From the Founder: Of Parties and Plumage



Photograph: Bob Capazzo

“Fine feathers make fine birds,” my mother used to tell me, along with insisting I always dress nicely, even on planes and trains, because I “might meet my destiny.” (I actually met Jack in somebody’s basement.) In fact, Mother had an ostrich feather cape that she let me try on sometimes. By age six I totally understood how birds managed to stay so warm and dry. That thing was hot!

Nobody ever loved clothes like my mother did. When I was a child, we would sit side by side for what seemed like hours pouring over scrapbooks of photographs from her youth. There she was, a little girl in 1910, astride a donkey in the Grand Canyon. Never mind the scenery: Just look at those cute boots and leather-trimmed jacket! And as a teenager, holding a lace parasol, in a gossamer lawn linen dress with the most delicate tucks in the bodice. Oh, it was the softest peach color.

Mother was the only person I ever knew who had everything fitted, even her nightgowns. I can attest to the fact, since I spent many a boring afternoon hanging out in the bedroom of the Ostermeyer sisters, a pair of old-maid seamstresses, watching the action, my mother standing on a box in front of a giant mirror. I could never figure out how they held those pins between their teeth without swallowing them.

Mother was also the only person I ever knew who had her hats made first, then bought dresses to match. I still have many of them, all the creations of a French milliner named Yvonne at the Mary Louise Shop—little pillboxes covered with sequins, velvet roses and even miniature bananas. Most had alluring veils.  

Hard to believe, but I used to send my laundry home to Cleveland from Wellesley, and it would be returned neatly folded along with an occasional surprise—like a red satin cocktail dress with spaghetti straps and tiers of four-inch fringe.

My friend Sandy Ross (now Sandy Herman of Greenwich) and I were the same size and coloring, and one time we bought a party dress together. It was aqua blue crepe with a band of matching marabou feathers at the hemline. Since she was at another college (called Smith), who would ever know we were sharing it? We even had a pair of shoes dyed to match, but that’s where Mother drew the line. Sharing shoes was just too gauche.

Then came Jack’s proposal and our July wedding, so it was back to Mary Louise. I was fixated on a green chiffon cocktail dress, with floating panels weaving in and out of the satin cummerbund.  “You have enough of that kind of thing in your trousseau,” Mother noted. Then, ever creative, she added, “I bet that New York designer could make it long and in white, with a train.” So he did. After the wedding I cut it off and dyed the cummerbund emerald green (with shoes to match). Then when I tired of that, I dyed the dress cocoa brown and the cummerbund black (with black shoes). Finally I outgrew it and took it to the Rummage Room. Oh, well, we still have Grandmother’s prayer book that I carried.

I couldn’t wear many of Mother’s dresses because she had me by a few inches, but I did wear one to the preview party of a Junior League Show House when Jack and I first moved to Greenwich. It was a lovely periwinkle crepe with three-quarter sleeves trimmed in sable, which my mother had added. I thought it was wonderfully glamorous, that is, until a friend came up to me and commented: “Oh, my mother had a dress just like that, but without the fur.” I answered, “So did mine.” And never wore it again.

On a trip south of the border, I bought an exquisite Mexican muumuu of heavily embroidered white cotton and wore it to Jim Linen’s birthday party at the Round Hill Club on the hottest night of the year. I was the coolest woman there.

In Munich I bought a gray-blue silk dirndl—floor-length with laced bodice, navy apron and white scooped-necked blouse—perfect for Oktoberfest at the Riverside Yacht Club. Otto Nelson, the German manager, couldn’t get over it.

And at the Greenwich Hospital Thrift Shop, I found an evening gown with black velvet top and gold brocade shirt—for ten bucks. Then I flew to Cleveland and wore it with the family necklace to my niece’s debut at the Assembly Ball. Even my mother didn’t catch on.

Party clothes. I have an attic full of them, even the ones I can’t get into anymore. But guess where our two young granddaughters like best to play? Yup. And I’m right up there with them. Last time they had a sleepover, Riley went home wearing one of my mother’s half-slips—gray lace with pink gussets and tiny pink roses. Sasha preferred a white rabbit collar from an old sweater. Next visit the girls plan to put on an Attic Fashion Show. I promised to get a full-length mirror from Bed Bath & Beyond for the occasion.

Guess the apples don’t fall far from the trees.

 

Greenwich Agenda

  • The Many Faces of Multi Media

    2014.09.20
     @ Meli-Melo of Greenwich

    Dr. Julia Trebing, Director Creative Therapies in Stamford, CT exhibits her paintings at Meli-Melo Creperie & Juice Bar  during Sept...

  • Nigh Season: New Paintings By David Konigsberg

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM  Public Invited   NIGH...

  • Undulate: Paintings By Julie Gross and Margaret Neill

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    GALLERY II Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM Public Invited...

  • Parties at the JCC Center

    2014.09.02
     @ Stamford JCC

    A place to celebrate birthdays and special occasions. Be a guest at your own party! The JCC offers a wonderful space for you and your guests to...

  • Holistic Health Practitioner Kevin W. Reese

    2014.09.24
     @ Meli-Melo

    Meet Holistic Health Practitioner Kevin W. Reese & Take Home a Signed Copy of His New Book! Kevin is a holistic health practitioner,...

  • Annual State of the Town Address and Luncheon | Greenwich, CT

    2014.09.25
     @ Milbrook Club

    Greenwich Chamber of Commerce Annual State of the Town Address and Luncheon will be held at Milbrook Club. Registration 11:30am; start at...

  • Greenwich Harbor Sunset Wine Cruise | Greenwich, CT

    2014.06.05
     @ Delamar Hotel Dock

    The boat "Prudence" departs from the Delamar Hotel Dock on 500 Steamboat Rd. All the wine is sponsored through VALS with food...

  • Verismo - Opera Arias and Ensembles

    2014.09.26
     @ Round Hill Community Church

    Music from the Heart at Round Hill  “Verismo – Arias and Ensembles,” an opera concert, will bring drama and passion...

  • Aaron Henry Trunk Show & Personal Appearance

    2014.09.26
     @ Richards

  • Curiosity Concerts Season Opening: SONIC ESCAPE

    2014.09.27
     @ Greenwich Library Cole Auditorium

    The Greenwich Arts Council's Curiosity Concerts opens its second season of free classical music concerts for families on Saturday, Sept. 27,...

  • SM&NC Farm Market

    2014.06.15
     @ Stamford Museum & Nature Center

    Sundays, June 15 – October 5, 10am – 2pm We're thrilled to bring back the SM&NC Farm Market — now on Sundays!...

  • Bistro Versailles Wine Dinner

    2014.09.29
     @ Bistro Versailles

    Wine dinners at Bistro Versailles are entertaining social events held on a regular basis. Socialize with friends and mingle with other...

  • Joie Special Shopping Event

    2014.09.30
     @ Joie

    Joie invites you to a special shopping event! Enjoy wine & hor d'oeuvres while shopping 20% off your purchase Enter to win a...

  • SPLURGE Matches Scarf Donations for Cancer Patients

    2014.10.01
     @ SPLURGE

    SPLURGE and the Cancer Institute at Greenwich Hospital are partnering to bring comfort and encouragement to cancer patients.  From October...

  • Laurel House Family Seminar Series

    2014.09.18
     @ Laurel House

    Thursday evenings, September 18, October 2, 16, 30, 6:30-8:00 pm Join us Thursday evenings for this four part Family Seminar Series as...

  • Breast Cancer Alliance's Go For Pink Shopping Event

    2014.10.02
     @ Greenwich Avenue area

    Breast Cancer Alliance announced that it is partnering with Greenwich merchants for a special day of events and shopping on Thursday, October 2nd...

  • Muddy Up 5k Adventure Run & Family Fun Walk

    2014.10.05
     @ Camp Simmons

    Are you ready for some MUDDY fun? Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich is proud to host the 3rd annual Muddy Up 5k Adventure Run & Family Fun...

  • Sweat for a Cause

    2014.10.05
     @ SoulCycle Greenwich

    The Young Women's League of New Canaan (YWL) is sponsoring its first fundraiser of the season, "Sweat For A Cause" at SoulCycle...

  • Flower Power

    2014.10.08
     @ SM Home Gallery

    SM Home Gallery show featuring two Greenwich based artists: Margaret Bragg and Penny Putnam. The art show runs thorough November 22nd....


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