Ode to Mama Vintage

On a recent trawl of vintage websites I came across a San Franciscan store where, unusually enough for me, my attention was grabbed not by the clothing but rather what the store was called: ‘Mother’s Daughter’. What an utterly perfect name for a Vintage clothing store!

Most of us have memories of dressing up in our mothers clothes at one time or another. Many have tottered precariously in their high heels. Often blue eyeshadow of years gone by has donned our tiny lids and certainly the majority of vintage lovers have lamented when our mothers have told us that they simply don’t know where the dress from that random 1970s photo is now. But mostly we adopt some of our mother’s attitude to clothing and often emulate their style in our dress (knowingly or not); we are our Mother’s Daughters.

The majority of my memories of Mama’s clothes are from the 80s. She had one particular pair of long slouchy cream leather boots that I truly believed were the most incredibly stylish item I had ever set eyes on. I must have been very young at the time because I remember I would literally climb into them, with each boot reaching the very top of my thighs. I can vividly picture beginning every visit to her bedroom in this way and always continuing the ritual by shuffling my now wader-clad legs over to the holy grail of the dress-up … the jewellery box! As I marvelled over the treasures enclosed I would make up stories as to where in the world the pieces had originated and wonder at what a fabulously sophisticated mother I had. ‘Oh how folk must admire her’ I thought.

I now know that in the 80s it was unlikely anyone but Sue Ellen Ewing was rocking diamonds and I since also realised that what my mother donned was likely more costume than custom. She tells a story of how she once brought a string of pearls that her aunty had given her to get valued for insurance. The ‘paaarls’ as they were known to all, were much discussed and admired – the heirloom of the family if you will. My Mama felt very privileged at having been given them and was most diligent in her care. The gentleman jeweller delicately took them from my mother, raised his glass to eye and studied the ‘paaarls’ closely. He put them down slowly and turned to my mother… ‘I can give you £6 for the clasp if you’re really stuck my dear?’

I am delighted to say that I am my mother’s daughter. I love many of the things she loves and find joy in places that she finds it. I particularly love going to vintage fairs with my Mama as she is incredibly enthusiastic and brings every item to life for me. She’ll recall a dance that my dad brought her to in the 60s where she wore a shift dress exactly like the one that I’m trying on. Or she’ll tell how herself and her sister made their own gowns for dress dances they were attending in Ranelagh – the purchase of the fabric ensuring that beans on toast was meal of the month in their bedsit. Even a brooch that was before her time will remind her of her own mother dressing for mass and the formality of Sunday wear in Loughlynn, Co. Roscommon (regardless of what anyone wore the rest of the week!). My Mama has a wonderful catalogue of memories and a beautiful way of sharing them. Her own style has evolved greatly over the years but she remains glamorous and stylish as ever.

One of my favorite outfits of hers was a gift from my Papa when they were first married. It’s a beautiful yellow tunic and matching Capri pants, both covered in delicate lace. She managed to keep it in amazing condition and brought it out of storage a couple of years ago when I was searching for a fancy-dress costume. I was beside myself with excitement when I saw it although was quite sure that the tiny waist wouldn’t close on this 21st century girl. Luckily the tunic was long enough to cover the half closed zip on the pants and I was able to pull it off. I eagerly donned it along with a blond wig and when asked what I had come as I said simply ‘my mum’. I particularly love the outfit because of another memory she has of it. When visiting her new in-laws in Rosslare one summer weekend she decided to wear just the tunic (her legs could carry this off) but was left slightly crimson faced when my paternal Granddad, the gentlest and sweetest of men, suggested quietly in her ear that perhaps it was a little too short for Sunday in Rosslare Harbour. I think it’s safe to say the Capri pants remained firmly part of the outfit from then on in. Still, at least it wasn’t as bad as her first visit to their home when her nerves got the better of her and she poured the milk into the sugar bowl…

Happy birthday Mama 🙂 xxx