My Material Life

Mom’s Fashionable Family

You can learn a lot about people from old photographs.  The two little girls on either side of this threesome are my mom’s sisters Marie and Kay.  I don’t know who the one in the middle is, but she doesn’t have a bow on her head so I don’t think she’s a sibling.  One thing I can tell by looking at pictures of Mom’s family is that they dressed well.  Mom had three sisters and two brothers.  I never met Marie, the oldest girl and the one on the left.  I remember hearing that she was bitter about something and had cut herself off from the rest of the family.  By the looks of Aunt Kay in this photo, I’d say the animosity started pretty early.

Here’s another photo of Mom’s siblings before she arrived on the scene.

Someone was certainly paying attention to how the kids dressed.  You’d think it would be their mother, but I don’t know. Both of my maternal grandparents died before Mom married.  My grandmother Emily was a real mystery.  The story goes that she came to the U.S. from Sweden by herself when she was ten years old.  No one seemed to know why.  I’ve only seen two photos of her as she didn’t like to be photographed.

My mother didn’t talk much about either of her parents.  I have no idea if my grandfather was what I think of as a good man. But when I saw the photo below and a couple more like it (including one of him at home in his bathrobe), I realized that I did know something about him – he appreciated fine clothes and was a very sharp dresser.  Granted, his suspender is twisted in the photo, but here’s a man who must have been well into his 80s when it was taken. There’s something optimistic about the care he put into his appearance. Something I admire.  My mother certainly had it.  I think Ruthie, Kay, Charles and Jim had it too and I wonder if it might have been more of a paternal influence than a maternal one.  I guess I’ll never know for sure.

I wish I could look as put together as Mom did, even just 1/3 of the time.  I don’t know how she did it. Because it wasn’t just her she put together – it was five kids and a husband too.  Always with style.  And always appropriate.

At least until the seventies.  That’s 1970 below.  Look at my mom’s coat and handbag.  So cool.  I also love that plaid sport coat on my brother Tim.

Although Mom always kept her style together, the rest of us just got so casual in the seventies.  We are all partly a product of our times, so I like to think that’s one reason you can usually still find me in a pair of ill-fitting jeans and a Target T-shirt. But I know I can do better.  And my grandfather shows me that it’s never too late.  As do the Moore sisters (Julianne and Demi – and yes, I know they’re not really sisters, but they do have the same last name) who flank the mall entrance I use as the current models for Talbot’s and Ann Taylor.  (We’re all about the same age – well really, Julianne is even older.)  I’m really ready to work on this and you can bet I’ll be reporting back, so stay tuned.

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