Jewish matriarchs raised me according to strict mores, dictating the rules of proper dress, according to season and society.
At my grandmother’s insistence, I learned the importance of flawless self-presentation, the difference between the gauche and truly refined. With wealth flowing through maternal lines, the world of high society, with all of its attendant rules, was my birthright.
My grandmother led by example, always looking impeccable — gorgeously dressed, groomed, and stylish. More than once she was compared to the Duchess of Windsor, with her dark hair, pale skin, and always-red lips. She imparted beauty not simply because she could afford the latest style, but because she wore regality on the inside as well. In fact when she past away at 94- years-old the emergency room doctor commented she was the most beautiful corpse he had ever seen.
Ever a size four, she wore the most beautiful clothes: French, Italian, and, at times, showing favor to America’s best designers. She had a plan: She wore a coordinated outfit for three or four days at a time and then put it in the back of her closet to recycle her inventory. Following the French strategy of less is more, she reminded me that the French have a few items of high quality instead of a lot of schmatas and junk.
The fashion torch was passed to my mother and her four daughters. Right in front of us were great temptations: Saks Fifth Avenue, Bonwitt Tellers, and unknown boutiques on Newbury St in Boston, MA.
A sale was always worth checking out but not at the expense of quality merchandise. Living amongst these matriarchs, I have never forgotten certain fashion rules, imprinted at an early age: “Look at yourself in the mirror before you go out, never wear stockings darker than your shoe color, never forget your lint brush, the talent of a good tailor, perfectly pressed textiles and like Coco Channel counseled: Always take one accessory off.”
First, let me confess I have a lot of clothes and accessories – so much so, I recently converted one of my two bedrooms into a dedicated closet. Or, as a friend likes to call it, “The Preparation Room.”
Turning 50 this year I am concentrating on my unique style, a blend of the generations. There are only two words to describe my dress: Eclectic and more. By choosing what I wear, I believe I am using a great tool to communicate externally about how I care about myself and express my personality. I do it mostly for my own self-esteem, but — truth be told — I am consciously dressing for others as well.
When I feel confident and good about my outfit I think of Stacy on the show “What Not to Wear” and say to myself, “Shut the front door, girl, you’ve still got it going on!” I think about how the influences of my grandmother and mother still inspire me – helping me put each outfit together. Aging gracefully never felt so good.