There is no one that I know of who can get absolutely absorbed by the texture of a fabric, the drape of a silk scarf around her neck or the sparkle of a pretty brooch she wears on a jacket. I’m talking about my mother. Her inquisitiveness knows no end. Shopping with her is a focused event. Nothing distracts her from touching every sweater on a shelf, methodically looking over every blouse on a rounder or patiently holding every pair of earrings in her hand before she selects the item that has won her heart.
As a teenager, I wanted to be anywhere but in a store with my mother. I’m sure my father feels that way still. How curious it is to me then that I was the one that became an image consultant spending hours getting paid for personal shopping!
As a young child, she sewed my clothes for me. I hated standing still while she meticulously marked the hem in those beautiful dresses. I wanted to be outside with my brothers climbing trees and hiking deep into the pastures next to our farm. There were four kids in our family and we lived modestly yet very item in our home was well shopped for and selected even if it wasn’t expensive. She knew how to put a room together, design a beautiful garden and create great outfits for everyone in her family.
We moved off the farm and into town by the time I was in high school. My mother would take me shopping to the most expensive store on Broadway in Fargo, North Dakota the day after Christmas when everything was half off. On the 26th of December, my mother had me trapped in a dressing room while she went through the merchandise and selected dresses she thought would be good on me. I particularly remember one of those shopping events. She had me try on one dress that was really on the short side—probably three inches above my knee. “Really?” I said to her growing more and more impatient. “But it’s short!” I complained. “Brenda,” she said, “this dress is flirty, and every girl needs a flirty dress in her wardrobe.” I don’t know if I’ve ever had as many compliments as I had whenever I wore any of the three dresses she bought for me that day. They were unique, high quality and each one was different from the other.
When I think about the gifts she has given me, I have a hard time believing that I deserve them. She was a steadfast teacher and model to me all the while in my mind I was resisting her ideals and downplaying her talents. I didn’t grow up thinking I wanted to be like her. I wanted to change the world, make a difference, shake things up. Moving two thousand miles away to California was the start of that shakeup.
After a couple of forks in my career path, I landed on image consulting in my early thirties. Twenty-five years later, I change the world, one happy client at a time. When I’m sitting on the floor of a dressing room and my client is in a dress that’s too long, I pull out my dress pins and start marking the perfect hem. When I am selecting a necklace for a client, I patiently wait to discover the perfect one that makes that client shine and glow with pride. I want to make my client’s life easier and more efficient so she can go out and make a difference in the world.
My mother has made a huge difference in my world. And in some ways, every client I touch, every image consultant that I train is getting a little bit of my mom in the things I teach. This summer I’ll be home and we’ll go shopping together. I can’t wait.
As Mother’s Day approaches and you think about your own mother, maybe you’ll recall things she taught you about fashion or about life. Please share!