What Would My Grandmother Do?

by: Rosie Dalton | 8 months ago | Features

Image: me with my grandmother, Mary. Photo by Sam Riles

Whenever I am faced with a tricky shopping decision – and the internal battle between want and need starts to take hold – I find myself asking: what would Mary do? Mary is my grandmother and she is quite possibly the most stylish woman I have ever met. At age 91, she wears Ellery cat-eye sunglasses, makes an Alice band seem cool and has owned the same pair of Salvatore Ferragamo shoes for decades now. Her favourite colours are black and white (because #classic) and she knows how to wear the same pieces on high rotation, but mix them up to feel fresh. 

In short, she is my style hero. Although Mary is pretty damn special, her approach to dressing isn’t actually that unusual amongst her generation. In the context of our own, however, it is a virtual anomaly. This is because the Millennial generation is all about buying new clothes on the regular and reinventing our sense of identity with each new passing trend. Mary’s generation, on the other hand, had a pretty firm grasp on which clothes worked best for them – and an admirable ability to stick to those pieces over time. 

It is this that I most admire about Mary’s approach to style. She takes great pride in what she wears, of course, but the act of getting dressed has become something of a breeze. And that’s simply because she has honed her personal uniform with so much precision over time. With an innate understanding of what works for her, Mary never makes purchases on a whim. And, although she loves flicking through the latest issue of Vogue (to which she subscribes), she never caves to the latest trends either.

Today, I am a big proponent of the personal uniform – and I can only hope to hone mine so precisely as my grandmother’s. But the forces of modern marketing still tug at my heartstrings from time to time; causing me to contemplate certain purchases that feel wildly left of field. It is in these moments that I remind myself to ask: what would my grandmother do? 

With that said, of course, experimentation can be one of the most fun aspects of fashion. And, in carving out your personal uniform, it is sometimes necessary to test unchartered waters too. But, in the interests of saving both pennies and the planet, it is also important not to let these out of character purchases wind up with unnecessary waste. So I find it helpful to think critically about whether the item in question is something I you can still see myself wearing in a decade’s time.

This is where I have learned another really important lesson from my grandmother. Aside from investing time in working out what your personal style really is, Mary has taught me the importance of investing in high quality, well-made clothing too. Because these are the pieces that you will still be wearing when you’re 91-years-old, or be able to pass down to your grandkids one day.

Slowly but surely, I am making my way towards a wardrobe that would make Mary proud. It is one that consists of mostly neutral tones (just like hers), classic shapes and quality fibres. These pieces not only make me feel comfortable in my own skin, but they also give me an empowering sense of doing better for the world around me. And that, if you ask me, is exactly what my grandmother would do. So next time you find yourself tempted by one impulse purchase or another, why not test the longevity of that item first by asking: what would my grandmother do?

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