It went without saying that if the occasion were casual, a sweater coat or jacket in wool, leather or suede would do. But if the occasion were dressy, elegant or formal, and the weather had chill in the air, only her Fur Stole or ¾ length Fur Swing Coat would suffice. I still remember the excitement of being enveloped in the scent and rush of soft fur as my mother swept me into her arms for a bear hug before heading out the door for a special event. Those are some of the best memories of my life.
Each of us who love fashion at any level – whether street or couture – can trace our love of it to someone, some event or encounter that created an exquisite feeling that only well-placed color, design, material and workmanship can generate deep in our hearts and minds. Those qualities that we can see with our eyes on close encounter with a garment, and experience as we touch and slip our bodies into. This tactile, sensual emotion we experience resides somewhere deep within ourselves. The experience of something that fits like the perfect second skin against our bodies…something simply “made for us” that is neither too this, nor too that…something that causes us to feel just a little more ready to greet the day or the occasion with as much exuberance as we know we hold inside. We know that the style of the fashion we come to adopt as our own does for us what nothing else will.
My own style, unlike my mother’s unwavering commitment to hers, has crested and crossed-over from one thing to another over the years. My earliest memories as a young girl are shopping trips into Chicago with my mother, or the excitement of ordering an Italian hand-crocheted sunhat or Spanish espadrilles via mail order catalogue. In my younger years, I found myself the Romantic, going into ecstasy gazing at a sunset, crying at movies when the princess found her prince, and being irresistibly drawn to lace and frills, black or pink silk, mohair, and diaphanous blouses that alternated between hippie and babydoll. My early adult years were spent as the Sporty, dedicated to a Saturday walk or yoga workout, hike or cycling trip followed by jeans, leggings, sweats, flashy leotards and shapeless T-shirts from Puma to Fila to Prana.
At this point in my life, what I have come to realize is more me than any other of the styles that I have tried-on and found part of me within over the years, is the Sophisticate. As a Sophisticate, I adore fashion, furniture, and gorgeous textiles from the 40’s and 50’s. I have a nose for refined detail and a knack for arriving at a couture style from a mix of vintage finds and skillful designer outlet shopping that I arrived at without necessarily spending a fortune – having the good sense to hold onto my mother’s exquisite goods all these years has been a big part of the look I pull together. Sometimes now, like my mother, nothing but the perennially perfect pencil skirt and vintage pearl necklace will do. I love Celine, Burberry, Etro, Prada, Dior, Valentino and Leonard, Paris on the catwalk and in my closet, while I also find inspiration at Zara or Top Shop; thrive on estate sales, artshows and museum exhibits of fine art and design; adore entertaining, and dining by candlelight.
The classic pencil skirt fits with what I have always known about the shape that suits me – straight or cigarette. I work-over my wardrobe from season to season, year to year, changing out buttons, altering lines, removing outsized shoulders or oversized logos I embraced out of weakness. I love the way a fabric falls, and relish the chic touch of silk, satin, velvet, cashmere, wool crepe and jersey. I own not one, but possibly a dozen black dresses, long and short, with shoes to match that I mix with vintage fur, leopard print or vintage gloves and jewelry. I’ve come to accept my taste for avoiding minor Brands that are too-often just copies of the Brands I truly love.
Even though I am no star, no famous person, nor celebrity, in my own sense of who I am I know full well that accessories can be enough to glamorize my style – whether my shoes, my bag, my hat, gloves, belt, earrings…or the Stole, Scarf or Shawl I wrap my always-chilly shoulders in.
In the end, I know in my heart of hearts, that my sense of who I know myself to be - and the resolutely feminine style that I know is me - is in large part thanks to...the influence of my mother.
Editor's Note* White Stole is dedicated to the memory of my mother. This vintage 1940’s photo is of her in her 20’s – prior to marriage to my father.