For Josephine and Her Mother

Josephine with her mother, the Maestra Sarta

My dear friend Josephine lost her mother last week. My heart is breaking for her. A few years ago, Josephine shared her mother’s story for TFIO. Today I want to share it again …

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. Continue reading

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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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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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Maggie, Her Mother, and Her Makeup

Maggie and Her Mother

Maggie and Her Mother

Maggie’s story starts and ends with her mother. As a child, Maggie Zakhary would love watching her mother’s beauty ritual before she left for work, or church, or on a date with Maggie’s dad. In fact, it became one of her favorite things to do and a special time for Maggie to spend with her mom. It was the 70s and the makeup (which included liquid foundation) was colorful, and yes, there was hairspray! But it was less about being high-maintenance and more about her mother simply taking care of herself and paying attention to her femininity in the way in which she was accustomed. Maggie’s mother (and father) grew up in Egypt; in the Egyptian culture getting fully dressed and applying makeup was the norm. And this custom of putting oneself together became the guiding light for Maggie’s own life and experience. As Maggie grew up and started her own family, she found herself in the position to turn the tables and teach and inspire her mother. Here is how

My mother was forty when she was diagnosed with cancer. Just as I turned forty, I had a lightbulb moment of clarity: it was time to take stock of my own health and the health and care of my young boys ( I count my blessings that today my mother is cancer-free and fully recovered.) Continue reading

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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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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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College bound for mother

College bound

In search of a college campus …

A mother is many things: teacher, nurse, disciplinarian, cook, mentor, driver-and-overall-chauffeur-which-leads-eventually-to-driving-instructor, doctor, leader, follower. And in those rare and beautiful sun-filled moments, a mother is a friend to her child. I was a friend the last few days as my son and I ventured on to college campuses in search of a school where he could call home in a few years. First, I tried to remember the mother’s golden rule: stay quiet, let him get his bearings and don’t – under any circumstances – embarrass him! At one point, I asked him how I was doing and when I got the approval nod, I smiled. After that seemed to be going well I began to truly look around and what I saw were memories of my own college life. It brought me back to another time. And then the magic happened: I saw my son as I saw myself, and as he opened up to me and asked me questions about what I thought about the schools, what my impressions were, I realized in that moment, we were friends.

Sarah, I did look for beanies. I did look for college style. What I saw were students dressed in cool, comfortable and relaxed comfort and style –  all wrapped in the greatest fashion accessory of all – a smile of happiness and contentment.

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