I. Magnin, Yves Saint Laurent, and the art of growing up my mother’s daughter

Photographed by Maynard L. Parker
Photographed by Maynard L. Parker

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)

yves st laurent 1958 LA i magnin

…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:

mom-2If you click on her picture you’ll find her recipe for a Christmas Pavlova.

Merry Happy, Poppets!

14 Comments

  1. Heather in Arles
    December 6, 2015
    Reply

    Oh my goodness, you DO look so much like her! Two beautiful women. The apple does not fall far from the tree in the looks or smarts department, I guess. 😉

    • December 7, 2015
      Reply

      Hello, beautiful! Thank you so much — and I owe you an email. Bisous, as someone I am very fond of says… 😉

  2. December 6, 2015
    Reply

    She’s stunning! And, from the sounds of it, smart and interesting too.

    Much like her daughter, methinks.

    • December 7, 2015
      Reply

      You are so sweet! Thank you.
      Hope you aren’t snowbound to the north, I’m glad to hear things are clicking along with your new writers, please give them my best.
      And to you, the happiest of holidays.
      xox, V

  3. December 7, 2015
    Reply

    This is such a touching and beautifully written piece.

    • December 7, 2015
      Reply

      Andy! We have to get together and catch up, send me an email? I know December is a chock-a-block month but we’ll figure something out — this month or next. Love, V

  4. Ana Roland
    December 8, 2015
    Reply

    What a beautiful tribute to your beloved Mother. You made me cry this morning…

    • December 8, 2015
      Reply

      No tears before breakfast! Sending you hugs!

  5. Ana Roland
    December 8, 2015
    Reply

    Love the button details on your Mom’s dress…I think I will steal the idea to upgrade a dress I own…

    • December 8, 2015
      Reply

      Isn’t that stylish? I’m guessing the photo was from the late 1940s, early 1950s?

  6. George Kaplan
    December 8, 2015
    Reply

    Such a touching post, Ms Vickie. Your mother was a striking woman, not unlike her daughter! I was moved by your loving encapsulation of your Mom in all her variousness. You have written with your Heart and the Truth and affection simply *glows* from the screen.
    I adore your description of your Mom being inspired by Marisa Berenson’s costuming, and the way you capture her idiosyncrasy, individuality, intelligence, and Beauty – all of which are present, now, in *you*.
    P.S. “The Shopping Ninja! Fabulous!
    P.P.S. Oh, how I wish you hadn’t gotten rid of your overalls and outsize leather bag!

    • December 8, 2015
      Reply

      Why, George! You are too kind, and I thank you for that. I still have the throw pillows, and I am having an old coat of hers made into pillows for the living room couch, it’s only fitting 😉 .
      xox, V
      P.S. Sometime, methinks, I may see those overalls and bag out for a stroll on Melrose Ave. — I gave them to a thrift store that benefits AIDS healthcare.

  7. George Kaplan
    December 8, 2015
    Reply

    I hope you are not feeling down, Vickie. Christmas will soon be here to take your spirit soaring. I know that your Mom was (is) very proud of You.
    I see WONDERS in your future!
    P.S. You have such a generous Heart!

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