"Her Classic Plaids and Tweeds"
Her’s are the first eyes into which we gaze. Her’s the first hair that enchants and the first necklace that entertains. She is the first model, the first fashion show, and our first icon. Some of us adopt our mother’s taste and some of us her manner, but all of us in some way can take from her a lesson in style.
My mother kept her cashmere sweaters in plastic bags, and her perfumed handkerchiefs ironed and folded into the top drawer of her dressing table. Her day clothing lived in a small tidy closet, shoes in boxes, jackets separated from dresses, skirts in a row.
By day she wore classics; slim skirts in plaids and tweeds, jewel necked twin sets and flats. By night she was all glamour, elegance and chic theatricality. The basement closets were reserved for her evening wear and they were her private costume house.
She would dress quietly and alone in her room. Sometimes I would peer in to see her sitting at her dressing table, an actress at half hour...taking out her pink rollers, brushing out her hair, applying her lipstick. Always a Revlon red.
My dad would round up the three of us into the car and pull down the driveway up to the base of the front walk and there the four of us would wait for Mom. From the middle of the back seat between my brother and baby sister I would sit, head turned to the left, eyes firmly fixed on the front door. Soon it would swing open, her long graceful arm would push out the screen and out she would step, 5’10, all legs, hair curled, red lipstick, painted nails and on this night in a cream pleated palazzo jumpsuit with gold and turquoise earrings, sandals and a simple gold bracelet high on her arm. Around her waist and dropping onto the pleats, a gold coin belt turning a queen (a proper English woman ) into an Egyptian dancer.
My dad would say, “Look at your mother. Isn’t she beautiful?” And we would all watch her round the front of the car, pull open the door and dip gracefully
into the front seat. Glamour would become the air around us as it would fill with Chanel 5.
I see her too arriving to us many a Sunday morning before church and the entrance was always the same. The door sweeping open, her long legs reaching out over each long step of the walk, and now prim, she would be in a plum tweed Jaeger suit with a classic jacket and pencil skirt, always just past the knee, low heeled pumps, the small gold watch that always graced her wrist, and of course, her sunglasses.
If I wasn’t in the back seat waiting for show time, I was at the base of the staircase sitting in the blue chair to the left of the front door. I would hear her bedroom door open, my heart would tighten with anticipation and I would fix my eyes to the top step. She would round the stairwell and I can still see her hand reaching for the banister. I wouldn’t smile but instead with awe I would watch her like a movie star. Tonight gracing her long line, a slim black caftan trimmed with gold and bronze embroidery, slit up both sides revealing her legs, chandelier earrings, hair up and wrapped with a braid. The Queen of England had become the Queen of the Nile.
Over my head, just to the side of the door frame was a small mirror and often she would bend forward into it to make a final adjustment before stepping out. “Be good”, she would say on her way to meet my dad, always seated in the blue Cadillac at the bottom of the walk.
I do not own any of her clothing but I share her mixed heritage and a love for two sides of the world. We are the Queens of England and the Queens of the Nile. From her too,
I took the value of quiet preparation and a grand entrance. These are the timeless pieces of womanhood I inherited.