Instead of writing the annual Mother’s Day post about my late Mum, I’m celebrating her style on the date she passed away. On May 17th, 2000, my precious Mum died at age 59 after a very unexpected diagnosis of fourth stage liver cancer that had spread to her lungs. Thankfully, Mama did not suffer for long. The loss of our Mother was absolutely shocking and gutting for our family. Twenty-one years later, the wounds are less raw, but still there. Time does help one to process feelings and cope with loss in a more peaceful way.
My interest in fashion and style came from my Mother, who was innately one of the most stylish and elegant people I’ve known. When I was a child growing up in the ‘70s I saw her beautiful style first-hand, and I’ve pored over incredible photos of her in the ‘60s. It’s no coincidence that these fashion eras — along with the ‘80s when I came of age — are my favourites.
Mama taught me at a young age about good grooming, looking neat and polished, feeling comfortable in your clothes, and having fun with fashion. She also taught me that style was not about wearing expensive clothes or frequent shopping trips, but about doing your own thing, and making the most of the resources that were available to you.
Mama was hands down my favourite shopping buddy. After a little shopping spree, we would enjoy outfit creation fashion shows together at home. We would dance around, loving our outfits, and smile and hug in gratitude. My Mum was candid when she didn’t like a look, but she encouraged me, was full of compliments, giving me a positive body image and self-esteem.
I absolutely adored and looked up to my Mother. As a little girl, I wanted to dress in the same outfits that she wore. Mama, who was handy with the sewing machine, pandered to my whims. She would make a dress for herself, and one to match for me in a style that was appropriate for a child. Those are my fondest fashion memories with Mama.
I like two things best about Mama’s style. First, she stuck to the classics because they looked dressy and she did not tire of them. Years later I can relate to that and feel similarly. But more impressively, my late Mum was the epitome of what hubs Greg describes as “polished but not precious.” No matter what life threw at her, Mama was always well turned out with make-up, styled hair, immaculate polish, well cared for skin, and a great outfit. She would rough and tumble with the dogs on the floor in white jeans, dresses, skirts, pretty flouncy blouses, and pantyhose. Shovel dirt and compost in an adorable big hat, silk blouse, patterned pants, and perfect posture. Muck out horses stables in jodhpurs, boots, and anorak, and not break a sweat. And looked as fresh as a daisy in the morning after being up with sick animals all night. To me, THAT is a style worth celebrating.
Here’s Mum back in the ‘70s at horse riding stables in the Netherlands. The family had just come back from a hack in the woods, and we had cleaned horses and the stables. She’s relaxing afterwards looking clean, elegant and poised. After wearing a riding hat for hours, her hair looks great too.
This one is on a ski trip in Zurich back in the ‘60s with some friends. Mama is the shorter person on the right with the lighter coloured hood and dark hat. Fabulously pulled together in snow gear.
And last, a 1963 May 10th wedding ceremony in Hong Kong with my Dad who is cautiously cutting the cake. My fiery and kind Mama was ecstatic to be marrying my strong and gentle Dad. Her sparkly eyes, happy heart, and megawatt smile were her best accessories of the day.
This month I’m decking the house with Mama’s favourite flowers, which were any type of pink rose. And I’m saying thank you for 29 years of unconditional love and support, and fabulous style.