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Archive for the ‘Mom’s Closet’ Category

No one loves you like your mom. Pictured: My mother with me and my brothers – Jimmy in the front and Marshall in the back.

Cindy Marshall died on Wednesday, April 27, 2022.

My mother lived, as she would say, a multifaceted life. She was a woman of style, good manners, and a quirky sense of humor. An only child, she was born in a small town in Pennsylvania, but grew up in many places, including China, where her father was an officer in the Navy. After her parents divorced when Mom was ten years old, she and her mother moved to San Francisco. I think she was lonely in those early days; she told me she spent that first cold and foggy summer in SF by herself inside their apartment listening to Flash Gordon on the radio and making paper dolls from images in fashion magazines.

Classical music and opera were important to my mother. She learned about both from her father and when she was in high school she studied voice hoping one day to sing opera. She had a lovely voice, good for operettas, but she thought not strong enough for opera so she gave it up (it was the big stuff or nothing). Still, she’d sing to herself up until the very end of her life. (In fact she was singing along with a Michael Feinstein CD while I sat with her just days before she passed.)

A bit of a loner, Mom followed her own sense of style. In the 1950s, Marin County housewives were wearing shirtwaist dresses with full skirts and shoes with heels, but not my mother. She sported slacks and desert boots, and for a diaper bag she used a bowling ball bag. “It was more interesting,” she told me. That was the era of luncheons, cocktail parties, and evenings out for dinner and dancing. Mom loved all that and had the appropriate attire for every occasion, usually purchased from her favorite department store, I. Magnin. Sometimes she made her clothing, although, she said she didn’t like working with sewing machines and preferred to sew by hand. She was also an avid knitter and once knitted an entire dress.

Mom had three children – Marshall, Jimmy, and me. One of the tragedies in Mom’s life was the loss of her two boys, both of whom left us way too young. It weighed her down with sadness, but she had an admirable inner strength and I know that she also took comfort in our small surviving family.

When I started school, Mom went to work, out of necessity as a divorced single mother but I think also to get back into the wider world. She managed a dentist’s office for many years and then switched to jewelry sales, which was her forte. She worked at Shreve & Co. and then Zales, and eventually she started her own antique jewelry business. Around that time she also reclaimed her maiden name, grew her hair long, went blonde, and shifted from structured handbags to the more fashionable shoulder bags.

There is much to say about my mother. (And I say it in a mother/daughter memoir that I am working on – and one day may even finish.) She was an elegant, complex woman who spent much of her life searching for answers to the big questions. Sometimes when she pondered life, she’d say “What’s this all about?” We weren’t always on the same page, but we were close and we spent a lot of time together. I miss that already. She has always been there, always on my side, always backing me up. Life is a little lonelier now.

My father died just before Father’s Day in 1984 and I still have the card I had planned to give to him. Now, my mother has left just before Mother’s Day 2022. Life is strange.

While I sort through this loss, it’s hard for me to focus. Even fashion, my usual place of joy, feels empty to me. For that reason, I am going to take a break from ODFL. I hope that readers will bear with me and still be there when I return. In the meantime there’s ten plus years of archives to revisit. Also, take a peek at Mom’s Closet (tab at the top), which has posts all about my mother, who inspired this blog.

Rest in peace, Mom. We love you!

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Chanel slingbacks.

When it comes to my own style I am very much a uniform dresser. Shoe-wise, it’s kind of what your grandma would wear, which is why I was drawn to these Chanel slingbacks. I purchased them five years ago at the brand’s SoHo store in New York and saved up all my money to do so. I’m not a heels person. They always make me feel overdressed and not in my own skin. But I needed one classic shoe that I could have forever and would look nice with everything.

Maggie Holladay, furniture designer and founder of Claude Home.

I found this quote in the December 2021 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.

Chanel slingback shoes sell for $925. That sounds like a lot, but for a quality classic shoe that one can wear forever with everything (almost) it’s not that bad. There’s much about this quote that I like –

1. The fact that Ms. Holladay saved up to buy her shoes. Saving up for something special, waiting, thinking about it, planning the big trip to the store when you can finally pay and take it home – that’s what I call a treat and a memorable one. Slipping out the credit card? Too easy. Not memorable. I once saved for a Coach handbag. It was a present to myself after my first year of graduate school. I still have that bag, of course, and it reminds me of a very important accomplishment. I could have whipped out the credit card, sure, but that wouldn’t have been as much fun. Instant gratification is overrated.

2. Uniform dressing. My mother did this and I tend toward it too, although I always add an accessory. My mother favored skirts and button-down shirts for her daily wear with perhaps knee socks and flat shoes if she was staying home or sheer stockings and a low heels if she was running errands. Skirts and t-shirts, or sweaters are my daily go-to as well. It’s nice to have several outfits already created that you can just pull out, dress, and go.

3. Investment in a classic. Buy one quality thing and wear it forever. One pair of classic shoes for special or professional occasions. One wool winter coat. One hardy suit (maybe two). You get the picture. Quality over quantity.

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Pearls go with everything and can go anywhere. They’re not too much and not too little but everything you’d ask for in a piece of jewelry.

Cindy Marshall, retired antique jewelry dealer and my mother.

Mom comes out with these little gems every so often. We were chatting on the phone and I mentioned that I’d been wearing her pearl bracelet that she had passed on to me years ago. I hadn’t worn it much, saving it for special occasions until my recent pull toward pearls inspired me to wear this bracelet every day, just because I like it.

It seems I’m not the only person drawn to pearls lately. Fashion designer Marc Jacobs told Harper’s Bazaar that after years of wanting, he finally bought himself a strand of pearls for Christmas last year. He says that the pearls are like a good luck charm and bring him joy during the pandemic. I recently interviewed a jeweler about trends and pearls are on the list. She told me that young women, influenced by the young British royals, are buying pearls.

I suspect that women are also inspired by another fan of pearls – Vice President Kamala Harris, who has made pearls her signature. Single strands, double strands, layered, mixed with gold and even diamonds, Vice President Harris loves her pearls. (I love that fact that she sports her pearls with her other favorite accessory – Converse sneakers.)

I agree with my mother that pearls are now an every day choice that go with everything. I like pearls with t-shirts. Or layers of pearls peeking out from underneath a blouse. Or a long strand on a lightweight sweater. Pearls are fun to play with and they don’t have to be real; faux pearls can be as lovely and lustrous as the real thing. And by the way, pearl is the birthstone for June.

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My mother once told me that her best friend from her younger days went through a phase of using paper shopping bags as handbags. Not just any old paper bag! No, one from I. Magnin or Saks Fifth Avenue. How intriguing. She could afford to shop at high end department stores, but she couldn’t afford a purse?

I love the irony and I wonder if that was her intention.

Mom thought that perhaps her BF couldn’t afford the expensive purse she wanted. But having good taste, she wasn’t going to settle for less, so, to be quirky or humorous she used the paper bags she got for buying a lipstick or stockings at the the best department stores in Downtown, San Francisco.

Fast forward to now and paper shopping bags are all the rage for reuse. I see it frequently – sturdy bags used for the gym, carting around kids stuff, used as totes to take to work or on a day out. I use some of my bag collection to carry packages to the post office and they’re perfect for packing a lunch.

These days in California and elsewhere (but not NY) customers have to pay for a bag and that’s a good thing for the environment and a good opportunity to reuse some of the shopping bags we already have. Maybe even carry a really nice one as your handbag. Why not?

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I have many of my late mother’s dresses from the 70s. Some are unraveling, but I feel close to her when I wear them around my house. There’s a red floral one that reminds me of summers in Oklahoma.

Sherri McMullen – boutique owner.

Originally from Oklahoma, Ms. McMullen owns the fashion boutique McMullen, located in downtown Oakland. Offering luxury clothing by designers from around the world, McMullen has been named among the top American boutiques by Vogue and Women’s Wear Daily.

I also own much of my mother’s clothing from the 50s to the 70s and I can relate to what Ms. McMullen is saying. These vintage pieces of fashion are woven with memories and images that connect us to our past. I think that’s of great value.

Sunday, May 9th is Mother’s Day. ODFL wishes all the moms out there a very happy day!

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The classic 2.55 handbag by Chanel.

I inherited my Chanel 2.55 bag from my mother, who herself had been gifted it. Whenever I wear it I’m wearing her history. I know it sounds like an inflated idea, but our attachments to objects and the paths they’ve all taken are real.

Lucy Chadwick, Gallery Director of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in New York.

The iconic Chanel 2.55 handbag was named after the date of its creation – February 1955. At the time it had unique features including quilted leather and a chain shoulder strap. Since the original hit the shelves, there have been many interpretations and spins on the original design but like a true classic, it has never gone out of style.

I have a little tan leather clutch bag with a kiss closure that belonged to my mother. I remember it was always kept in her dresser drawer and it didn’t come out to be carried but instead held important little things like her old driver’s licenses. She just recently gave it to me and I have considered using it but, I don’t want to disturb the contents. Now it sits in my dresser drawer.

So, I agree with Ms. Chadwick that objects carry the history of their owners.

Coming up later this week it’s all about handbags on OverDressedforLife. Stay tuned.

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From afar we wish all mothers a very Happy Mother’s Day.

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Resort 2020 for Louis Vuitton.

On my first trip to New York, I was fascinated by the incredible craftsmanship of the Art Deco buildings. I tried to go back to those emotions with this collection. It’s about rediscovery of American Heritage. 

Nicolas Ghesquiere – French fashion designer and creative director for Louis Vuitton.

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It’s been quite awhile since we visited Mom’s Closet. Let’s step inside for a little Halloween story. Click on the Mom’s Closet tab above and scroll down for “Spooky Halloween Wishes from Mom’s Closet.”

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My mother circa 1950s (before my time) ready for a night on the town.

My mother was a well-dressed woman. She liked to go out, and when she went dancing we children would follow her, marveling at her beauty as she awaited our goodnight kisses. A white tulle dress with big sleeves and large white polka-dots comes to mind, and it does so poetically – the tulle so light, so spider-like. 

Yves Saint-Laurent (1936-2008), French fashion designer.

I think we all have memories of our mothers dressed for an evening out: the rustling of a ball gown; the sparkle of an earring; the whiff of a special perfume.

My parents went out a lot while I was growing up – the era of cocktail parties. My most vivid memory of those evenings watching Mom get ready is of her scent. The woodsy smell of Cabochard was her choice for nighttime.  Dressed usually in black, Mom would say goodbye with a kiss on the forehead for each one of us. The youngest of the three, I was last and when it was my turn I’d take a deep breath of her scent to carry me through the long night without Mom. (It wasn’t a bad temporary replacement.)

Cabochard means headstrong in French and the perfume by Madame Gres was created in 1959. I always remembered the special nighttime perfume and when visiting Paris one time with my dad we bought some for Mom. The small round bottle with a grey velvet bow tied around the top still sits on her dresser. It’s empty now but of course there’s a lingering bit of the familiar scent that can flip me back to my childhood in an instant.

Today is Mother’s Day. Wishing all mothers out there a very happy day. And to all daughters and sons, a day of happy memories.

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