Irina and Anna

Mother and Daughter - Irina and Anna

Irina and Anna are mother and daughter. Their family moved to New Jersey from Russia just two years ago, turning their entire lives around, because since she was fifteen, Irina knew in her heart that “she didn’t want to grow old in Russia.” We sat down for a conversation and talked about their life in Russia, what life is like in today’s Russia, and both American and Russian style. I walked away smiling, knowing that I spent time with two extraordinary women, and learned a little about their world as well! Here are Irina and Anna:

Irina: When I stopped speed skating at 21, it was a very difficult time for me. I had always had my skating and only my skating; I was living in a bubble without having to step into the real world. Then the sports ended and I had to figure out what I would do next. I was also married at 21, so my life changed in that way, too. My husband and I first attempted to leave Russia when we were newly married, and we moved to Holland as aux pairs. That didn’t work out, but it led me to my next opportunity, because it’s the little details that are important ..

The woman with whom I had worked as an aux pair, had a friend who was just starting out in publishing; he would eventually become the owner of one of the largest publishing houses in Russia. Through that initial connection I ended up working for him and began a long career in publishing …

During that time, I collected beautiful, high-end clothing for my work wardrobe. At one time, I had 10-12 Louis Vuitton handbags! Today’s Russian style is sophisticated. Russian women spend time selecting clothes and are very aware of the details of dress. They appreciate beautiful things and will spend more money buying them. They love labels like Chanel (especially the older women) and Dolce & Gabbana.

(I asked Irina to compare today’s fashion with the old Soviet Union … )

Growing up, we didn’t have choices. Everyone was forced to wear the same things. I didn’t dress in color: my clothing was gray, brown or black. My girlfriend’s aunt had connections and she always wore bright, colorful clothing! I wanted to look like her!” ~ Irina

Anna:Some people here (in the United States) don’t want to make the effort with fashion. In Russia, everyone dresses carefully and with attention to the details. Even my friends who wear uniforms to school will take care in putting their outfits together: adding a  pencil skirt, a nice blouse, great shoes, special handbags, etc. Everyone in Russia has a good-sized handbag and men and women carry big wallets as well  … no one wears backpacks in Russia! They prefer to carry totes! When I first moved here, people couldn’t understand why I carried a tote and not a backpack. Friends still tell me that I dress with a European attitude but I don’t see it. ~ Anna

Much to say; I would love to have another conversation with Irina and Anna

Our mothers’ daughters …

Lisa with her mother’s sweaters, circa 1950s

This Thanksgiving I will be thinking of my mother, Claire, and all the wonderful things that she has passed on to me, preserving our love.

This story starts with a sweater. Recently, when I was spending time with my friend Lisa, I happened to be wearing the gray sweater that my mother had given me. Lisa asked me about it. It’s such a favorite that I was happy to tell its story. My mother was partial to this beloved sweater. Simple and classic, it has a self-made tie that wraps around the neck – truly unique. My mother had worn it and loved it for years, then passed it to me. This gray sweater has had a long life.

Our conversation reminded Lisa that she had a few sweaters that her mother had passed down to her. Amazing, because these particular sweaters were originally worn by her mother, Jean, 55 years ago when she was in her early 20’s. We pulled them out and gazed at them with great interest; they looked like the clothes we have seen in the films of the 1950s! Lisa said that she had worn them all at one time or another and that her daughter, Sarah, had also worn the sweater with the pink and green flowers when she was a sophomore in high school.

Intrigued, I asked Lisa if I could speak with her mother about the sweaters. Jean’s thoughts: “I had a little girl. I would have loved to pass anything to my little girl … It’s endearing. You want your daughters to have everything you had. I think most mothers think this way.” I, too, am my mother’s only daughter and I know that she feels the very same. Jean also told me that she gave Lisa two dolls that were given to her as a child when she was just five or six. She now has two granddaughters to pass these dolls to, and just like the dolls themselves, one of her granddaughters is blond – the other, brunette. I asked Jean if she played with her dolls when she was young. No, she wasn’t a doll person, but her mother loved the dolls and made all of their clothes.

Lisa has worn her sweaters as I have worn mine. We agree that they are dear to us. In a time when so many things are disposable, these loving keepsakes are forever.

What do you think?

Jean’s childhood dolls, passed down to Lisa and her two granddaughters

The story behind the photo

Natalie (11), Libby (15), Miranda (17)

Kylie is the mother of three young women: Miranda, 17, Libby, 15, and Natalie, 11. They  recently attended a fancy party. What is wonderful is that each of them felt good about themselves and their fashion choices. Before they left, they took this lovely photo. What interests me is the story behind the photo and what went through their minds getting ready for their big night out …

Miranda – I do feel pressure to find the right outfit. I want to look my best. I chose that dress because I knew it would make an impression. I like to make things my own. That’s why I chose the nude shoes – I could have chosen black or navy – but I went with nude  and the white pearl necklace, to give it my touch. I received many compliments that night and that made me feel good.

Libby – I bought the outfit the day of the party. I usually shop the day of the event because I think it’s fun to get something right before. I don’t like to buy things that I don’t love. I love to have really cool shoes and match them with a simple outfit. I chose this outfit first and then I selected the blue shoes. They were blue but they had neon, bright yellow heels. They were Vera Wang. I really liked my outfit. I thought it looked high-end. I would wear these pieces in a new way – another time.

Natalie – I was confused. I didn’t know what I was going to wear. But Libby and Miranda helped me out. (Usually they’re nice to me.) I tried on a few things from my closet and they told me what to wear. No, they didn’t force me to wear what they wanted me to wear – we came to an agreement and picked out what we all liked. I think that I looked my best and I liked what I wore.

Kylie – Whenever they need to get something for a party my job gets interesting. With Miranda, I feel that my job is to pull her back. She tends to go for more slinky looks that I find inappropriate; she may look like an adult but she isn’t and I want her to remain classy and elegant in her choices. This selection was a good compromise. Libby wants my opinion but not my advice. She really knows what she wants and makes good choices. It’s funny that she said that she likes to shop the day of the event because she is a thoughtful and discerning shopper, often pulling out pictures from magazines and collecting ideas; she is not impulsive. Natalie is my youngest daughter and I tend to dress her like a baby. It’s become a challenge and Miranda and Libby have to help me, help her. I don’t trust myself. She would end up wearing a Mini-Mouse print romper. With Natalie, my job is to let go.