Author | Photo My mother, Catherine Ryan, circa 1970

My Mother’s Closet: The Paris Scarf

Our series, My Mother’s Closet, recalls women from our past, revealing their history through clothing, jewellery and items that we closely identify with them. In this installment, Allison Uttley (of KIT & LOOM, an online shop selling vintage rugs and handmade goods for the home) gives us a window into her mother’s closet.


I was wearing it the first time I visited Paris. At twenty-five, I was a recent grad and had dreamt of this trip for the better part of a decade. It was a glorious week spent exploring churches and cafés, famed streets and secret corners, and the vintage markets of the 18th. I did all of it with a camera and my favourite silk scarf around my neck.

My first memories of the silk scarf are from the mid-1980s. It was a lazy summer day, and my younger sister and I were playing in our mom’s room, going through drawers and looking for costumes. I found handfuls of delicate, colourful silk in the top left drawer.

“What is all of this?” I asked my mom, with a handful of scarves in my hand. “Why do you have them?”

“Those are my scarves from when we lived in Toronto,” she said. She and my dad had moved us to Waterloo when I was two, but this was several years later after my dad had moved out. It was just us girls in the house, and we spent the rest of the morning drinking cups of tea in the kitchen, listening to wild stories about streetcar parties, trips to visit friends in faraway US towns, and shopping on Queen Street for bell-bottom jeans and platform shoes. The 1970s. It seemed like a magical time when our mom stayed out late, wore scarves and make-up, and lived in the big city.

The Paris scarf

As a teen, I repurposed as many of those clothes as I could fit into. I kept the silk scarves in my top left drawer, waiting for a time that seemed inspired enough to warrant tying one around my neck and leaving the house. My mom encouraged me, but I was waiting for something special. I knew that those scarves were so much more than just an accessory.

Looking back now, I appreciate that those early days with just us girls in the house were a lot of work for a single mom. Our dad was still very present, but my stay-at-home mom had to suddenly research daycare for my sister, find a job, get a car, and juggle all the things that often exhaust a team of two: piano recitals and swimming lessons, three-pitch practice and cutting the grass. Not to mention the challenges of raising two strong-headed girls under ten and dealing with some significant changes to her own life plan. She did it on her own–and still does today–with calm, poise and the same enthusiasm she had when we were telling stories in the kitchen.

Allison Uttley

So when I thought, in my twenties, about what to pack for my Paris trip, I knew without hesitation it was the silk scarf still tucked in my top drawer. It reminded me that life is about fun and adventure and about the power that comes from forging your own path.

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