Dressing Like Matilde

Myriam, inspired by her mother, Matilde

Myriam, inspired by her mother, Matilde

When I was a little girl, my mother represented the perfect vision of style and elegance. Her blonde hair, her manicured hands, her impeccable way of dressing. I watched her, fascinated, as she dressed for work every day, put her makeup on and left the house -looking glamorous. Through my little girl’s eye, she was more beautiful than Grace Kelly. As I became a teen, my sense of style changed and I was more influenced by my peers than my mother. Suddenly her way of dressing was “old fashioned” and boring. My new idols were Madonna and Janet Jackson and my mother did not dress like them! But time has an ironic way of putting things back where they should be. Now a wife and mother myself, I laugh when my children call their 20 year-old teacher “old”. I recently celebrated my 45th birthday and went out with my girlfriends for lunch. As I was going through my closet, I picked a special dress I bought years ago. It was a dress very much like the one my mother used to wear when I was a little girl. The second I saw it my choice was clear. I needed my mom to be with be in spirit, and she was – through the dress. The simplicity of it, the way it accentuates my waist and its full, airy skirt which could cause a “Marilyn” moment at any time, made me feel connected to the woman who has been the most important influence in my life. She lives a continent away from me in Argentina, and yet she was more present than ever. Wearing this simple yet beautiful dress reminded me of our unbreakable bond and of the unconditional love that we share. ~ Myriam Alvarez

Photo: Sebastian Scicolone 

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A lifetime of shopping with my mother

My mother and me at my brother's wedding in Maui

My mother and I at my brother’s wedding in Maui, 20 years ago (what was I thinking with the black shoes and stockings, and why did you let that happen, Mom?)

I have had a lifetime of shopping with my stylish mother. Fifty-three years, to be exact. I like to think that I was born knowing everything about style and who, what, wear, but really, I have always been watching my mother and following her lead when it comes to dressing and feeling my best. We are good at it and have found out how to stay away from the dangers of mother-daughter muck and mire. We have listened to each other and helped each other to dissect the ins and outs of what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes my mom has been right, and sometimes I have been right. It’s a give-and-take collaboration between mother and daughter, but more like best friends. Continue reading

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Five Days of Dressing for Success: Tamara’s dream to be free

Tamara T, speaking at The Dress for Success Transforming Lives Gala

Tamara Trotz, speaking at The Dress for Success Morris County Transforming Lives Gala

The minute I slipped that dress on, it brought the entire equation together. I thought: ‘maybe people can see my ambition now.’ I felt that people had no choice but to take me seriously. You see, I never felt that I was being taken seriously. And to know that the clothes were a gift to me, made me feel worthy in a new way. Dress for Success did that for me. ” ~ Tamara Trotz

Tamara Trotz is a remarkable young woman. She is a poet. At age 24, she is designing her life and her future with the grace and maturity of a woman much older than her years. Everything she is, everything she values and holds dear, Tamara received from her mother, whom Tamara lost last year to cancer. Her mother had just turned 50. When you meet Tamara you feel the love she has for her mother and you know that she is growing up with the same courage, strength, faith and hope that her mother had. This is Tamara’s remarkable story in her own words: how she grew up with 3 siblings and a single mother who was a victim of domestic violence, how she found her ambition at 15, graduated from high school and college, and learned to appreciate her outer self when she found Dress for Success Morris County. I only hope that I do Tamara justice …

I never really understood the difficulties my mom had endured until later in my life. Growing up was isolating and I was forced to grow up long before my years. I am the oldest of three girls (my brother is a few months older than I am) and I became the caretaker. I was six years old when I understood that my mother was being battered by my father. That was the point when I started to feel the need to protect my mother. She was an amazing, strong and capable woman and mother. She gave her children everything she had and took such good care of us; her life’s dream was to give to us. And I wanted nothing more than to protect her – always … Continue reading

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Fashion icon Loehmann’s liquidates and my heart breaks

Loehmann's, January 10, 2014 - liquidation has begun ...

Loehmann’s, January 10, 2014 – liquidation has begun …

After 93 years in business and over 30 years as a personal favorite fashion destination, retailer Loehmann’s is closing its doors in all 39 locations nationwide. Liquidation sales began yesterday, January 9th. My love affair with Loehmann’s started when I was in high school, shopping with my mom. It was a significant part of my life with my mom, who has always been my favorite shopping buddy. We would enter the store in Florham Park, NJ, together, and quickly separate as we shopped our separate ways. Ah – my first taste of fashion freedom! Continue reading

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Flowers at the Farmer’s Market

Flowers at the Farmer's Market: Hazel, Barbara, Margaret and Pauline

Flowers at the Farmer’s Market: Hazel, Barbara, Margaret and Pauline

I love venturing to the local farmer’s market on Sunday mornings. Being near the fresh food, cheery atmosphere and local flavor always makes me smile. It is good for my body and soul. Today I saw these lovely women: Hazel, Hazel’s mother Margaret and Hazel’s sister-in-law Pauline who are visiting from England, and Hazel’s friend Barbara. They were very chic, like the flowers I buy for myself from the local vendors. I had to capture the moment.

Thank you, dear ladies – you made my day!

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Maestra Sarta (Master Seamstress)

The maestra sarta

Josephine’s mother, maestra sarta

Josephine’s mother was a maestra sarta, a master seamstress, which was and still is a highly respected and honorable profession in Italy, where she was born. This is the story of Josephine’s mother and the gift she gave two generations of women …

My mom was born in a small town in Italy in 1931. She loved school and hoped to continue her education, but when she finished the 8th grade her family needed her at home to help out. It was the early 1940s, the country was at war, supplies were scarce, and my mother was the oldest of five children. Her mom was not well. She was needed: she sewed shirts, using parts of older shirts to fix newer ones, washed clothes by hand, and ironed for hours so that her younger siblings and extended family had the proper clothing to continue attending school or work. Her family was refined and tried to maintain a normal life despite food shortages and the other casualties of war. My mom remembers that her uncle, a shoemaker, made her high-heeled shoes out of a leather bag and wood. Growing up, I was often told about those shoes; my mom received many compliments when she wore the shoes with a dress she had made.

As the war ended and her younger siblings continued their schooling, my mom had to figure out what to do. She felt that she was too old to start high school and she was still helping out at home. Her dad offered to pay for her to apprentice with a master tailor. She would learn how to design clothing and cut a pattern and sew. This was a very respected profession in those days since many people had their clothes made for them. There weren’t any malls in Italy where people could shop for mass-produced clothing. Since most women of her generation lived with their parents or their husbands and never worked, my grandfather was rather progressive. My mom continued her training in fits and starts, as she also helped at home. She made clothing for her extended family and friends but never worked for a company or opened her own business. In spite of the hardships she faced she remained faithful to her passion: she loved the latest fashions, followed fashion in magazines and imitated the styles of the time, adapting to her conservative culture when needed. Continue reading

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“Comfortable with my curls”

Monica with her three girls

Monica with her three girls

Monica has blue eyes and full curly hair which she has had all her life. Not so unusual to me, but for Monica who has grown up in San Juan, Puerto Rico, it is. Unusual and a big deal. Because most women in Puerto Rico choose to straighten their hair and spend much of their day (a good portion of their beauty regime) making sure they remove their natural curl. But Monica is different and not afraid to be original. She is also the mother of three young girls, ages 10, 9, and 6, and Monica is teaching them to embrace their luxurious curly hair and their differences too. She is fashion-forward and courageous.

Here is Monica

There are many factors why the women of Puerto Rico follow certain beauty rituals. One is that it’s warm here all year-round. Body hair has to be impeccable: that means shaved legs and underarms and bikini waxes. Everyone wears sandals all-year so getting pedicures is a regular ritual as well. I don’t bother with manicures but I keep my nails short and clean – and I almost always have a pedicure …

Another factor is that in Puerto Rico fashion is a status symbol. It tells others that you can afford certain things. People follow fashion but they are not individuals.They are followers. Continue reading

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Melissa at Sardi’s

At Sardi's - wearing my Prabal Gurung for Target dress

At Sardi’s – wearing my Prabal Gurung for Target dress

When I bought my Prabal Gurung for Target dress* I kept the tag on. It was so charming: the tag had boxes for a girl to check – this dress is suitable for first date, the kiss, girl’s night, dinner and a movie, meet the friends, weekend away, meet the parents, the proposal and engagement party … and all I could do was imagine the wonderful life my dress and I would have. Indeed, these are all fabulous reasons to wear this dress but now there is one more box to add to the list: appearance at Joan Hamburg’s “My Big Tony Party and Broadcast at Sardi’s“.

Joan Hamburg is a New York icon: a radio personality on WOR Radio since the 1970s, she is a leader in her field and wonderful in every way, full of integrity and intelligence and wit. My mom introduced me to Joan Hamburg at least twenty years ago and I have been listening to her ever since. So when I had the chance to win tickets to see the taping of Broadway stars at Sardi’s I jumped, dialed the number, spoke with Joan on the radio … and won! The live broadcast did not disappoint: my dress and I watched Joan interview Jane Lynch, Alan Alda, Alan Cumming, Richard Kind, Judith Light, Kathie Lee Gifford, Vanessa Williams, and many more. And then my dress and I met Joan Hamburg which was truly the highlight.

You always remember the clothes you wear for special occasions. That is how they take on a life of their own and keep your dreams alive. On this day my mom and I met Joan Hamburg and I will remember the day and the dress always.

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* my entire outfit was designed by Prabal Gurung for Target, including the crystal necklace and shoes – seen here

 

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What’s up with booty shorts?

Pitbull and company performing on Good Morning America, May 31, 2013 Photo credit: ABC/Fred Lee

Pitbull and company performing on Good Morning America, May 31, 2013 Photo credit: ABC/Fred Lee

I have it on good authority that booty shorts are being worn in the public schools. Someone close to me (in middle school) who must remain anonymous for this feature, spent time talking about warm weather and booty shorts. “What,” may I ask (knowing full-well the answer) “are booty shorts?” His answer: “really short shorts that the girls wear to school.” Hmmm … “How did you come up with the name booty shorts?” His response: “Everyone calls them that.”

… so I googled booty shorts and found several links highlighting stripper shorts and dancer shorts. Nowhere did I find a link about middle-school age girls. And now I am back to one of the key questions I ponder when speaking of fashion … what is age appropriate dressing? And I don’t ask the question lightly nor do I confine it to midde-school age girls. At 52 it is something I need to question every day. How about the length of the shorts and skirts I wear? And other things like the fit of my t-shirts and sweaters. Continue reading

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xox Betsey

Betsey and Lulu Johnson

Betsey and Lulu Johnson

You may want to spend part of your Mother’s Day with designer Betsey Johnson and her daughter, Lulu. Tonight the Style Network will launch the season premier of: xox Betsey. A little over a year ago Betsey Johnson filed for bankruptcy but as she herself says, “The stores are gone, but I’m not!” Which is a very good thing, and I can’t wait to see more of Betsey Johnson! She is a fashion favorite, ever since my mother introduced me to her in the mid 1970s when she took over the fashion label Alley Cat. I will never forget (and I wish I could find) the red plaid corduroy Alley Cat blazer designed by Betsey Johnson. It was divine. I borrowed it from my mother and she never saw it again.

I imagine xox Betsey will be a loving tribute to mothers and daughters everywhere and a lot like Betsey Johnson-the-designer herself: bold, bright, edgy, cooky, a lot of fun and original! I’ll be watching!

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