Day 192

"Powder and Paint make ya' what ya aint'"

A collection of my mom's makeup

A collection of my mom's makeup

As you can see from the photo above, my mother had an extensive collection of makeup.  Amazing, high-end makeup, Laura Mercier, Armani, Francois Nars, Bobbi Brown, Chanel, makeup that I have not been able to part with.  In an earlier post, I touched upon what a sweet time it was, just us girls, perusing a makeup counter together, looking for a new concealer, or that amazing lipstick that would change our faces, and how much I missed that time.  I still miss that time, I will always miss that time.  But recently, I have been thinking about what makeup meant to my mom as she became progressively more ill.  It was the promise of a flush in her cheeks stolen by chemotherapy, or replacing moisture on her face after a physically exhausting day spent traveling from hospital to Dr's office in Manhattan's harsh midwinter. 

I will never forget the day my mother told me she had cancer.  It was August 2011, I was driving home from a yoga class, (I always tried to cram those classes in pre-beach beach time in NY)  She tried to be nonchalant, telling me that a previously benign spot on her lung, had been diagnosed as cancer.  She quickly went on to add that they were going to do a series of chemical treatments, and then she would move on to maintaining the cancer with chemotherapy in pill form.  I am not sure, and will I never know, if this was a story of hope constructed  for her or for me.  She was the most afraid, I found out later on, that she was going to have to lose her hair in front of me.  For all of the years we had a topsy-turvy parenting structure now my mom was trying desperately to protect me.  As anyone can see from her pictures, she was a beautiful woman, and I think losing her hair was a terrible blow.  My mom was old school, she had her hair done professionally, whenever she could, and it was amazing.  She rocked a Jackie O flip, in and out of it's era's of coolness.  

My mother went to the same salon near our home in Long Island for nearly 15 years.  Keeping the same hairdresser for close to 10 years.  This hairdresser gave my youngest daughter her very first haircut.  This salon was known not only known for it's hairstyling, but also it's amazing hairpieces and wigs.  The salon's wigs could veer into the thousands of dollars.  So when my mother asked as a long time customer, if there was any way they could help her with a wig due to the cancer, they said matter a factly- no.  "Our wigs are sought-after all over the world, and are of the highest quality, that is why they are so expensive".  Let's be totally clear, my mother was not asking for a free wig, she was asking for a slight discount, on account of the 15 years of patronage, oh, and the cancer diagnosis, you horrible, horrible garbage heaps of humanity,  My mother never went back.  I don't blame her, and boy do I wish I could have given them an earful. 

I was with my mother when she got the prescription for her wig  (who knew that was prescribable?) and went with her to Barry Hendrickson's 'Bitz-n-pieces" in New York City.  It is an unfortunate name I know, but she was treated with dignity there, and made to feel beautiful.  The Stylist that worked with her was jovially flamboyant, and sensed my mothers trepidation, about the upcoming haircut (head shave, let's be honest) and told her how lucky she was to have such a great shaped head (actually she did).  Proclaiming "honey, powder and paint make ya' what ya aint' your gonna look gorgeous!"  Together we picked out a chic, 'Jennifer Aniston-esque' chestnut bob.  My mother looked good in it, but from the moment she put it on I could tell she hated it.  When I look back at pictures from that day, I can see the sadness in her face.  Who can blame her?  My mother lived year round in warm weather climates, and no matter how much sticky tape you used, it must have felt uncomfortable and unstable.  Hell, I lose my mind after about 20 minutes of wig wearing on Halloween!  

That's why I think we were all so excited when my mothers hair began to grow back in.  It was not just about comfort, it was about hope.  A sense of excitement that growth and life were coming back to my mom.  We all loved how my mom looked with her new short hair, even my mom.  She really did look great, rocking a salt and pepper pixie cut. There were only about six months when she was really sporting her short hair,  but those images of her are some of my most vivid.  

Mom-you were always a great beauty, because your beauty came from within.  It was a radiating, palpable thing.  It was not going to be stripped away from you when you lost your hair.  It has not been stripped away even in your absence.  It is carried on every day in every memory I have of you. 

Mom with short hair

Mom with short hair




Day 191

Let Them Eat Cake

My Mother alongside some of her creations

My Mother alongside some of her creations

I have written a lot about my mothers killer fashion sense this past year, and at times spoken about her cooking, but I don't believe that I have ever showcased her talents as an incredible pastry chef.  Being a good cook is a skill, being a pastry chef is an art.  As you can see from the cakes above, she was a true artist.  She would think nothing of hand crafting several hundred sugar paste petals and leaves for a wedding cake, and could mold marzipan into every imaginable shape and likeness.  To master pastry, you also need patience and I believe, a sense for it.  It used to drive me crazy when I would ask her for exact timing on certain recipes, like her caramel for instance, to which she would respond "Oh honey, just take it off the heat when it looks right"  

I have always loved to cook, but was terrified about making deserts, and for most of my life, I didn't have to, my mom did it.  Over the years, I have collected every recipe she shared with me, and after she was diagnosed with cancer, she took on the daunting task of compiling her own favorite recipes for me.  I have three hand written recipes for her pie crust, and each one is slightly different!  Oh mom.  But as time has gone on, I have learned to put that crust together, and how to make caramel, and whipped cream, and buttercream icing....and I have become more brave, and begun to tackle the cannon of desserts.  I am not at the Croquembouche level yet, but I still have time.  For those unfamiliar with Croquembouche, here is a recipe: (and yes, my mom made a killer one)

http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Croquembouche

This past weekend was the big fall fundraiser for my daughter's school.  At the event they have something called a "cake walk" basically like a big game of musical chairs, where if you land on the number picked at random, you can win a cake.  I have enjoyed baking some fun Halloween themed cakes for this.  I have two pictures below, one I made while my mom was alive, and one I made for this year.  My mom LOVED seeing pictures of the cakes I made, and always loved talking food with me.  She only got to see one of these, but I think she would have been proud about this years effort.  They seem sort of amateurish compared to what my mom could do, but they are fun, and were made with love.  Here is to sweet memories of sweet things.

Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.
— Erenestine Ulmer
Bride of Frankenstein & Dia de la Muerta cakes for my daughter's school Fundraiser

Bride of Frankenstein & Dia de la Muerta cakes for my daughter's school Fundraiser

Day 189

Welcome to the dollhouse

My dollhouse

My dollhouse

I could not talk about my mother without talking about her love of miniatures.  In addition to being an amazing chef, my mother was an incredible miniaturist, she made the most incredible room boxes, and miniatures.  There will be pictures of those in future posts for sure.  This is the dollhouse my mother gave me when I was 8 years old.  I was instantly hooked.  I have never been able to, nor have I wanted to, let go of this dollhouse.  Over the years, I have done sporadic work on it, it is actually painted the same color as the exterior of our house in Long Island, and I attempted to shingle the roof.  It has found a new lease in life with my daughters.  Nothing makes me happier than to see them play with it, and I know my mother loved that as well.  In addition to her clothing, I have also inherited her vast miniature collection. Now that, I truly have no idea what to do with, but again, can't just throw out.  While my girls are still young, I parse out the things I think they will enjoy.  It's a sweet hobby really, I think there is such magic in those tiny little works of art.  


Day 188

Sea Change

Seaman Schepps shell earings

Seaman Schepps shell earings

This is a pair of Seaman Schepps shell earrings.  They were a gift to my mother from her incredibly generous and close friend Sarah.  She gave them to my mother as a thank you for helping her find her summer house. I am sure my mother's motives were twofold, she wanted to help Sarah find a place, but it was a bonus that it was walking distance from my mothers house.! After my mother passed away, Sarah asked me about the earrings, I could not find them anywhere.  Both of us were convinced that they were lost somewhere in the shuffle.  6 Months later, I was back in NY and I found them.  Below is the text conversation I had with Sarah after I found them.

Schepps Detail

Schepps Detail

Here is a little history on Seaman Schepps, just in case anyone is curious:

"An immigrant’s son, who grew up in the tenements of New York’s Lower East Side, Seaman Schepps rose to prominence in the 1930s with jewelry designs that challenged the status quo and defined a new style for the American woman. With his chunky brooches, “barbaric” bracelets and “bubble” earrings, Schepps pioneered a unique style of jewelry whose sense of splendor offered a new perspective to the world of fine jewelry.

Witty, over-the-top and flattering, Schepps’ jewelry embodied style and originality and was featured on the covers of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Look and other magazines. It appealed to a myriad of clients from Katherine Hepburn to Andy Warhol to the Duchess of Windsor and greatly influenced his contemporaries. Today, some 50 years after his death, he continues to inspire modern jewelers.

Through the 1930s, and into the 40s and 50s, new clients flocked to him at his store on Madison Avenue. Often clients wanted a one-of-a-kind bauble and commissioned Schepps to incorporate their old jewelry into a fresh new design. Frequently this led to landmark decisions that helped distinguish Schepps as an extraordinary talent. His client list included Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, the Duchess of Windsor, and members of the Du Pont, Mellon and Rockefeller families. By serving these most powerful and influential individuals, Schepps became known as “America’s Court Jeweler”.



Day 187

So Ladylike

Vintage Peach day dress with embroidery

Vintage Peach day dress with embroidery

This is such a sweet dress, and by the size and tone, I believe it was made for my mom by her mother, on one of her trips to Asia. I truly love to dress my daughters, and wish they would still let me do it! But alas, there are no Peter Pan collars in their rotation, nor are there even any dresses. My girls are all about jean shorts, leggings and t-shirts.  Oh well, who can blame them?  Those are the most comfortable ensembles on the play yard.  Maybe one day this will be their jam.  Until then, I will be the custodian.

xo

embroidery detail

embroidery detail

Day 186

Sing us a song you're the piano man...

Vintage Piano hem knot dress

Vintage Piano hem knot dress

Oh my, what a sweet, silly dress. Really, I believe this is a dress for pure fun. If there is one thing my mother loved it was entertaining and performance.  This dress would have struck all the right cords with her. (no pun intended!)  It is silly, and yet surprisingly elegant at the same time.  My mother always knew how to dress for the occasion.  That is a skill I am trying to pick up from her. 

x

 

Day 185

Fur Real

Vintage Revillon lynx coat

Vintage Revillon lynx coat

I felt compelled to post this coat after my weekend in Portland, which is notoriously known for it's political correctness.  The furs I have inherited are beautiful, and yet sadly, deteriorating at an alarming rate. The coat I am wearing in this photo is a vintage lynx coat from the house of Revillion.  As a little girl, the Revillion department of Saks was my favorite destination.  I used to love to burrow under the racks of furs, and if it was quiet, try on and "model" the coats.  I so wish I still remembered the name of the Revillion deprtmtent manager, because he was so kind to me, and a dear friend of my parents.  Fur is not PC, I totally get that, but does that apply to the old stuff? Before we were collectively, con fur? Is there any  grandfather clause for folks that inherited these pieces VS buying them new?

Another note about this post, as much as I love this coat, there is for sure a touch of "Grey Gardens" in the ensemble.  Some funny disconnect, wearing a couture fur over a nightgown. I would be doing a disservice to this blog if I did not tell the following story, and yet it is hard for me to do so.

When I was 7 or 8 years old (at the max) I watched my mother walk out of our house after a fight with my father, but what made it unique was that there was a foot and a half of snow on the ground, she was barefoot, and wearing a fur coat over her nightgown. She ended up few days later at an airport.  Mom, I imagine that you would be furious at me for writing about this, but I hope you understand that I need to tell our story, and while there are difficult moments, addressing them is where the healing begins.

As I love to do, I want to add a little about he house of Revillion, in case any one is curious:

Revillon Frères (Revillon Brothers) was a French fur and luxury goods company, founded in Paris in 1723. Then called la Maison Givelet, it was purchased by Louis-Victor Revillon in 1839 and soon, as Revillon Frères, became the largest fur company in France. Branches were opened in London in 1869 and in New York in 1878.[1] At the end of the 19th century, Revillon had stores in ParisLondonNew York, and Montreal.

Through its fur buying bureau in Leipzig, Germany (1876), and an agency in Moscow (1905), the company bought most its furs from the markets of Moscow, Leipzig and at the annual fairs in Nizhny Novgorod (Gorki) at the Makaryev Fair and in Irbit at the Irbit Fair.[1]

From 1908-1909 Revillon Frères opened fur trading posts in SiberiaMongolia and Turkestan.[1] By 1912 Revillon Frères had 125 fur trading posts in America and Siberia.[1]

In the 1960s, Revillon acquired Grauer Furs, New York's preeminent fur manufacturing company. Grauer Furs was founded by Austrianimmigrant William Grauer and later operated by Grauer's two sons, Abraham and Herman. In 1970, in a deal negotiated by Herman Grauer, Revillon became the fur supplier to Saks 5th Avenue. This arrangement lasted until 1995.

 

Day 184

The Look of Love

Vintage sleepwear

Vintage sleepwear

I truly love these photos.  I never planned to post these side by side, but as I was looking for an example of my mom wearing one of her great sleepwear pieces, I found this photo of my mom in the hospital with me as a newborn, and I was stunned by our expressions, they are almost identical.  In the picture on the left, I am with my youngest daughter, and she is actually the one wearing one of my moms pieces, a vintage peignoir, that I know was one of the pieces in my mother's rotation while in the hospital after I was born.

I remember an article I once read that talked about the way a mother looks at her children.  It  likened it to the way a person gazes on someone they are deeply in love with.  That has always stuck with me, because each time I look at my daughters, I feel such an intense love.  In this picture of my mother, I can see the love in her eyes.  I have said this before, but even with all the struggles we went through early on in my life, I always knew I was loved.  I hope my girls will always feel that same way.


Day 183

Memory Lane

Emerald GreenSilk Jersey gown 

Emerald GreenSilk Jersey gown 

This post is a little different from the others, instead of a current photo, this is actually one from my own archive.  In this photo I am wearing one of my mom's gowns, (which I sadly, lost track of over the years). This photo is about twenty years old, and was taken with one of my closest friends in the entire world, Kris. Kris is also wearing one of my mom's outfits in this pic, which we made fun of for years, but when I look at it now, I think it's pretty fantastic.  Its hard to tell in this photo, but that jacket is fully made of sequins! 

Kris and I on a whim, decided to go to a formal dance at my parents beach club, and all we and to wear was what we could dig up in my mom's closet,  but what a closet it was!  I had my pixie cut freshly bleached for the occasion, and as Kris recently pointed out, I put her hair in rollers for the event.  Kris, will you ever forgive me?  LOL.

I had the wonderful fortune to spend this past weekend in Portland, Oregon, where I went to college (Lewis & Clark) and met Kris for the first time.  It was so wonderful to be be back in that city, I truly love it, and seeing Kris was such good medicine for my soul. Kris, thank you in advance for not being furious at me for posting this;)

xo


Day 182

Seriously twisted

Gay Boyer Pearl Twist necklace

Gay Boyer Pearl Twist necklace

Oh, Gay Boyer.  Gay Boyer is not only a talented designer but was also a family friend,  with an eponymous collection of jewelry, clothing and accessories. Her collections erred on the conservative, yet glamorous side,  and my mother was a huge fan.  She most have owned close to 100 of her pieces. After my hippie freakout "gap year"  my mother welcomed me back home with open arms and helped me secure a day job at Gay's studio in Manhattan.  I went from Birkenstocks to Ferragamos, and tie dye to plaid, and guess what?  It was awesome.  It was really fun to re-invent myself.  Gay was so kind to give me a chance, and I really enjoyed dressing up and going into the city everyday.  That being said, when my time came to take advantage of my deferred college enrollment I was ready to fly.  

Many, many years passed before I was engaged, but as her only daughter, my mother was over the moon with the idea of dressing up (and dressing me up) for engagement parties, showers, and ultimately my wedding.  At the time Gay was making a line of semi-precious stone and pearl jewelry, and my mother bedecked me in all manner of it.  This natural pearl twist necklace is simple and elegant, and can be worn with many outfits.  What can I say, I am a sucker for pearls, and believe they are terribly underated.

I think Gay may have sold the company, because when I google it now, it comes up as 'Boyer New York.'  While perusing the current website, I found that the pieces are being sold at two places that have special meaning to me (and did to my mom)  The Village at Cross keys In Baltimore, (where we used to pal around together in our free time before moving to NY), and Mildred Hoit In Palm beach, where we spent every year visiting my grandparents, before they become too ill to make their annual trip.  

As a woman business owner myself,  I now see Gay in an entirely new light.  How cool was it that she had a showroom on 7th avenue, and was a business owner/wife/mother in the 70's and 80's?  

Here's to you!

xo


Day 181

A stitch in time

Vintage petit point pumps

Vintage petit point pumps

There are some items that I have inherited that I have no problem identifying.  These pumps were my grandmother's and are vintage petit point.  Petit point is the diminutive version of needlepoint, and takes a very skilled hand to make. I imagine that these would have been a perfect set piece for a simple black dress.  I don't see myself having a place to wear these, and yet, for the same reason I believe my mother kept them, I can't bear to just toss them away.  Someone, somewhere, at sometime, labored over each stitch, and that feels precious to me. Almost as if I let them go, I would be throwing away a treasure, or someones hard work.  But in some way, I feel that way about all the things I have inherited.  And so sometimes, it becomes a heavy mantle.  I am glad to have this forum to voice these concerns, and am optimistic that the right decisions will present themselves eventually.  Until then, I will cherish each stitch, drape and silhouette.   And I will consider myself lucky to be the custodian of such beauty.



*Day 175 Addendum

one more from the archives...

This is an addendum to an earlier post (day 175) I actually found the Gucci bag my mom was so effortlessly sporting in a snowdrift with high heels and a mink coat....I still believe she carried it off beautifully.

35 years later….

35 years later….


Day 180

They call me mellow yellow...

Yellow Shantung silk skirt with matching jacket 

Yellow Shantung silk skirt with matching jacket 

Ok, this would have been pretty great if it was just a sunshine yellow shantung silk skirt and jacket, but lets take it up a few notches and line that jacket with a glorious tonal floral print. That is the definition of attention to detail, and actually one of the things that I like the most about so many of the pieces that I have inherited.  There are often these great details, a hidden pocket or cuff detail, something that elevates the standard to the extraordinary.  what a delight that is.



Day 179

Sparkle Plenty

Vintage Black Sequin Sweater

Vintage Black Sequin Sweater

This is a very lovely black cashmere sweater, peppered with sequins of course.... simple, and yet glamourous.  When I was in my teens, this was the the type of sweater that I used to love to wear if I felt fancy. I hope my girls will love them too.



Day 178

Hawaiian Punch

Vintage "Reef of Hawaii" maxi dress

Vintage "Reef of Hawaii" maxi dress

I am crazy about this dress.  It is a vintage "Reef of Hawaii" maxi gown, the provenance of which is a mystery to me.  It could have been from my Mom, Grandma, Aunt or Great Aunt, which makes me love it even more.  This dress screams vacation, and yet, in the rose colored glasses of my youth, I really feel like this was the kind of outfit my mom wore to entertain, the very definition of a "hostess dress."  I feel like there is a real revival in this kind of dressing and entertaining. My husband and I were never ones to dine out extravagantly, but we have always loved to entertain, and have always felt that if you were dining out, that you should put some effort into your appearance.  Why should it be different at home?  Actually, I think it is more fun to put on a beautiful and yet comfortable ensemble to entertain.  Let's bring it back  Vive le hostess dress!!

Here are a few notes on the hostess gown:

"An entertainment gown worn at home by the lady in charge of the festivities."

"noun

a robe or housecoat worn by women for informal entertaining at home."

Or from the venerable New York Times:

Whither the hostess gown? Archaeological study of this now-defunct garment, popular from the 1930s to the 1970s (according to the Vintage Fashion Guild), reveals that the American lady of the house used to greet her dinner guests not in Lululemon yoga pants and a clammy tank top, but a billowing, brightly colored maxi-dress, often with a forgiving waistline, or no waistline — sort of a cross between an evening formal and a bathrobe.

The idea was to balance one’s respect for and command of the occasion with the right to sprawl comfortably in one’s living room on oversize lounging cushions, perhaps leaping up from time to time to rearrange the cheese straws. For hostess gowns had very little to do with actual cooking; indeed, many of the specimens that remain are downright fire hazards, with their tentlike sleeves.

“It was ‘I’m wearing silk jersey in the kitchen, I’m smoking and have three inches of ash,’ ” said Madeline Meyerowitz, of the vintage-clothing Web site Enokiworld and no slouch in the kitchen herself. She theorized that the glorified caftans began to disappear as women discovered Julia Child, Alice Waters et al. and took a personal interest in preparing food."



Day 177

Don't forget your overcoat!

Bespoke teal and gold floral overcoat

Bespoke teal and gold floral overcoat

Ok, I thought this was a complete outfit before I found this coat, and then....I truly don't know wether or not that coat was made for this outfit, because you can see from the last post that it did indeed have its own jacket, so, I assumed that it was  a standalone piece, but I'll be damned if it is not a perfect match to this outfit. Who's with me?


 

 

 

Day 176

Teal for two

Teal Silk Ensemble

Teal Silk Ensemble

This is a beautiful teal cocktail dress with matching jacket.  What is delightful about this ensemble, is that it is surely something my grandmother had custom made in Hong Kong during her travels, but it is smaller than some others I have, which leads me to believe that some of these may have been made for her daughters.  Now as a mother of two daughters, I realize just how complicated it is to disperse things equally to avoid conflict.  Sadly, I believe my mother and her sister had real issues with competition, and that they struggled with that all their lives.  That is so heartbreaking to me, and so I try very hard to instill love between my two girls, and to make sure that they know that they are each others refuge not each others competitor.



Day 175

Hazy shade of winter…

Glencoe, Ill 1979

Glencoe, Ill 1979

This picture is as classic as it gets, I am in the dorkiest outfit ever, and my mom is dressed to the nines.  Did she try and dress me cool, and I resisted?  To be honest, I don't remember, isn't that odd?  Now in my defense, I am dressed appropriately for playing in the fallout of the great blizzard of 79', but my mother takes the cake.  We are standing in several feet of snow, and my mother is wearing, high heeled boots, a black mink coat, a gucci bag, and oh, her hair is perfect.  Nice work mom.

The same Gucci bag 35 years later...

The same Gucci bag 35 years later...


Day 174

The Green Shoe Dairy

Custom dyed emerald green pumps

Custom dyed emerald green pumps

who doesn't need a pair of emerald green pumps with rhinestones to match their shades of green evening ensemble?  Nuf said….