My mother wanted to be a fashion designer. But, unlike myself who couldn’t wait to get my hands on New York City, my mother was terrified. She still remains terrified of the city where her dreams could have become a reality. She lacks the necessary gene to take risk and to be even remotely adventurous. It’s been an argument since I was old enough to realize I was not meant to stay in one place for too long. We even
argued debated it this morning because she refuses to come to Paris to visit.
Although my mother, the country mouse, wouldn’t scurry off to the big bad city, it didn’t stop her from designing and sewing. And once she had two little girls, she was in fashion heaven.
As soon as we were able to dress ourselves, my mother allowed my sister and I to have a hand in what we wore. We’d spend Saturdays flipping through her Vogue magazines before heading to the craft store where we’d then fawn over the patterns before picking out the fabric for whatever outfit we’d chosen. I remember the excitement that came with running my tiny hands over all those different textures on the bolts, and the even greater excitement that came when we finally discovered the ideal material. It was a level of giddiness that I’ve yet to find an equivalent.
The three of us would then go for lunch or tea, which we’d scarf down so we could get home in a hurry and show our father just how FANTASTIC our dresses were going to be. Like any man who doesn’t care about fashion, he’d do his best to feign interest before slipping back behind the Boston Globe.
Within a few days, our duds would be done and we’d feel like the fanciest girls on the block. And, let’s be honest, we were.
Our mother didn’t just make us special occasion outfits, but when it came to shopping she always had a unique take on how to make that shirt or those pants look just different enough from every other one on the rack, without being over the top. She taught us that fashion, true fashion, was about being one step ahead of everyone else. It was also about fun and taking risks. Looking back, it’s interesting that the woman who so desperately wanted to be a designer but wouldn’t take the risk to move to New York City, was insistent upon taking risks in fashion.
Both my sister and I have evolved into people who have their own sense of style that sometimes overlaps perfectly, or not at all. My sister doesn’t own any black clothing; I own too much of it, and while the majority of her wardrobe is white, outside of one white tank-top I wear to the beach, you won’t find a drop of it in my closet. We’re both slaves to J.Crew and Anthropologie, but wear it in completely different ways. I stick to red lipsticks and obnoxious painted nails, while my sister goes the neutral route. Between the two of us, we represent our mother’s fashion sense as a whole.
To this day, my mother’s most prized possession is a Halston dress with a gorgeous plunging neckline she bought in the 1970’s at the height of his reign. Although she can no longer fit into it, she keeps it in the closet as some sort of reminder. She says she likes to be reminded of her figure in her late 20’s, but I think it may have to do more with what she didn’t pursue. However, she has zero regrets.
My mother may have never dressed the world’s rich and famous, or wore that Halston dress to Studio 54 as she should have at least once, but she did get two daughters who will forever be grateful for all those outfits – dresses especially – that she made us, and the impression she has upon the clothes we pull on every morning. She even somehow manages to inspire on “lazy” mornings when I’m rocking my pajamas until mid-afternoon. But I think that has more to do with the fact that it would evoke an epic eye roll, the one that both my sister and I have down to an art, and there’s still some fun in annoying her. Mom isn’t a big fan of flannel pajamas.