My mum was a “smart dresser”. She was raised in Leeds, Yorkshire and attended a girls’ school in which uniforms were de riguer. When that sad sartorial situation ended, Mum let her imagination run free and developed quite the eye for style, setting styles rules that would serve her well throughout her life.
AB young
One of the most logical rules was never to buy a piece without something to go with it. That was the way to a reliable, functional wardrobe. It was mistake proof and she never varied. More than a year after her death, I wear many of her clothes from over the years because they are so well chosen and easy to wear.
Mum always chose good fabrics, had items custom made and purchased the best quality she could afford. She never went for fashion, and loathed trends. However, I recall a pink, orange and yellow psychedelic sixties jumpsuit, that she wore with white hoop earrings. It looked great. In general, I remember her as ladylike and conservative, with a pin or scarf or pearls on every outfit or Tilley’s hat.AB family
Her accessories covered the gamut from Victorian to mid-century to contemporary. That’s where the little hits of excitement were. Not enough to throw her carefully honed style off kilter, but enough to amuse.
AB old
She had a tiny waist and perfect posture. Carriage was important to her. “Hold yourself up!” That was another of her style secrets. Everything looks better on a good frame. She was short so it helped her lengthen, too, but it was also a moral imperative. Standing tall indicated pride and confidence.
Another of her secrets was to take good care of her clothes. She stored things properly, some in fabric garment bags, or folded neatly in a drawer with a scented soap tucked in a paper wrap, a tradition I adhere to. Her lingerie drawer was a work of art, every pretty thing placed just so.
In her final years, she wore soft, comfy outfits more akin to sweat suits than tailor-made skirt suits, but she wore them with pins and earrings and scarves as long as she could. No matter what she wore even under nursing home care, she always had that ageless look. My sister made sure she had clothes and nighties she liked.
She kept a large wooden box in the basement filled with clothes I saw in pictures from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. They were in excellent shape, put away clean and pressed and wrapped in cotton. She kept them because they “might come in handy” one day. Fifteen pristine cotton and rayon dresses, in vivid, period fabrics, with nipped in waists, voluminous New Look shirts and unusual necklines.
I’ve worn some for family events but over time, the waists got tighter. After talking with my brother and sister, we decided to donate the dresses to the local museum. They’re delighted to have them. Like many museums they have lots of early clothing, but almost no “modern”. The dresses will be exhibited as The Lorna Brodie Collection one of these days and I’ll go visit them.
It will be bittersweet but, as always,  I’ll be so proud.