Charlotte drawing 8011.jpg

Illustration by Charlotte Dijkgraaf.

"What’s this?” my daughter asks, holding up a tweed jacket. She presses her thumb and index finger into the thick shoulders. I smile at her astonished face.

“Shoulder pads,” I say. “We liked them big, back in the 80s.” She pulls the jacket on, which hangs on her thin frame.

“I look like a scarecrow,” she says, gazing in the mirror. “Tell me, mom, did you really walk outside in that thing?”

“Yep,” I say. “We put shoulder pads in anything. Jackets, shirts, coats.”

“Mmm,” she says. “Not your style at all.”

My daughter, a millennium child, is visiting from Amsterdam for the summer. She always liked rummaging through my clothes. Always discovering something different.

“Now this I like,” she says, slipping on an A line dress she finds in the back of the rack. It’s white, with a black faux leather circle O in the middle. “Oh Mom, it’s cute. What did you wear with that?” I dig up the white boots I kept since the 70s and hand them to her. Luckily, we wear the same size.

“You look like Twiggy,” I say. “Except for the hair. Hers was short.”

“I look like ... who?” she asks.

I find a picture of the IT girl back in the day, years before my daughter was born, and show it to her.

“She is so pretty,” she says, studying the famous model’s face. “I love her make-up. All those wild colors. Did you wear that kind of make-up?”

Suddenly I see myself in a tiny, patchouli-smelling store in the city of Utrecht, where I was a student, hovering over a counter of Mary Quant cosmetics. I remember buying little flower-shaped stickers that I glued on my face. Smelling of the Charlie perfume that a boyfriend gave me.

I still have that bottle.

“Mom, I need to know everything about you in the 70s,” she says, inhaling the aromas with her eyes closed.


I never saw myself as a fashionista. Over the years I just bought what I liked and could afford. Many are hand-me-downs from friends. But since I never throw away much, my messy closet suddenly has turned into a treasure trove for my daughter.

“What else do you remember?” she demands, digging some clunky clogs out of a shoe basket.

“Give me some time,” I say. “Then, maybe...”

Things come flooding back to me when I do the dishes, when I walk the dogs, when I wake up in the middle of the night. Of course, the wrap dress. I must have mine somewhere, a purple one. We frantically search for it. There it is! My Diane von Furstenberg “number” that I wore at my college graduation. I even find the choker that I matched it with.

Meanwhile, I find the imitation Halston that I sewed myself, the wide disco jeans, the rock and roll leather pants. It’s Saturday Night Fever all over again.

Pia de Jong is a Dutch writer who lives in Princeton. She can be contacted at

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