Couture Carrie's mother in Vietnam
Welcome back to "My Muse". You're three weeks into a five-part series of guest columns, in which well loved style bloggers recount memories of the first person to influence their fashion sense. We've already thanked Kelly Kapowski and Cher Horowitz, and now it's time to get personal with a good old dose of mama.
Couture Carrie, an East Coast girl who tracks down the latest trends from YSL, Thakoon and all your other favourites, tells us why her mother still has her wearing bell bottoms and vintage synthetics, and how it all started with wartime slide shows.
My earliest true fashion icon was my mother. By the time I understood the intrinsic power of fashion - subscribing to Vogue at age 12 and saving my babysitting money to buy clothes - my mother’s style had (d)evolved into a fairly utilitarian soccer-mom sort of chic that I had no desire to emulate. My inspiration derived, rather, from her past.
My mother was a Donut Dolly with the Red Cross during the Vietnam War, and she and her fellow Dollies would often put on "fashion shows" for the soldiers in Vietnam to entertain them...
They shopped in Hong Kong and had suits custom made in the manner of those they saw in the pages of Vogue. Even their uniform – a crisp, belted white or pale-blue mini dress - was terribly chic, at once sexy and demure. My mom made copious scrapbooks of her experiences, painstakingly documenting every experience and its corresponding garments. But her late-'60s and early-'70s slide shows and journals were not my only entrée to my mother's former love of fashion. She had her collection!
My mother's clothes - those of which were not set aside (alas, in those days, stored with moth balls) in her vast closet space, preserved for posterity or for future generations of fashionistas, which my sister and I both eventually became – often found their way into our childhood "dress-up closet". A gorgeous mint-green kaftan, a brilliantly printed pom-pom trimmed mod dress, Pucci-esque minis, a substantial velvet cape, skirts of crinoline, square-toed leather pumps, plaid kilts, funny hats and even wigs became sources of inspiration for endless theatrical performances that my three younger siblings and I put on at dinner parties for our parents and their friends. Our audience of “grown-ups” would watch with wonder as we staged plotless plays and danced about in our vintage garb. Every piece was comically large and dragged on the ground or slipped off our slim shoulders, likely adding to the hilarity of the juvenile theatrics.
I miss that dress-up closet and its contents: long gone, discarded or sold at family tag sales many years ago. If only I could be reunited with one of those underappreciated '60s minis. Custom suits from Strawbridge and Clothier and Lord & Taylor thankfully now have been bestowed on me by my mother, and I enjoy them immensely. Other treasures include a canary-yellow synthetic cuff-link blouse and matching navy striped bell bottoms, both of which I have worn separately to the great delight of myself and onlookers.
There is a certain romance and mysteriousness in these garments, and I am honored to lend my modern fashionista twist to their rich vintage heritage. Thank you, Mom.
- COUTURE CARRIE