From Mama’s Closet: German Touch

by Dina Lobo

In this bi-weekly column, I explore and reinvent clothes I stole from my mom’s closet. I’ve been incorporating pieces from my mom’s closet into my own wardrobe for years and only now am I unpacking where these pieces come from. My mom is my fashion icon and the reason why I feel strongly about self-expression through style. She taught me to look at fashion in an unmaterialistic way and that I didn’t need money or high-end brand names to look a certain way. Our strongest form of communication has always been through fashion so I dedicate this series to her.

This week, I asked my mom about her beloved denim skirt and her faux snake-skin red shoes she bought from Germany at two different times in her life. The shoes she bought on a trip to Frankfurt back in 2001 and all she had to say about them is, “I loved the red and pink snake-skin pattern, there are no pink snakes, so I had to get it.”

Despite that extremely short story with her shoes, she has a more elaborate story on the denim skirt she bought in 1985 (before I took it and altered it to fit my own style). Go ahead mama, explain:

“Well, actually this skirt comes with a denim jacket. I ordered it through a German catalog back in 1985 when I was 29 years-old. At that time, I was working and living in Kuwait and I did that a lot. There’s this German booking office that had a bunch of fashion catalogs from German clothing brands. I would get the catalogs monthly and order something from it every single month because I wanted to make sure I had pieces that no one else had.”

“I like the style of the skirt because I hadn’t seen a denim skirt with layers of different fabric. Each layer on the denim skirt is a completely different colour and pattern. I hadn’t seen anyone else wear something like that either. I like to wear something uncommon because I just hate when I look like everyone else. This is why I ordered it from that German catalog, because I knew no one would look like me. The catalogs weren’t too popular with everyone and it’s not something you could get at a store.”

“I wore it to work the most because I worked so much at that time and it is where I spent most of my days. I was also single and my coworkers were my friends. Everyone at work liked it a lot. I would always try to change it up and wear it differently by changing up the tops to go with the skirt. I didn’t wear the jacket and skirt as a pair too much. I would wear them separately.”

My mom in 1985 photographed with her coworker

“This picture was taken at work with one of my coworkers. Sometimes my coworkers and I would pick a colour to wear during the week. It had nothing to do with my actual job, it was just something fun between me and my coworkers and we did that on our own. This day, it was pink day. I wore a pink shirt, which if you actually look closely you can see a layer of pink in the skirt. I wanted to kind of match it. I wore a big black belt around my waist, because it was trend in the 80’s.”

My mom stopped her flow of words here and said, “I looked cute,” with a smile. I could feel her reminiscing on a shy confidence she had in her youth before her facial expression changed and she said with an annoyance, “I wore it a lot and then I stopped wearing this skirt after I gave birth to you. It wouldn’t fit me anymore.”

She turned to look at me with irritation before she whispered a subtle insult towards me and my brother for changing her body and keeping her from wearing this skirt again. This made me laugh really hard for some reason to the point my stomach hurt and she told me not to pee on myself. The laughter also made it hard for me to continue asking her questions about this skirt, which resulted in the ending of this interview.

In the midst of my laughter she randomly questioned me about the shirt I was wearing, which was so irrelevant to the questions I was asking her and probably irrelevant to mention here too. But you see, this is my mom. She is too observant. She will notice the smallest details and has every inch of my closet, down to a random earring I have never worn, memorized. If anything goes missing or is altered, it’s quite scary how quickly she notices. Once she gets into her alter ego as an investigator with a mission, she will not back down. I don’t even know why she was skeptical about the shirt I was wearing. 

How I wear it now: I hated this skirt the first time my mom showed it to me a few years ago. My mom called it unique, I called it tacky. I didn’t understand the random fabric that was hanging at the bottom and I felt distant from its style. Last year, I revisited this piece and decided to try it on. It somehow grew on me and I was surprised that it fit me perfectly. The only thing I didn’t like about it was its length. I decided to remove one of the three layers of fabric hanging at the bottom, leaving two layers instead. It made the skirt more simple, which I wanted. I also liked that there was now some distance between my ankle and where the skirt hits (I’m short and want people to know I have legs).

The shoes on the other hand, I fell in love with the moment I saw them. I actually remember seeing my mom wear them after coming back from her trip to Germany. I tend to shy away from snake patterns, but this is my first bold embrace. Red and denim are an iconic duo, so this pair (as well as their German origins) were meant to be worn together. 

Thanks mama. Also, I’m sorry my existence put a damper in the relationship between you and your denim skirt.

Pictures by Brandon Young

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