6 In Women Now

Mother’s influence

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!

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  • Reply
    Image Consultant Singapore
    May 10, 2010 at 5:35 am

    My mum always make an effort to put on make-up and accessories.

  • Reply
    June 5, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    You are so lucky, I remember vividly a hot pink coat that my mother bought for me a market , I hated It so much, I really think its scarred me emotionally that coat!!!! I STILL TO THIS DAY, DESPISE THE COLOUR PINK.

  • Reply
    Cindy Barron
    June 17, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Brenda, What a beautiful tribute to your mother, and what a way to honor her on Mother’s Day. I see your mother in you every time I talk to you or see you. She did one fine job in helping you become the over-the-top beautiful person you are, inside and out.

  • Reply
    Deborah Sawyer
    July 23, 2010 at 7:34 am

    Brenda, I love your memories about your mother… she knew that a bargain is only such if it is well-made and will go the distance. (I blog about clothing manufacture amongst other topics.) So glad you have been able to turn those early experiences with her careful shopping into a career.

  • Reply
    Linda McGinley
    December 29, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Your description of your mother brought tears to my eyes.

    We also lived on a farm and money was always tight. She butchered and sold chickens and eggs to make enough money to buy and sew clothes for 5 children. She was a meticulous seamstress with a great sense of color and line. Until I was 18 or so, she always made my clothes and when I finally took sewing classes in high school, I began sewing for myself as well. I seldom had store-bought clothing. My mom also made wonderful western shirts for all 3 of my brothers. They always got a bunch of new shirts at the beginning of a new school year.

    My mother (many years now gone) and I didn’t always get along well but she sure instilled a love of sewing. After many many different jobs along the way, I finally came back to the love of my life, sewing. Somewhere around my late 30’s I turned back to sewing and have done it for a living ever since. My mom visited me only once after I began my own sewing business. She was pleased and at the same time dumbfounded that people would pay others to sew for them.

    Thanks mom.

    • Reply
      December 29, 2010 at 6:38 pm

      What a story! Thanks so much for sharing it with me and other readers. Isn’t it interesting the gifts we receive from our family — whether we get along well or not. Thanks again, Linda.

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