My grandma is the person I have been coming to see up here in Upstate NY all my life. I was 9 when I took my first flight by myself to come see her - sans parents, sans sisters. The sisters were too scared of flying without the parents. I saw her almost every year after that until now, mostly by myself.
My grandma is a very special woman. She's a little eclectic (African wooden masks on the wall) a little crazy (Dove bars and homemade mac'n'cheese are always an acceptable meal) and often sweet (her fancy wedding anniversary one year turned into a night to celebrate my new haircut, including getting a brand new dress and whatever I wanted for dinner, which turned out to be Pizza Hut). She used to have 9 cats and 2 dogs when I was growing up. She took me out bar-hopping for the first time, though I was too young to do more than sip her drinks.
She also happens to be, essentially, the matron of this small town. Everyone knows her, she is a fixture. Everyone knows her large house on the main road through. Everyone knows her car, which is, yes, a silver 2004 Jaguar. She used to have a Towncar. She has a Magnum now, and a Jaguar. Each with hundreds, maybe some few thousands of miles on them because she only goes around town. She knows everyones' names, she loans her jewelry to people for special occasions. If I can make a firm claim to any inherent sense of style, any affixed, learned traits regarding stylistic choices, it is because of this woman. She is dressed to the 9's to go to the grocery store, and going out to a local bar requires an all-day spa-like preparation in her home. I kid you not.
Well today I climbed into her Jag and we went to pick my small cousin up from elementary school. Beginning on a completely arbitrary point, as though I had seen her yesterday and not, in fact, nine months ago, I complimented her bag. It was a slouchy soft snakeskin-type fabric. Its shape was almost exactly like my daily bag from the winter (which needs to soon be replaced for this season). On that note, she dove right into her usual diatribe about how people don't always appreciate or understand style. People always like or hate our oversized bags.
"There's this couple, you know, up near the P&C, the _____'s, and she's very nice. They're very wealthy. And she, she always has such nice clothes. I mean, very expensive, very fashionable, very high-quality clothes, you can tell. And she always, well, she always looks nice. Her clothes are very nice, I have to admit. But this woman, she has no idea how to dress herself. She wears... she wears... blouses that fall straight over her stomach, over her pants. They make her seem wider- not that she has much of a stomach or anything- but they make her seem wider than she is."
Her cigarette wags out of the window before she resumes.
"And pleats! Long, brown pants maybe, I'm sure they're terribly expensive... that bell at the bottom! And they have pleats in the front, on top... it's horrible. Maybe someone can wear them, but they don't look good on her. And that's the problem... she can pick out nice, rich pieces all of the time, she seems to know what's fashionable and has the means to purchase them, but that woman has no sense of what looks good on her. And that's why... that's why I think that I can wear straight pants, maybe with a slight flare at the bottom, that look good on me and I can get them at Marshall's, and I could look better than her."
My grandma believes what I believe, knows what I know, and what, if anything, this blog was created for. To convey to as many people as possible that there is a distinctive, important definition of style that takes more than money, more than magazines. It is the most impressive aspect of fashion. Wear what looks good on you. And own it.
As she further elaborated, "...you don't need all of that flare or money. Your other grandmother, the best I ever saw her look, was when I ran into her in downtown NYC, and she was wearing jeans that just fit her well, and a slight heel, a shirt and a jean jacket. It was so simple, it's not at all what she would wear now, or ever wore since. That woman has no idea what looks good on her, and sometimes tries too hard. But that was the best she ever looked."
Amen. If grandma had a column in this town's paper, I certainly think the woman with the bright orange pants with the racing stripe down the side would have thought twice before leaving her house this afternoon. And maybe the woman in Walmart piling little workout hot pink shorts into her cart with words like "Cutie" would have re-considered. I like to give them the benefit of a doubt. I like to think they purchased these things for private use in their bedrooms, or the inside of a gym. But to be perfectly honest, I don't think there's a single gym in this town. And if that's what they're wearing to bed, I'd think there'd be a shorter line to pick up the hoards of kids at the elementary school...
Today grandma wore black lounge pants with a single thin white stripe down the outside of each leg, a white 3/4 sleeve blouse, and wedges. And, y'know, pah, some diamonds. I have yet to see anyone look so casual-chic around this place. I could make a killing on women like Ms. Pleaty Pants who want to do good by fashion, but know not what to do with their wealth. If only there were enough of them with the means to make it worth my while to stay and make a living in this town.
Grandma and I have a loose appointment to get our mani-pedi's and haircuts later this week. Keep ya posted.