Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Valiant Fight for Glamour

When I was newly single, I became a docent at a wonderful historic home that was rich in costuming.  A lovely elderly woman managed the volunteers and when she found out about my divorce she took me aside and said, "Now the world is your oyster!"  I knew she meant that I could make different choices, try new things, explore, have freedoms I never would have had as a wife. Over the years, I have come to see how very right she was.

If it were not for my divorce, unwanted though it was, I would not have found my dearest friends, begun a writing career or have even written this blog.  I would never have been able to discover so many wonderful things to be passionate about.  I've been finding "oysters" for years in places like my daily train ride to Boston where I conducted a private three year self-study of Anne Morrow Lindbergh and in a bookshop where I found my forever muse, the 18th century Mrs. Delany.  I have been able to read and contemplate and then incorporate others' truths into my own life from those I admired in the books I never would have read as part of a married couple.  And my single life has been all the richer because of it.

My latest oyster is the now-forgotten teenage designer, Emily Wilkens.  Miss Wilkens fell into clothing design when her charming illustration work in the 1940's was eventually noticed by a few Hollywood stars who then asked her to make clothing for their children.  Before long, her style aligned with young teenage girls who loved her easy-going pretty clothes.  Miss Wilkens' focus on the young set may have actually ushered in the youthquake of the 60's.  Her resulting book about teenage grooming called "Here's Looking at...You!" has a charm school quality written from a big sister to a little sister, with advice to begin a "valiant fight for glamour".  Miss Wilkens believed that all teenage girls could look wholesome AND glamorous and proved it by designing the first little black dress appropriate for a young miss.

The advice I love most from Miss Wilkens is to "ease into your clothes...make them part of you".   I know that when I feel my best, it's usually because I am wearing something beautiful and luxurious but delightfully simple too.  Clothes like this make one forget what's on their back and just enjoy life.  That's the beauty of fashion done right.

The picture above is of Emily Wilkens in one of her own designs.  Note the brooch tucked into feminine and gently flopping bow.  Later, Miss Wilkens became a spa and beauty expert and always maintained a happy youthful insouciance.  I simply cannot get enough of her.

Emily Wilkens' suggestion to keep jousting for beauty and style is something I take seriously.  Many people lament that no one dresses well anymore and there is truth in that.  In a world where yoga pants are worn all day and pajamas are allowed in restaurants, I'm going to continue to fight the good fight against all that's base and banal.  I mastermind the narrative of my life by wearing my best clothes with as much elan as I can find in the far reaches of my jewelry box and scarf drawer.  My valiant fight begins again every morning.


15 comments:

  1. I love the elegant style of writing that reflects your quest for both the simple and the glamorous.

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  2. Great post. Love that shot of Emily in a bow AND a brooch! Here's to glamour. I can't get enough! xx

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  3. I have Emily Wilken's book! I bought it long ago,as a teenager, when my local library sold it in a discard sale. I learned many valuable lessons from her and still like to dip into it now and again. Christie

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  4. Lucky you Christine! It's about $145 now!

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  5. Thank you for this post. Words of encouragement to those who still believe in being a well dressed woman.
    You have peaked my interest in Ms. Wilken. I have put her on my research list, how exciting.

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  6. I love "now the world is your oyster". I am divorced, my children are adults and have just finalised my parents estates. So now I tell myself the "the world is my oyster" - rather than be sad about my lost youth.

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  7. Another brilliant reflection, Donna! You know how much I love Emily, because I have her book A New You! I've loved her as an author since I was in junior high. But I had no idea that she was a designer! I love that we discovered this just this week and it's giving us so much sustenance! She's an oyster for sure! Isn't it wonderful to find divine blessings where you thought there were only curses? Wonderful post, Donna!

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  8. Hi Donna, thank you for this great post. I have noticed for me that if you dress nice on weekends people think you are headed to work. I found this odd but then again so many people live in their gym clothes, yuk. You are a great role model for all women. :-)

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  9. Vicki: Just keep doing that! There are blessings in middle age too. Cherre: How dear you are...and a faithful commenter. I thank you. Kay, you are my comrade in fashion. Thank you to all of you - I love your comments. I love sharing with you and when you share back! Good to hear from you again Jill.

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  10. donna, i just adore your writing. i've been distracted for some time and don't always leave a comment but i always read.

    we don't have cable tv so we are on just an antenna and every night we get the old johnny carson show. i've always loved him.:) what i notice most about the show is that his style is timeless. he looks so amazing and would today! it's a yoga pant society now which is a shame. x

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    1. Bless you Janet...I consider you a kindred spirit.

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    4. Bless you Janet...I consider you a kindred spirit.

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