Margaret Holmes Cady takes us into the magical world where her love of fashion began: her mothers closet.
The fascinating distraction of hiding in closets and burrowing into the treasures of my mother’s wardrobe consumed hours of time throughout my adolescence. Occasionally, I ventured into this haven while my mother watched from her vanity. With the curiosity of a girl who believed she ought to be titled Ballerina Fairy-Princess President, I gazed upon this ceremony of cosmetics. In the finale of the ritual, my mother donned her beloved diamonds, and with several flexes of her finger spritzed Killian’s Back to Black perfume on her hair, neck and clothing. Notes of tobacco, honey, amber, and cardamom swirled around the room in a dance of aromas that lingered long after she left.
On the days I crept into the closet in solitude, I could still catch a trace of that scent. I perched amongst the rows of shimmering silks, craggy twills and downy cashmeres. My paranoia of being discovered compelled me to inch my way forward in stocking feet. I relied solely on the glow emanating from the clear panes of the French doors on the far side of the room, lest the glare of the lamps attract attention. Once safely inside, I paid my respects to each suit, dress, belt, purse and shoe. I particularly lavished attention on the jewellery box, sliding rings onto my fingers, twisting pendants to catch the light and project bits of brightness onto the carpet.
As a ten-year-old, I would raise the earrings to my own lobes, and grumble about the age my mother considered appropriate for me to pierce my ears: twelve whopping years. The chasm of two years stretched forever, incomprehensible to my decade old mind. Occasionally, in a burst of courage, I swathed myself in one of the silky scarves, and slid my feet into a favourite pair of shoes. Shuffling along with my prizes to the massive mirror, I gazed upon the vision of a little girl playing in her mother’s clothing. I vowed that one day my elegance, charm and sophistication would rival that of any wise queen or adventurous princess in my storybooks. Most importantly I sought to emulate my mother, who, despite her lack of crown, remains the epitome of grace to me.
While I have since outgrown hiding in closets, my obsession continues. My mother now seeks my advice on outfits for important occasions. I choose my garments, shoes and jewellery with the focus of a general selecting the elite team from her legions of soldiers. I believe that clothing will remain an intrinsic part of my being throughout my life, as I view fashion as more than the frivolous stereotypes often associated with the word and the industry. Fashion consists not only of the production of articles of clothing, but of the communication of ideas of beauty and celebrating the diversity of human beauty.