that they didn’t need to spend a lot to look good.
“Every month in the calendar has an inspiring message. For instance, January is ‘Be Ready’; February is ‘Be Ambitious’; there’s one that has ‘Be Empowered’. At the end of the calendar is ‘Just Be’. We have to live our best lives. We can’t just exist.
“I wanted to inspire people and empower people and lift people up.”
Part proceeds of the calendar are earmarked for the cancer charity Pals as a thank you for the “exceptional care” it provided for her mother.
Ms Baisden also felt that it was important to showcase the “important role” thrift stores play in raising money for charities.
“Bermuda is blessed to have several thrift shops and the number has grown in response to growing needs over the past year as the community has battled the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said.
“All of the outfits shown in the calendar months were acquired in our thrift shops. You can indeed be ‘stylish on a shoestring’ as [designer] Tom Hogan put it. But in addition to clothing, I have furniture, dishes, books and curtains all from our thrift shops.”
The universal appeal is the opportunity to get “quality goods at a fraction of the cost of new items”, she added.
“Shoppers come from all parts of Bermudian society, from Pond Hill to Point Shares, both local and expatriate. On a Saturday morning at The Barn you can hear many different languages ― a real United Nations.
“Everybody involved in thrift shops knows that they are supporting a worthy cause whether it is youth development, the local hospitals, cancer treatment or meeting the needs of the destitute and homeless. Persons served by the charities which thrift shops support are better off as a result and Bermuda as a whole is a better place in which to live.”
Thrift shops have been a part of her life since she was a child. Her grandmother wore the clothes in the fashion shows she took part in at St Mary’s Church well into her nineties.
“For [my family] to be where we are today, my grandmother scrubbed floors; she had three jobs. We didn’t have a choice but to shop in thrift shops because we didn’t have the money.
“Among my earliest and happiest memories is riding up the long driveway of the Tucker estate opposite the Botanical Gardens in Paget on the back of my grandmother’s Mobylette some 50 years ago. Our destination: The Barn, the thrift shop operated by the Hospitals Auxiliary. We were usually the first to arrive, just as I am the first to arrive at The Barn today. We were both eager to see what new gems we might find.”
With a closet full of thrift shop finds, the difficulty came in determining what to wear when she met Mr Webbe.
“Working for Parks, I knew where I wanted to go,” she said. “We met about nine times before we even went to shoot and we did some dry runs. I learnt so much from him and I have so much respect for that gentleman.
“They say the photographer and the model have to be comfortable with each other. We were a perfect marriage in heaven. We worked 13-hour shifts with no breaks or water or refreshments. We were both committed to this project.”
Having always eaten well and having been active all her life, Ms Baisden was shocked by the first pictures.
“I had to lose 20lb because I was in the fridge during the pandemic, I was drinking the wine. But I wanted to come out of this with something different. Lockdown, I always knew, it’s just a state of mind and this is what I wanted to share with my friends.”
A “relatively recent” volunteer at The Barn, Ms Baisden also donates her time to other charitable efforts. She believes that everybody benefits when people give back.
“It’s not about money it’s about serving people, and once people understand that, your blessings will always come. You will always be blessed. And that’s what’s in me. I lift people up. I know I have that gift. I’m conscious of it. And it’s something that I love to do.
“I live a very private life but if somebody comes knocking on my door that means somebody needs to come in and talk to me ― and that’s what I do.”
E-mail Claudette Baisden at email@example.com to purchase a calendar. Part proceeds will go towards Pals
New Look Thrift Shop
Salvation Army Thrift Shop
Pals Thrift Shop
Habitat for Humanity Bermuda
Orange Bay Company
The Store for Feel Good Shopping in Bermuda
Restart Thrift Shop
Hidden Treasures Thrift Boutique
St John’s Church Thrift Shop