Contempo Blazers

My mom hated taking me to shop at The Gap.

It took me over 30 years to figure out why.

Yes, it was an expensive store. It still is. But for her it was more about the principle than the economics. Deep down Mom simply didn’t see me as the khaki-wearing-by-choice, button-to-the-neck collared shirt or sweater type. Knowing how badly her hopelessly awkward daughter wanted to stand out amongst her “peers”, she urged me to look at styles that had a little more late 20th century punch.

Mom didn’t have a clue what Contempo Casuals was until I introduced it to her. For those who don’t know, Contempo was pretty much the H&M or the Forever 21 of the early 90’s. Every skirt was up-to-the-ass short. Every top exposed virginal, pierced bellies. Everything seemed to have holes or slits, and the neon could be seen from space.

I don’t want to get into the shoulder pads, and how they appear to be making a subtle comeback in 2022. Being a Sarah, Plain and Tall with early developing boobage, I had no desire to have the shoulders of a Marine in his blue dress uniform. But that’s just me.

Anyway, to my shock and amazement, Mom agreed to take me shopping at Contempo one day. I had only been a window shopper previously, wondering if I would be admired or catch a beating at school for wearing pleather pants. Needless to say, Mom wasn’t going for the shiny lycra or plastic. But she did find me a blazer, one of many she would buy me in the early 90’s since that was the only trend she could truly get behind. As a working mother, she exuded persistence, strength, class, and style. Most of her work clothes looked more like evening wedding attire, and her hair was blown out, never tied back, allowing it to flip freely as she worked. Her raking her manicured hand through her radiant, golden blonde locks would be the first thing you’d see when you stepped into her office.

So naturally she wanted her daughter to look the part – of the modern, bitches-get-stuff-done, casually elegant woman. But she wasn’t afraid to persuade me to step out of my comfort zone either. She picked out the loudest, most colorful, polyester & rayon blend jacket I’d ever seen. I swear to you this was something that Boy George or Prince might have worn – at least to a TGI Fridays or something. The back was a plain but shiny black, but the front had large pale pink, yellow, blue, and fuchsia squares. Think Elton John’s table cloth.

At first, I liked the idea of showing up at school wearing that thing, Screw the Gap, I was officially a Contempo girl.

That confidence didn’t last long. The more I thought about that jacket and stared at it, the more I shoveled out any layers of bravery I thought I had. Mom spent around 30 or 40 bucks for this thing which was a big deal in 1992-ish, so I had no choice but to give it a shot. She was quick to remind me of that.

We found a compromise, and we agreed that I would wear it to a school concert with a black skirt (couldn’t get out of wearing a damn skirt) and subtle heals since I didn’t want to be any taller than I was. I played alto sax for a brief period of time, a hand-me-down instrument from my brother. Mom wasn’t crazy about me playing the flute. All the girls wanted to play the flute.

I got made fun of for wearing such a jacket – words such as clown, slut, checkerboard, and Tiffany or Debbie Gibson wannabe came up though I can’t be 100% sure. Either way, I never wore it again, and it eventually made its way into Goodwill.

More than 30 years later and it pisses me off. Deep down I absolutely loved that jacket. What I loved more was my Mom’s willingness to buy it for me. Hell, it was her idea – one of a zillion examples that made her the greatest mother in existence because she wasn’t like everybody else’s mother. Even though I would look like Chris Farley’s fat-guy-in-a-little coat scene if I tried to wear it now, there is no doubt in my mind I would rock it today if I could – minus the God forsaken shoulder pads. I hope whoever took it from the piles of clothes at Goodwill gave it the life it deserved.

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