Saturday, November 12, 2011

Blog Post No. 13, 11/10/11 -- A Hepburn Sensibility

My late mother, Ruth Myers, in 1938

If I was asked what celebrity’s fashion sense I admire most, it would have to be Katharine Hepburn. Her classic style, which made big-shouldered menswear look chic and feminine, is a look with which I strongly identify. Today’s look is all about the trousers – and what a storied pair of trousers they are!

My maternal grandmother, Hester Myers (nee Plymyer), was born in York, Pennsylvania in 1893. Having migrated to California in early 1914 to seek work (where my mother, Ruth, was born later the same year), my grandparents took up residence in the wild, wild west. My grandfather, a young railroad telegraph operator from Emigsville, Pennsylvania, took a job managing Southern Pacific Railroad stations up and down the California desert while my grandmother worked as the station’s ticket agent. These stations were lonely outposts, nothing more than wooden buildings sitting on the desert floor with nary a road or a store or even plumbing anywhere nearby. It would be 15 years before my grandfather owned (or needed) a car. In those early days, the family lived above the station in an apartment, or in a converted boxcar on a side track, depending on the station's location. My grandmother told of sweeping rattlesnakes from the platform with her broom before the train pulled into the station each day. It was desolate, save for the steady flow of supplies – fabrics and flour -- which came by train whenever my grandmother thumbed through her Sears catalog.

My grandmother was a talented seamstress who made all my mother’s clothes on her trusty Pfaff sewing machine (she owned three). She made the wheat-colored, light wool trousers I wore today in the 1930s, when my mother was in her twenties. They fit my mother like a glove, of course, and I have held onto them all these years, not because I could wear them – I was rarely thin enough to do that – but for purely sentimental reasons. They are of a classic era, evoking Katharine Hepburn and her exquisitely feminine (and radical) take on male fashion. I loved how they drape – still do. Except now I can actually wear them. And so I did today, for the first time in almost a half century.

I couldn’t find a classic blouse in my closet to wear with these wonderful trousers, so I ended up pairing the slacks with the same Native-American inspired fabric I’ve been wearing all week long – this time fashioned into a Longhorn blouse for Niver Western Wear that I purchased at a Fort Worth, Texas, rodeo back in 1995. The straw colored arrowheads in the blouse’s fabric pattern played up the trousers’ wheat-toned hue perfectly. I didn’t want to wear turquoise jewelry again, however, so I stayed with the golden theme and chose a necklace of cascading amber beads by Fire & Ice Jewelers of Baltimore and amber-beaded chandelier earrings from Claire’s, which I paired with a chunky citrine bracelet I found at the DeYoung museum gift shop in San Francisco in 2004 and a goldtone bracelet watch with rhinestones from Chico’s. My shoes are Marc Fisher platform loafers from Macy’s. I’ve had the beige suede belt for decades.

Wearing my mother’s beloved trousers has made me feel connected to my mom and my grandmother throughout this chilly gray, drizzly day. Both women would be pleased to see me in those slacks, I think; the small moth holes here and there in the fabric notwithstanding. I believe even Katharine would be smiling.

1 comment:

  1. Lynell, your grandmother Hester Plymyer Myers was the sister of my paternal grandfather, Sargent Plymyer. In fact, my father, Hester's nephew E. Jay Plymyer lives only a few miles from you in Augsburg Lutheran Village. He will interested to hear that.
    David Plymyer, Millersville, MD