The long lost film of my beautiful, stylish mother

My mother and me

My mother and me, captured on film: 1960

I was watching an old 8mm film made over a period of time by my mother’s family friend. The year was 1960. Images of my younger grandmother filled the screen followed by images of my Aunt Lila. My heart skipped a beat – they have both been gone for several years. Next, a few week’s old baby in a carriage popped on the screen and it took me a moment to place the baby – which I soon realized was me. Moments later, she was there; as her image panned up I first saw the dark sunglasses – followed by a white sleeveless sheath dress. And then her sweet, happy face I knew so well. It was my mother. The footage soon changed and shifted, next showing my mother holding me outside what must have been her apartment building. This time she was wearing a polka dot short-sleeved dress – very 1950’s/early 60’s. I didn’t pay attention to the baby at all; I saw only my beautiful mother.

Moving images preserved in time and space – all coming together to give me a long-lost hug from the formidable women I have loved so dearly. And the one mesmerizing me most was my mother, squeezing and hugging and holding me tightly, reminding me what true style is. The outfits, the accessories are all important. But above all else, true style … is love.

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Listen to Your Mother!

Claire

My mother, Claire

Your mother’s words are powerful. No matter how old you are, you listen to your mother. You listen when she tells you that an item of clothing may not be the right color or the best fit for you. You listen when something you really want to buy is not worth the money. And you listen when she tells you how she wants to dress, too. My mother and I went shopping for a coat for her recently and as much as I tried to force my ideas on her, she reminded me that she knows what she does and doesn’t like. It was an important reminder that frankly, put me in my place. Few things give us the sense of control and power over our own lives like choosing how we want to dress and present ourselves to the world. We should never lose sight of that, no matter what. When my mother asserted herself with me she was saying, ‘I know who I am.’ Brava, mom.

Listen to your mother.

 

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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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“I’m not buying that!”

Photo of me, taken by my mother, Claire

Photo of me, taken by my mother, Claire

Welcome to my first “I’m not buying that!” … a weekly series of thoughts from me, a fashion outsider. My blog and podcast is called Turning Fashion Inside Out. The fact is that I am not a fashion insider. At 53 years old, I am … a wife, mother, substitute teacher at an all-girls school, writer and lover of fashion. I love sharing my fashion stories and others’ stories about how fashion is central to our self expression and ultimately, our self-esteem. But there is more to turning fashion inside out: there is commentary. There is me …

I went shopping with my mother recently and was disheartened to see how few options there are for women over 70, at least in the suburbs. I’m sure it’s different in larger cities where there is more of everything giving people more options. But here, if you are over 70, stores see dressing as an after-thought. You are relegated to the top floors of the department stores and the pickings are slim. Gone are the stylish prints and fabrics, replaced by over-sized tunics and out-of-date patterns: it’s simple – my mom is not finding clothes she likes. My mom has always been so stylish and someone to whom I look for ideas and trends (and frankly, to borrow clothes!). She is the same woman now that she was then and she still wants to feel stylish in her clothes; no less than when she was in her 20s and 30s and 40s.

Should we be paying LESS attention to those over 70 while at the same time ignoring their style? And continuing to omit them from the fashion scene? I’m not buying that!

 

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Laundry

Laundry

Laundry

This is a snippet of the conversation I overheard this morning between my parents:

Dad: “Is this for whites?”

Mom: “It’s a color but it’s color-fast so you can actually add it to the whites.”

And I, at that moment wondered to myself, what in the world is color-fast? And then I remembered that my mom sure knows her laundry!

My mother often muses that if she were to write her autobiography she would have to call it, The Laundress. Throughout her life laundry is something my mother has always done very well. Doing laundry is one of those things that we don’t really talk about but we all must do (unless we are lucky enough to have someone do it for us). Of course it’s not as glamorous as shopping for one’s clothes or wearing one’s clothes but it is just as vital to the preservation of one’s clothes. Laundry and ironing are the workhorses of clothing-care. And at a certain point most of us learn how to do it. I do the majority of my family’s laundry, but the times are changing in my house. My son will be going off to college in a year and it is his turn to learn about the unspoken world of laundry.

Who does the laundry in your house?

 

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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.

What do you think?

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

 

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Breaking News: No Sleeves!

Today Show's Anchor, Natalie Morales

Today Show’s Anchor, Natalie Morales

Have you turned on the news lately? Anchor women are going sleeveless and everywhere you turn, you find this new uniform; sleeveless blouses/dresses and exposed arms – even in the cold winter months. I’m wondering … who sent these women the memo?? Could it be a response to our First Lady’s penchant for sleeveless dresses? My mother, Claire, and my neighbor, Jean, first brought this phenomenon to my attention. Initially, I noticed just a handful of participants, but now I see that among the younger news women the trend is spreading. Everyone is dressing this way; local newscasters to more well-known names, like NBC’s Natalie Morales and ABC’s Katie Couric.

Should we be reading into this? Is it just a passing fancy or simply a passing thought? Do we care?

What do we think?

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Our mothers’ daughters …

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Lisa with her mother’s sweaters, circa 1950s

This Thanksgiving I will be thinking of my mother, Claire, and all the wonderful things that she has passed on to me, preserving our love.

This story starts with a sweater. Recently, when I was spending time with my friend Lisa, I happened to be wearing the gray sweater that my mother had given me. Lisa asked me about it. It’s such a favorite that I was happy to tell its story. My mother was partial to this beloved sweater. Simple and classic, it has a self-made tie that wraps around the neck – truly unique. My mother had worn it and loved it for years, then passed it to me. This gray sweater has had a long life.

Our conversation reminded Lisa that she had a few sweaters that her mother had passed down to her. Amazing, because these particular sweaters were originally worn by her mother, Jean, 55 years ago when she was in her early 20’s. We pulled them out and gazed at them with great interest; they looked like the clothes we have seen in the films of the 1950s! Lisa said that she had worn them all at one time or another and that her daughter, Sarah, had also worn the sweater with the pink and green flowers when she was a sophomore in high school.

Intrigued, I asked Lisa if I could speak with her mother about the sweaters. Jean’s thoughts: “I had a little girl. I would have loved to pass anything to my little girl … It’s endearing. You want your daughters to have everything you had. I think most mothers think this way.” I, too, am my mother’s only daughter and I know that she feels the very same. Jean also told me that she gave Lisa two dolls that were given to her as a child when she was just five or six. She now has two granddaughters to pass these dolls to, and just like the dolls themselves, one of her granddaughters is blond – the other, brunette. I asked Jean if she played with her dolls when she was young. No, she wasn’t a doll person, but her mother loved the dolls and made all of their clothes.

Lisa has worn her sweaters as I have worn mine. We agree that they are dear to us. In a time when so many things are disposable, these loving keepsakes are forever.

What do you think?

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Jean’s childhood dolls, passed down to Lisa and her two granddaughters

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