1. Talk to strangers.
Mom was a pro at making fast friends out of perfect strangers. She treated others with such kindness. It’s no wonder everyone fell in love with her. Even in the hospital when she had very few words in her vocabulary she managed to say to one of her nurses, “Do they make everyone be beautiful in nursing school?” The nurse just beamed!
I’m not as friendly with strangers but I’m getting better. Thankfully I can spot great outfits and that gives me an in. I can overcome my shyness when I compliment someone on what they’re wearing. I learn all kinds of things about people when I do! No one hates a compliment. Have you noticed that too?
2. Never let yourself go.
Several of my mother’s friends came up to me at her funeral and told me story after story about how she looked great and how they envied her style. At eighty-two she always wanted to look right for all occasions. Even her lake wardrobe was filled with color.
It would never occur to her to leave the house in sweats or in something that wasn’t pressed and fresh looking. I’m glad I had that role model. Looking pleasant has lots of benefits! You feel better and the people around you feel better too.
3. If you’re going out the door, put your lipstick on.
I hardly saw my mother without lipstick and makeup on. Those weeks in January and February when I was in the hospital with her and she didn’t have a stitch of makeup on, I marveled at how beautiful she was and how great her skin looked. She was always known for her great skin. I don’t think it hurt that she made an effort to look just a little better with a few dabs of this blush and that eye shadow. To be honest, to this day I feel naked without lipstick!
4. Seek beauty.
Last summer my daughter Caitlin was in the backseat with me and Mom was in the front seat with Dad. We were driving past farmlands in Minnesota. Mom was looking out the window and said, ““Isn’t that cornfield beautiful?” She swooned when she said it. She was experiencing pure delight looking at that cornfield.
Meanwhile in the backseat, Caitlin leaned over to me and whispered, “What makes one cornfield beautiful and another one not beautiful?” She was born and raised in Marin County and not on a farm like I was. I gave her my best explanation: The rows are symmetrical. There are no brown spots. The height of the corn is even. The field isn’t full of weeds.
I’m not around fields as much as I’m around people so I usually am finding beauty while people watching. It’s annoying to my daughters, but I can’t go to a restaurant without people watching. “Mom, stop staring!” they’ll say.
I’m not staring; I’m appreciating! Just recently at the Girl and the Fig in Sonoma I saw a woman in a great outfit. There was only one thing I’d have changed about it and that was her necklace. I daydreamed about that until the first course arrived.
The next day I was with a client and that woman I’d seen in the restaurant came back to me: her slim pants that ended at her ankle, a simple sweater with a not quite right necklace going down the front, a beautiful 3/4 coat in a caramel color that brought out her brown eyes.
Taking inspiration from that stranger, I created something similar for my client. I gave her sparkly pointy-toe flats which were festive without being uncomfortable. The woman I’d seen the night before wore high-heeled black pumps. I took my client’s Jil Sander slim black ankle pant and added a stone colored cashmere sweater. I added a long tasseled necklace which was the perfect necklace to echo the long, lean look I was going for. I went into my client’s closet and hunted down a 3/4 coat to finish the look. She looked fabulous! I can’t create beautiful cornfields but I can create beauty with clothes and jewelry, color and texture.
Maybe I inherited a curious eye, always searching for beauty all around me…just like Mom.
5. Everyone needs a flirty dress.
In high school Mom took me on a shopping trip. She bought me three dresses. One of them was short and was cut on the bias. If I swung around quickly you might see the top of my thigh. I was nervous about it. But that’s when Mom insisted, “Every girl needs a flirty dress.” I wore it a few times before feeling comfortable in it, but she was right!
I swear my daughter Caitlin is the queen of flirty dresses. She wears them well. I think I need to take advice from both the generation above me and below me and see if I can’t do better in the flirty-dress department. I always feel great when I wear them. I just need to wear them more often.
6. Dress to please yourself.
If you feel great in it, wear it proudly! That’s what Mom would say!
Mom wore a jumpsuit in the late 60s and it was red. Dad thought it was too out there. She told me it was the only time he fussed over something she wore. Did it stop her? No way! She liked it and she wore it! He was just going to have to get over himself, that’s all. That’s how she told the story.
I picture Mom in that red jumpsuit and have to chuckle. She stood her fashion ground fearlessly! Good for her!
7. Accessories are necessities.
It was so interesting putting picture boards together for the funeral. We started with one but had to do three. In nearly every picture of Mom, she’s wearing earrings at a minimum plus a scarf or a necklace or both.
Some people may pause to consider adding an accessory. There was no pausing with Mother. She just did it naturally, like breathing in and breathing out. Her Goddaughter Kathleen was at my parent’s home the day after the funeral. I was so glad when she asked me if there was a scarf or a piece of jewelry that she could have to remember Mother by. “Oh, of course!” I said and led her into Mother’s bedroom. Kathleen settled on a ruffled scarf Mom wore at the Hostfest, an annual Scandinavian festival we often attended together. Kathleen has similar coloring and the scarf she chose is one she’ll wear herself. I’m so glad!
8. Appreciate young people.
Mom always loved being around young people. No one intimidated her. She had a way of saying the funniest things out loud, things someone else might have thought to keep to themselves. But that made her even more charming. She wasn’t afraid to say the wrong thing. She jumped into conversations and we all loved it!
Mother had friends and admirers of all ages. I wonder if that’s a key to staying young in spirit. I always hated when someone asked how old my mom was because I figured they’d hear the answer (82-years-old) and think: Oh, that’s old! But she was far from old.
I count on my daughters and their friends to keep me feeling youthful no matter my age.
Thanks Mom for all you’ve taught me, shared with me and the way you continue to inspire me. You have been and will continue to be a great role model! I love you. Happy Mother’s Day!