Lessons from a Lady

the dress

Growing up, my little sisters and I had an adored babysitter we called Mabry. Mrs. Janelle Mabry was a lovely widow who holds a regular seat at the table of my childhood memories.

Mabry made the best scrambled eggs in the world. (The secret, I’m afraid, was bacon lard.) She played gin rummy with me for hours and taught me to play solitaire and do the crossword puzzle. She relied on me to thread her sewing needle, a job I took most seriously as I knew she had one glass eye ~ something my sisters and I found both tragic and exciting.

Another thing I remember about Mabry is how impeccably  she dressed. Throughout the years, she always wore a belted, short-sleeved dress in a seasonally-appropriate color and fabric. She consistently wore the same watch, clip-on earrings, nude stockings, and low-heeled pumps. (I also happened to discover her stockings were held up with an intriguing snap-on garter belt, and she always wore a full-slip.)

I imagine Mabry’s tiny closet held no more than a dozen dresses. About half were light florals for  warmer weather and half were darker patterns for colder days. Mabry confidently wore this elegant uniform whether she was babysitting, grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, gardening, or going to church.

Like an illustration of a beloved character from a book, I would know her by her belted dress and pumps, much like I would know The Man in the Yellow Hat or Little Red Riding Hood. I could always depend on Mabry to look like Mabry.

She, and other charming ladies of yore, were ahead of their time. Capsule wardrobes are all the rage now, but I find they don’t work well for me. Unless I want to teeter around the house wearing a little black dress, pencil skirt, or blazer, I’m left with jeans and one of several plain T-shirts.

Rather than neutral separates, I like the idea of wearing simple, casual dresses on a daily basis. I realize by adopting Mabry’s vintage wardrobe, I’d risk looking like an aging extra on the set of Mad Men, but I believe the idea can be modernized.

There are many lessons in loveliness I would like to learn from Mabry, but dressing like a lady is one of them. More importantly, she showed my sisters and me how to be lovely on the inside. I hope my appearance reflects just a bit of her kindness, generosity, wisdom, dependability, and love.

“Being female is a matter of birth, being a woman is a matter of age, but being a lady is a matter of choice.” ~Author Unknown

Think On These Things ~ Alicia

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