A Sparkling Vintage Life

patricia el stationMost of what I know about style, I learned from my mother. She did not wear vintage clothing (although what she wore eventually became vintage, to my generation) but she had a classic, ladylike style that I’ve always admired very much. She was never a slave to fashion, choosing carefully from each season’s offerings the styles that looked well on her. She chose her outfits carefully, never outrageous or extravagant, and always immaculately groomed. If I could be half as nicely turned out as she was I would be a happy woman.

patricia on stairs

*I remember feeling quite grown up as we met a few of her friends for lunch at the tony Oak Brook Mall. We wore matching mother-daughter shifts that she’d sewn, sleeveless for summer, in a cool blue and sea-green printed polished cotton, looking and feeling as cool as the proverbial cucumbers on a scorching summer day.

*I remember her “Julmiddag dress,” worn to several Christmas dinners at the Swedish Club of Chicago. It had a red velvet ballet-neck top and white silk damask skirt. For a few years there in the late 1960s and early 1970s, heaven help her if she dared wear anything else. “Mommy, you HAVE to wear it!”  “But people will think I only own one dress!” “Who cares? It’s tradition!”

*I remember a pale blue one-piece swimsuit, demure and fetching at the same time, worn with oversize sunglasses and a floppy hat at our lake cottage in the summer.

*I remember a dark blue belted “White Stag” parka, very James-Bond-at-Chamonix, even if her only “mission” for the day was a trip to the Jewel for milk and bread.

*I remember the fresh-as-springtime floral print suit she wore to my May wedding.

patricia lake michigan*I remember the businesslike tweeds and sensible brogues worn to her job in the public library system’s audio-visual service.

*I remember white Keds sneakers, folded down at the heel so she could slip them on and off easily without untying the laces. Like mother, like daughter.

*I remember the shades-of-Laura-Petrie capri slacks and tops she wore around the house when I had not yet started kindergarten.

*I remember how she urged me to change out of my school dresses and into play clothes right after school, even though I begged to keep my dresses on “like the big girls do.” Clothing fell into categories of appropriateness: school clothes, play clothes, housework clothes, office clothes, dinner-date-with-Daddy clothes, church clothes.andy pat 1990

*I remember how, some years later, she had a dickens of a time getting me to wear anything but blue jeans.

*I remember hand-sewn special occasion dresses that I adored. A blue satin gown for the King of Hearts dance. A floral gown with sweetheart neckline for my first prom. A light-blue tiered gown for my last prom. It made me look like Little Bo-Beep, but I begged for it and adored it. A tea-length gown of palest pink silk damask for my wedding.

*I remember thinking she was, hands-down, the most beautiful woman I’d ever laid eyes on.

I still do.

Nighty-night, Mommy.

patricia in her 20s

Patricia Lamont, 1925-2015