My mother has completely shaped who I am, and I find more of her in myself every day — or at least I flatter myself that I do, because few people can claim that they are remotely comparable to my amazing, self-less mother. I can confidently say that if I don’t share her best qualities (endless patience high on the list), I do lay claim to elements of her mode de vie (way of life) — at least on a quotidian scale. Like her, my day-to-day living is marked by a comfort with (even a desire for?) a jam-packed, tightly-scheduled day (she’s always on a schedule); list-making (and list-crossing-off); and a slightly obsessive need for a clean kitchen. (A few years ago, she gave me a dish towel that read: “Mirror, mirror, on the wall — I am my mother after all.” We laughed, but…it’s actually not far from the truth.)
And while these tendencies may have been subconsciously cultivated, I can tell you that my adaptation of her fashion sensibility was not: I have always watched and learned with wide eyes. And for that reason I am going to pass along my mother’s pearls of wardrobe wisdom in honor of this mother’s day.
Fashion According to Mom
1. Don’t be afraid of color.
I used to hate this rule. All I wanted to do was wear black, and my mother would insist: “but you look so wonderful in color!” She was a big advocate of taking her girlfriends to “get their colors done” — do you remember this? ColorMeBeautiful would define your ideal color palette (identified by season — i.e. “you have summer coloring” or “you have winter coloring”) based on complexion, hair color, and so forth.
2. Coordinate, coordinate, coordinate.
If my mother were to want to showcase the peach cardigan above, she’d probably have an entire suite of perfectly-coordinated accompaniments for it — most likely a pair of patterned flats ($118, J. Crew) or a printed Pucci scarf (similar style at Forzieri, $298):
Then she’d have a perfectly coordinating bag — this Kate Spade Folley Beach tote has her name written all over it. (She tends towards ones with structure — $295, KateSpade):
She even color-coordinates her outfit to her makeup, matching sweater to blush (I know she owns and loves this Benefit Georgia Peach blush — $28, Ulta) or lipstick (YSL Rouge Pur Shine in Frozen Mango, $30, Sephora):
3. Stay groomed.
I mentioned that I get weekly (occasionally bi-weekly) manicures a few posts ago. Well, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. My mother has been getting manicures from the same manicurist for decades — she followed her from an Elizabeth Arden Salon to the chic Salon Jean Paul in the Spring Valley area of D.C. And polish color is just one other way in which my mom coordinates her look — if she’s into “peach” or “hot pink,” she’ll select a complementary shade (she’s into OPI — this one is “Conga Line Coral”):
4. Bargain hunting is a talent — begin practicing now.
My mom rarely pays full price. She always has some coupon, some code she read about in a magazine, some special promo or offer to brag about. Her trick? Sign up for as many circulars and discount programs as possible — then watch and wait. We’ve both had good luck googling for specials. I ordered something from Bloomingdale’s a few days ago and was shocked (!) when I typed in “Bloomingdale’s coupon code” and instantly found a 25% off coupon! Score. Of course, this example is small potatoes compared to the savings my mom makes — she’ll pile on the coupons at Lord & Taylor and suddenly pay $13 for a $78 sweater.
5. Center a travel wardrobe around one color palette.
As you can see, my mom’s central dictum is: pick a color and stick to it. Look tidy and groomed. The same is true (even truer?) of travel. She’ll select one central color and then pack a bunch of separates that can easily mix and match. She tends to pick neutrals — rich browns and navies in the winter, ivory in the summer — but she’ll usually fold in a pop of color. She and I both have an affinity for soft lilacs, which remind us of my grandmother Mia (her mother). She might wear a tidy boxy little bag during the day — she owns this exact Dior handbag in black, but this soft violet just reminds me of her:
Then she’d pack a lilac Longchamp in the event that purchases leave some baggage overflow (she taught me the old trick of tucking a spare one into my bag — $145, Bloomingdale’s):
And then she’d top it all off with some lavender enamel jewelry. She’s in love with the Hermes versions ($510, Hermes):
Add a couple of ivory and gray neutrals (skirts, pants, dresses), and voila! You’ll be expertly coordinated for the duration of your trip.
6. Invest in good makeup.
My mom is constantly scouring magazines for reviews on the latest and greatest in make-up and body-care products. She’s a literal fount of information and has probably test-driven thousands and thousands of products in her lifetime. She’ll almost always redeem the “get a free sample” coupons she culls from magazines and circulars and then report back. Her go-to? The magic balm known as Elizabeth Arden 8-Hour Cream (she must have 34 tubes on her at a given moment — $17, Elizabeth Arden):
Oh, and anything (and everything) by Laura Mercier. She swears by her line of products — as do I. I’m a firm convert. (Check out especially her luminizing “Secret Brightener” pen — I wear it under my concealer and along my brow bone, and it works wonders — $30, Sephora):
7. Organized bag, organized life.
My mom has a separate pocket, pouch, or mini-bag for all of the hundreds of items she totes around on a daily basis. (Likely the aftermath of having five children over a period of about ten years — she needed to carry her whole life in it for any crisis that might pop up.) Ask her for some tic-tacs? “Second pocket closest to the front of the bag, next to the gum.” She’s got it all mapped out an organized. She swears by the Purseket, which I’m just not together-enough to work out, but which Oprah also adores. It’s basically a set of removable pockets that you can transfer from bag to bag so you always have your stuff in the right place. It’s a mom’s dream come true ($17.50 and up, Purseket):
8. Save up for the classics.
My mother is very European in that she buys classics and then wears them constantly. And by classics, I’m talking about the Dreamworthy Lust List items — a classic quilted Chanel 2.55 bag in black or navy (the accents need to be gold if you’re talking about my mother — she doesn’t do silver):
Some Hermes scarves:
And, last but not least, some meaningful jewelry my father has had made for her or that she inherited from my grandmother. She has one ring with five stones in it — one for each of her children — that she wears regularly. That’s certainly something I’ve learned from her — wear the things that make you happy and that have some sort of meaning to you — heirloom-type pieces that make you you. (Below, Cartier “Love” ring.)
Belated Mothers’ Day Gift Ideas
I’m a day late in posting this post and — because I know some of us are last-minute (or after-the-minute) shoppers, I have a few gift ideas for your mother in the event that you let yesterday pass you buy.
Let’s face it: we all like to shop. Consider this peppy strawberry-colored canvas tote by Anya Hindmarch. How cute? ($98, Bloomingdale’s):
I saw it in Sassanova a few weeks ago and loved it before discovering that it comes in a number of different styles with quirky-cute drawings and statements on the side — one for laundry, one for ballet, one for books, etc. You can find them at Saks or Bloomie’s. I got the beach bag!
If your mother is an entertainer, consider a monogrammed melamine tray in a spiffy, colorful pattern — perfect for the upcoming summer months ($34, LaPlates):
And while on the subject of monograms (obsessed with them), why not consider this adorable monogrammed robe by Leontine Linens ($325, LeontineLinens)?
Now I know that a frame sounds like a generic gift, but not when it’s spruced up a la MRR Designs! You could have a picture of you and your mother printed in black and white using Shutterfly or a similar service and then tuck it into this fabric frame — comes in a variety of peppy fabrics and can be customized with a monogram ($34, order through MRR Designs Blog):
Happy mother’s day — one day late…