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The Kilt and the Love of My Mom

By Louise Laurence-Israëls

Fabric was scarce in the Netherlands after the war was over. The stores were mostly empty. Factories did not have the machines to make fabric or clothing. The machines were either beyond repair or had been stolen by the Nazis and sent to Germany.

I was growing and my clothes did not fit me anymore. My mom tried everything, from mending and cutting up old clothes, mostly hers, to make new clothes for me. Since she had been a fashion designer and also knew how to make patterns, she managed to make beautiful clothes for me. It was important to her that I looked good.

I was happy. I did not spend a lot of time in front of the mirror, so when my mom said that it looked good, I never questioned it.

About seven years after the war, it became easier for Mom to get new fabric. Through my dad’s business, she was able to obtain imported fabrics in beautiful colors. She would always show the fabrics to me and tell me her ideas for what she could make with the fabric.

When I went to high school with girls who did not live in my town, a commute of ten kilometers by bicycle, I realized for the first time that all my clothes were made by my mom. The other girls had store-bought clothes.

One winter I told Mom about a wool skirt from Scotland one of my classmates was wearing. My mom could see that I was dreaming about having a skirt like that.

From 1952, my mom often accompanied my dad on business trips to Paris and London. With her sense for fashion, she was my dad’s best advisor for what to import or what styles to manufacture in his business. She often came home with a skirt or suit, they would copy it, and when they were finished, the piece would be hers.

After one of the trips to London, they brought back a surprise for me—this time nothing for my mom. I wanted to dance when I opened the package. There was a beautiful Scottish kilt in the Black Watch colors—navy blue and dark green. Scottish kilts are traditionally pleated in the back, wrap around, and fastened with a belt and special kilt pin.

I wanted to wear my new kilt to school the next day. On that first day, I ripped the kilt on my way to school on my bicycle, I had fastened the pin too tight. I was devastated. How would I tell my Mom that I had ripped my new skirt the first day that I was wearing it?

When I came home, I went upstairs, changed clothes, and hung the kilt in the back of my closet. I said nothing, but I was very sad. Mom just looked at me, and she also said nothing.

About a week later, I looked for something to wear to school. When I opened my closet, the kilt was hanging in the front. I took it out, and there was nothing wrong with it. I put it on and there seemed to be more room for the kilt pin. Mom smiled when I came downstairs, but again said nothing.

When I came home from school, I had to talk to her about the skirt. First, I cried and said that I was so sorry that I had ripped my beautiful skirt, the first piece of clothing that was bought for me and not made by mom. Of course, mom had figured it all out when first I had changed clothes and then I did not wear my skirt anymore. She spent a week, every night, repairing the skirt, and by taking one of the pleats out, gave the skirt enough room so that it would not rip anymore.

Mom knew that I was sad. Without saying anything, she just fixed the problem.

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