i have a very romantic view of my grandparents. being the last of several grandchildren allowed me to blend in in a sort of inconspicuous way. at family functions i was often able to disappear into the crowd, and stand back and observe my grandparents. i always saw my two grandfathers as characters that were very specific to their generation: the irish fireman in cowboy boots and the real estate agent in a golf sweater. the working class hero and the president of every club in town. both of my grandfathers were defined by their experiences in the war, but they also both had a charismatic allure to them.
my grandmothers were perhaps the perfect opposite poles to them. on my father’s side my grandmother was the consummate housewife with the white furniture and perfect bee hive and kool cigarette always attached to her graceful fingertips. i remember her as elegant and glamorous and a bit detached. on my mother’s side, my grandmother always worked. she enlisted with the red cross and joined the war effort as a teen, and worked as a maternity nurse for most of my mother’s childhood. once she stopped nursing she went to work as my grandfather’s secretary in his real estate office. she was loud and unfiltered and larger than life if not overbearing. both of my grandparents were charming couples, living the post-war american dream in suburban homes with hi-fi systems and high ball glasses.
my grandmother’s respective senses of style cross my mind often. my grandmother on my father’s side had a sophistication and sartorial smartness to her style. my memories of her are always in the colors white and gold. she wore high waisted white trousers with sweaters that had gold lurex woven into them that would catch the light from her amber glass mid-century pendant chandelier. i remember her big closet full of heels with matching handbags in different shades of crocodile leather. i have a few photos of her from the 1930’s and 40’s, wearing little tailored dresses and peep toe mules, her hair in liberty rolls. she died at the incredibly young age of 60 (which my mother attributes to her declaring that she did not want to become an old lady). my grandmother on my mother’s side lived to be 89, and i saw her embrace a uniform later in life of high waist cropped wide leg jeans, white sneakers, and a crisp button-down shirt that she’d button all the way up to the top. as a young woman she was a sewing fanatic and would buy patterns for the latest trends and make her own clothes. for me, the images of her in her nurse’s uniform are the ones that stick.
recently i have been thinking about what an influence these women have on my own sense of style. a few unearthed photographs of them had my family reflecting on how much we physically resemble them, how strong the genes are that gave me my round jaw and wide eyes, my long legs and short torso. but i also realize that there were images of them that made impressions if not imprints on my sense of what is stylish. when i look at my closet the things that i collect, over and over in my life are high waist, wide leg jeans, button down shirts and ANYTHING with gold lurex woven into it. little vintage handbags in crocodile leather. dresses with cleverly tailored sleeves. and i am unequivocally, undeniably obsessed with high waisted white trousers, and vintage nursing pinafores. so perhaps style is, in fact, genetic.