My grandmother is quite the style icon. Some people find this surprising, but it’s really not when you consider that she’s had a good 80 years to refine her game. A sizeable retirement fund thanks to an illustrious career in publishing hasn’t hurt, either, but she’s managed to convince me that money and good taste don’t necessarily go hand in hand.
For example, she’ll often point out acquaintances at her club who she thinks ‘look cheap’ – in other words, they’re flashing their cash in the form of a loudly branded handbag or excessive jewellery. My grandmother, by contrast, would never flaunt an expensive label; in fact, she made her own clothes for much of her life using patterns from a German avant garde sewing magazine.
Her signature look involves sporting a small soft leather shoulder bag in an eye-catching hue such as forest green, dark red or mustard, typically paired with a sleek pantsuit in a related (never matching) hue. Her shoes are sensible but up to the minute – often, in fact, some sort of limited edition sneaker that at least one of my friends has been salivating over. The cult sneakers are her one nod to fashion, per se, with her general preference being for the bold yet timeless.
That’s my grandmother in a nutshell, now that I think about it. For my second cousin’s wedding a few weeks back, she rocked up in a tuxedo paired with cobalt blue leather high tops, a green leather beret and, for good measure, a red leather bag shaped like a love heart. I can’t even begin to think how I’d compete with that.
Not that it’s a competition. As my grandmother often says, you need to dress primarily for yourself. If that’s what she’s been doing, there must be something in it. What remains a mystery to me is where she manages to source all those limited edition sneakers before they sell out. That’s one secret she refuses to share with me.