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  • Karen Terhune Duncan

My Mom, My Style Icon

As as newly minted "southerner," I now subscribe to Southern Living Magazine. I think it's the law in Georgia. Since I am a magazine junkie (ah, ya think?) this one needed to be added to the monthly haul. Sometimes I just roll my eyes at some of the features like the The Grumpy Gardener but the recipes are intriguing and a recent article about Jekyll Island had Doug and I enjoying a day trip to check it out. But I think my favorite feature is one they call, Beauty & Style Icons where individuals talk about who inspires them. Each month I read them with great interest, and always think of my mother, Joan.

My mother was glamorous and slim and impossibly chic. She would never think of leaving the house without her hair perfect, and a fresh application of her signature lipstick, Revlon's Fire & Ice. She had at least 4 tubes going at the same time. One at her makeup table, one in her purse, one in the car, and one in the cabinet of our first floor powder room. I kid you not.

Once, when I was about 13, she packed in my "lunch bag" a tube of sugary "young girl" gloss with a note that said, "for after lunch". I was doomed. She had an impeccable eye and wore even simple clothes with great style. When she was "dressed up" it was usually a sheath that hugged her well, but never provocatively.

The mid 60s with my father. Very "Mad Men", both of them.

Her favorite fragrance was Joy. She had a reasonably simple beauty routine, and loved to "bath." She never used a shower. She painted her own finger and toe nails. She loved Peck & Peck bright-colored, patent leather sandals and had them in every shade, and religiously went to the Beauty Parlor (weekly) to get her hair done. She'd do it herself one other time during the week and that involved a "hair bonnet" blow dryer. She slept with a silk pillow case which she claimed protected the set.

Even at the beach, the supermarket, or a football game, she was done up. Living in Pittsburgh, when my father had season tickets, her version of Steeler-wear was a yellow leather coat with black pants and black cashmere turtle neck. I wear Hines Ward's jersey.

This is the Jersey Shore, with me, in 1955. Lipstick, check. Hair, check.

I've tried to emulate her, but fail on nearly every level. I like to muck in the garden, she did not. I am content with a baseball cap and sunglasses when all else fails. I like quick showers, not long baths. What I have inherited was her ability to entertain with flair and ease. She would often travel with her own paper cocktail napkins, as she hated the ones usually supplied by a hotel, and cocktails were always served in my parents hotel rooms.

Her style remained current and she could pull together looks effortlessly. She was not particularly label conscience but had a good sense of color and proportion. This was a 1969 black and white "jumpsuit" I vividly remember and wish I had a photo of the entire look. She had fabulous black and white sandals on with this. Check out her totally cool earrings!

In 1993 when my parents retired to Steamboat Springs, Colorado she totally embraced a western flair. Even cowboy boots. She convinced me to try the same.

Up till she got very sick just a few years ago, her style remained sharp and on point. When they lived in California she was wearing Trina Turk prints. The night before she died, having no idea it would be the last time I saw her, I was boarding a plane back to NJ and felt she was stable enough for me to leave. I'd been with her for 2 weeks where we enjoyed long and delicious talks about nearly everything. She was very frail and perhaps she knew. But as we hugged, a little teary as we usually were when we were saying goodbye, she held my face and kissing my check said, "I like your outfit, but you need more lipstick."

I like to think that was a big part of her legacy. Lead by example but nudge me along. My mother was, and still is, my style icon.

My mother and me, Easter, 1956

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