Apparel detente: A Mother’s Day tribute

Four at the Jersey Shore: My mom with her kids Leslie, Diane and Michael. (Photo by Dad)

That’s me in the pink tank suit and I remember that tank suit vividly. It was made with stretchy puckery material and was super comfortable. I’m sure mom took me shopping for it, probably at the Menlo Park Mall. This photo was taken before generational shopping tensions set in. Before I started considering those kinds of sunglasses weird. Before my first pair of Dr. Scholl’s sandals or halter top. The carefree days.

I bring this up because I was looking for a Classic Mom Photo that would set the tone for a Mother’s Day blog post. My collection is limited and tends to skew toward Jersey Shore photos like this one. But as I browsed, I realized how much we dressed up in those days. Or perhaps a better way to put it — how neatly we dressed up.

Exhibit A: this was taken on a family trip to Washington, D.C. A white dress with a bow! Matching purse! White patent-leather shoes!  It was sweltering, but at least the dress was sleeveless. I am sure all three of us kids were equally tidy, tasteful and respectful of the setting — Our Nation’s Capital and all. It must have taken a lot of planning. Mom, all these years later, I take my hat off to you.

I also want to say that I am still trying to be as neatly turned out as I was in those days, but it’s a little tougher to do without your fastidious eye. And I have a few other things to say, as well.

I want to tell you that I appreciate the way your mouth tensed up when, three or four years later, I wanted to buy a peasant blouse instead of a peter-pan-collared blouse. Or rather, I wanted YOU to buy. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this kind of moment probably presented serious dilemmas to a woman who, for many years, had her hair “done” every week in a bouffant and wrapped it in toilet paper when she slept. Who sewed a lot of my clothes (maybe even the one in this photo) and knew a good seam when she saw one.

I really appreciate you taking me to that funky store in Plainfield, the one in an old house, where they sold corduroy, 3-button hip-huggers in more colors than I could imagine. In the days when a pretty young mother was on the uncool side of the Generation Gap, you ventured into groovy stores to shop for me. And, I strongly suspect, for a good bargain.

You were raised with a sense of what was Proper. I think that might have a lot to do with the fact that, as I later learned, the Golembeski girls did not have a lot of means and yet always looked fabulous. Grandma would visit shop windows, study the dresses there, and make outfits for you (at least that’s the story I heard from Aunt Marie). Maybe you lived humbly, but by golly no one would accuse the Golembeski girls of not dressing tastefully. So why, why, why — during the peak of American prosperity, married to a man with a good job — why would a daughter of yours want to wear a peasant blouse? It must have been tough on you. And then came the work boots, and the bell-bottomed jeans that had to have frayed hems. The mini-dresses, the maxi-dresses. Talk about confusing times.

On the other hand, you must know that I got my mischievous fashion streak from you. I remember some fashion chances you took back in the day. (That black-lace number you wore to — I think — Uncle Matt’s wedding? Kids are impressionable, they pick up on these things.)

Fast forward to last month, when you and dad flew in from New Jersey to visit me. We needed to run an errand at Trader Joe’s, get some new watch batteries, that kind of thing. So while we were at the mall I just had to take you by a few of my fashion-bargain favorites. Just to peek.

Now, the shopping mall is Diane and Mom’s Natural Habitat. We are totally in synch with each other at the mall. Through the door, a beeline to the sale racks, fingering the fabrics, checking the finishing, chatting in our Shopping Shorthand. “No, not that.” “You?” “If it didn’t have the bow ….” “Sleeves.” “Ha ha! Can you imagine?” “Onmygosh for Katie.” “Would’ve worked once.” In Forever 21 (and yes, we were the oldest people there by many years) we channeled the old flea-market instincts, understanding that in this environment it’s the bargains more than the seam quality. And then I saw it: a maxi dress. It reminded me of a number I had in high school . That one was a red print with a scoop neckline, little pouf sleeve, flounced hemline. This one was a brown-white-and orange print — yes, it must be said, a peasant print — with braided shoulder straps and a flounced hemline. And at $17 it was a steal.

We bought it. Mom’s treat.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.
I will wear my maxi dress today in your honor.

Milwaukee, with Momtini. (Photo by me)

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2 Comments

Filed under Musings

2 responses to “Apparel detente: A Mother’s Day tribute

  1. Your mother should be proud that her daughter is as skilled at shopping as she is at writing. Loved the blog entry. It took me back to my fashion missteps. How I hated that my mother, always looking to do it cheaper, had my grandmother make my clothes. There I was up on a chair while Nana measured and pinned, constantly threatening to stick me with a pin if I didn’t keep still. (never an empty threat btw) Major battles over hem length, neckline and the need for a giant pocket in which to hold a rosary and/or tissue, accompanied every design fashioned from scraps of fabric she “procured” as a sewer for Junior House. A store-brought dress was a rare thing in my childhood. Thanks for bringing it all back — I think.

    • Judith I love your memory! A pocket for your rosary — of COURSE. Was the pocket designed to be hidden or displayed? Was the hem always below the knee?

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