From Mama’s Closet:

by Dina Lobo

A bi-weekly column where 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 the stories and meanings attached to these pieces.

This week on From Mama’s Closet, mom and I discussed one of my favourite mustard-coloured blouses. My mom wasn’t too attached to this piece of clothing unlike some other pieces in her closet, which makes it feel more like mine and I sometimes forget it’s technically not. I’ve incorporated it into my closet as a vital spring and summer piece.

“I can’t remember if it was exactly 2002 or 2003 when I bought it, but I remember I was in my 40’s for sure. So I wasn’t young and you were maybe around eight years-old. I think that time in my life, in my 40’s, was probably the best style I had throughout my life. It was because I found a boutique store that I highly relied on and became dependent on because I found everything I liked. It was pretty much abandoned and barely drew customers so it was kind of hidden. My financial situation was also good at that time specifically, so I would buy something every week and I was quickly building a nice collection of clothing.”

The boutique and my mom’s friend, who I refer to as my aunt, became a close part of our life. Most days, my mom would pick me up from school and we would go visit “my aunt” at this boutique. We’d stay for hours trying on clothes whilst my mom drank copious amounts of coffee. This is a key part of my understanding of fashion and my style evolution, and it was all happening unconsciously as I watched and heard my mom discuss the cut, style and colour of varying pieces. She would walk around the shop like she owned it, going through every detail. I was absorbing and gaining a knowledge about clothing that is still with me. By the time I was 13, I was picking out my own pieces from the same boutique that was once restricted to my mom.

“I would describe my style in my 40’s as classic and casual, but in a way where there was a touch of high fashion. So I’d wear a pair of casual jeans, but with something that set me apart. I had a social lifestyle at that time. I would have breakfast with my friends, I would pick you up from school. You and I would go to lunch together a lot.”

This lunch she talks about was exclusive to my mom and I. Never did we allow my brother or anyone else to join. We found a French restaurant that wasn’t too popular, but had amazing food. Mom and I would dress up and go there monthly as a tradition. Out of everything on that menu, I would order a club sandwich, and to end our meal, we would have cheesecake. Every. Single. Time.

Back to the blouse: “I like the colour and it goes well with my skin colour. Other than the design, I liked the material. It was light and easy to layer with a jacket. I mostly wore it with black pants and denim.”

The shoes: “Since I’d visit that boutique weekly, I would pass by an Italian shoe store in front of it. I would come out and then buy the shoes from the other shop at the same time. One day, I had just bought a blue skirt with florals on it from the boutique and I got those shoes to go with it for that same day.”

How I wear it now: Honestly not too different from how my mom would wear it. I had a phase from 16 until 18, where I’d only buy blouses and button-down shirts with collars. Too many collars, collars, collars! It was to the point that I was sick of it and stopped both purchasing and wearing them. When I found this piece of my mom’s at 22, I made an exception of going back to my collar-addiction because of the blouse’s vivid colour, ruffles, and the flared sleeve. I like to balance the chaos of the ruffles and flared sleeves with a pair of my most basic and underwhelming skirt or pant, especially denim.

“I stopped wearing most of my clothes that you’re wearing now ever since my dad died in 2004. I never wore them again, until now.”

In the next From Mama’s Closet, I learn more about how my grandfather’s death affected my mom’s wardrobe for years and years to come; a special story on how events in our lives can easily be reflected in our wardrobe. Be sure to check it out!

Photos by Brandon Young

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