In Girl in Translation, skirts come to represent the way that the inhumane factory system fundamentally warps Kim’s outlook on the world and threatens to doom her to a lifetime of factory work. At the factory, Ma and Kim are paid one and a half cents per skirt, forcing them to work long hours to simply survive. Displeased that Kim has learned to hang a skirt in an impressive seven seconds (which would make Ma and Kim more money, seeing as they can get through more skirts each day), Aunt Paula cuts down their wage to one cent per skirt, forcing them to work harder and longer still. Furthermore, as Ma and Kim spend more time at the factory, their thoughts about money begin to shift from thinking in dollars to thinking in skirts—as in Kim's dictionary costing 200 skirts, rather than $2.99—illustrating the way that the factory system has ensnared them.
The timeline below shows where the symbol Skirts appears in Girl in Translation. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Ma buys Kim a boxy polyester blazer, a white shirt, and a dark blue skirt with rhinestones on it—it was the cheapest one. Kim feels uncomfortable and unrecognizable, especially since... (full context)
...her classmates tanned from ski trips and marvels that their special ski jackets cost 20,000 skirts. Girls also begin applying makeup, which fascinates her. One day, Annette uses a cover-up stick... (full context)