I cleaned out my closets when I got home from Boston, and I found some treasured items there — treasured because of the memories they stirred — but I still packed them all up and gave them away. Among the treasures were a pair of taxi-cab yellow and black checked overalls and a lime green slouchy over-sized leather bag with a Magnin’s label stitched inside that I carried when I traveled for close to 30 years.
Both of these items were purchased in the presence of the Shopping Ninja, a.k.a., my mom. Wilshire Blvd. was her turf, from the Miracle Mile to Beverly Hills. For my mother fashion was about art made functional. She picked up some fabric at Liberty’s in London that she had seen made into a 18th century outfit for Marisa Berenson in “Barry Lyndon,” brought it home and decided it would make a perfect dress for my junior prom. She found a Vogue pattern of an Yves Saint Laurent design…
(Mr. Laurent pictured here on a visit to Los Angeles, the young head of Dior, a guest of Mr. Magnin in 1958)
…and I flounced into the dance, all 97 pounds of me on the arm of a young man in a color coordinated tuxedo. It was the late 70s, what can I say? After the party she had the gown plucked apart and the fabric reworked into throw pillows for my bed.
Now that Christmas is approaching I realize how much shopping I do online — almost all of it — and I’ve begun to think of those forays with Mom, into splendid rooms with soaring architecture as something fun. She knew all the sales people, we ate lunch or drank tea where she would bump into friends, and the shopping itself carried with it a sense of discovery.
Online, not so much.
Maybe that’s why the mighty Amazon opened a brick and mortar store in Seattle?
Pardon me, I digress. In previous posts I’ve painted my mother as a force to be reckoned with, or an acquisitive aesthete, but she was also one of the smartest people I’ve ever known. I remember calling her from college whenever I had a knotty literary analysis in front of me, and she would parse Jorge Luis Borges, or James Joyce, and suddenly I not only understood, but was dazzled and drawn in, reading more and more.
She also was stealthily funny, and an amazing cook. Now as I age and look in the mirror — or a friend sees an old picture of her and remarks on the resemblance — I am thankful for the strength of her spirit, and that she had an enduring yen for my dad which resulted in me.
My mug is all over this blog, but here’s Mom:
Merry Happy, Poppets!