My mother has Style. Very classic, but with a twist, and a clear sense of color. In fact, she had her colors, “done” back in 1980. This weekend she presented me with an historical artifact. Foxed and faded as old documents often are.
If I bring my mother to mind, there’s always peach in the vicinity. Although I can’t say I’ve ever seen her in peach lace, exactly.
Apparently, this color typing system, in which you are cast as a season, had been around even longer than I knew. And is that a Liberty print? Copyright, 1963.
However, choosing colors to wear is not just about which hues make you look good, it’s how much, how often, in what combinations. As Imogen is discussing this week, with her usual intelligence, over on Inside Out Style.
My mother was a traditional stay-at-home mom, of the gracious generation. She decked her four out children in clean and matching clothes from Saks Fifth Avenue. Every day. Cooked like a foodie, when Alice Waters of Chez Panisse was in junior high. And dressed to complete an identity. To express herself.
Mom’s not afraid of color. She will go head to toe pale yellow. Or rose. When she wears black and white, she WEARS them. Black cashmere tunic with white stripes, silver and black beads at neck and wrist, black patent flats with a lucite toe ornament. Still dignified, even with all that sartorial detail.
I don’t dress like my mother. How many of us do? Maybe it’s because I spent most of my middle years in corporate America. Fighting like hell to prevail, against customers, peers, subordinates. Managing up and managing down. My clothing wasn’t self-expression, it was protective gear. Aqua makes a piss-poor weapon. See? Even the language changes when I put myself back into that world.
But just as likely my color-avoidance is due only in part to what we might lovingly call, “the suits.” I was protecting myself not only from the corporate environment, but also from my own senses. I am thin-skinned. Color startles me. Too much causes dangerous rapture, to the point where I shudder at the thought of vivid flowers out my back windows. But you know, you work with what you’re given all around. I am imagining a set of temperament swatches, one that we could carry to the office, or to our kids’ schools, a guide to put in our pockets to remind ourselves of our emotional makeup. Pale green chiffon for anxiety, navy satin for dignity, cream chenille for affectionate, orange burlap for irritable. Black velvet for the mysterious part we will never figure out.