At work one day, a coworker complimented me on the sweater I wore. “Thanks,” I said, “my mom got it for me.” She was incredulous. “You’re lucky. I don’t think I’d wear anything my mom bought for me,” was her reply.
We’ve always been fortunate to have such a stylish mom. In her college photos, she was always dressed in clothing that was au courant, but would still be considered fashionable today. She was a beauty queen and always known for her poise and how put-together she was. I look at the flared jeans and other trends from the Seventies that are back in fashion and wish she had kept more of her old clothes. I probably wouldn’t fit into them, but they’d be great as inspiration pieces. Alas, the beautiful winter coat she wore in grad school (which would not be out of place on the set of the movie Almost Famous) was lost.
When we were little, Mom and my dad used to get dressed up to go to their Rotary dinners. We loved watching her get dressed, put on her makeup and perfume, and pick out the accessories she’d wear. For special occasions like weddings and holidays, we would go with her to the dress designer’s studio. In those days—and even still today—it’s often more affordable to get clothing made than to buy it off the rack. We would pore over the pattern books and magazines from the U.S. and Europe, taking in all the latest styles. The designer would sketch and she and my mom would then pick out the fabric from the shelves that lined the walls. This was our first exposure to fashion. We learned about color, pattern, the “hand” of the fabric, and silhouette.
At the same time, mom was also great at styling ready-to-wear items. When she went shopping, she would start from a point of inspiration—other style icons like Jackie O. and Audrey Hepburn, whatever image she had in her mind to emulate. It was never about the brand of clothing or how expensive it was. It was actually the opposite: the more obscure and the bigger the bargain, the better. It’s from her that I get my love of the Find, discovering that piece that completes the outfit in your head and also plays well with other things in your wardrobe. Of course, if it happens to not break the bank, it’s a bonus. Seeing something and thinking of all the ways to wear it, what accessories would go with it, is something I definitely learned from my mom. Just as important is how she taught us to find what flatters your figure rather than what’s trendy. She always stressed that it wasn’t about the size on the tag but how it looked and felt when you wore it.
Let’s just say that the fashion nut doesn’t fall far from the tree. I now see how my daughter has started to mix and match her own clothing with her own unique style and it amuses me to see the next generation’s relationship with fashion. Hopefully she counts me as one of her style icons one day.