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Malcah’s Closet

My mother’s clothes from the 1960s and 1970s are imprinted in my memories—from the years of my childhood and a time when she was still young; she was only 26 when I was born. After the nine years she spent in Israel, first on a kibbutz and later on a moshav (farming cooperative), she wasn’t at all interested in the highly groomed and tidily assembled look favored by the mothers of my friends. She eschewed their beauty parlors, hair spray and professional manicures. And while I was enchanted by the glossy finish these women presented, I was more dazzled by my mother’s inventive and original sense of style—she was the most bewitching of any of them. In the communal dressing room at Loehmann’s (a place whose flickering, fluorescent lights and punishingly hard benches smacked of a girls’ reformatory), I gazed raptly at the garments she elected to try, tentatively reaching out to touch a diaphanous sleeve, a glittering button, an embellished hem.

What did she bring home, what were the spoils of her hunt? A shimmery purple tunic, tied at the waist, which she wore with a pair of billowing, cherry velvet evening pants and several long strands of red crystal beads. A black-and-white checked wool coat with a black fox color, an empire-waisted mini dress whose fetching green-and-white flowered print brought out the green of her eyes…

YONA ZELDIS MCDONOUGH on the Lilith Blog, May 2021.