On a recent visit to my family's house in Connecticut, I did what I always do when visiting my family's house in Connecticut: I went shopping in my bedroom closet.
For years my mother's wedding dress has gone ignored, relegated to a dark back corner of the closet, and for two very valid reasons: 1) it's just so seventies (my parents eloped in Berkeley in 1973 and my mom bought the frock at a local shop) and 2) I'm twenty pounds heavier than my 28-year-old mom was in that post-Twiggy era of super skinny-ness.
But with spring just around the corner, I was drawn to the dress's floral pattern and pulled it off its hanger. I held my breath – in suspense, and to facilitate my mom's zipping up of the back. And what do you know? Not only did it fit, but I wanted to never take it off. Beneath the tight empire waist, the skirt of that seventies dress is like a potato sack and I can move around like the free spirit the women's movement encouraged us to be.
I'm also drawn to the long skirt and sleeves because as I "age" (I'm three years older than my mom was when she wed), I've become more appreciative of modesty. Cooling off in summer does not have to mean showing skin--it can also mean wearing loose comfortable cottons. So in this case: check, check and check.
I also realized I could give the dress a more modern feel with the textured cream blazer I've been living in, and some oversized costume jewelry. Of course, I didn't get through the first day of wearing it to work without a little tear in the torso, but that's what tailors were put on this earth to handle.
Also stashed away in those Connecticut closets are many of my late grandmother's clothes. Along with my mother, she was one of the most stylish women I've ever known. There's one winter coat in particular that I always pull out, look over, and declare "I'm not ready for it yet" before putting it back into hiding.
So as Mother's Day nears, I would advise all women to hold on to their mother's and grandmother's more meaningful clothes, even if they're not very "you" right now. It's never too late to grow into them.