Make Do & Mend (that Matara Alaskan Seal Coat…)

My 78-year old mother (yup, that’s her in 1955) leaves in five days for her second round-the-world cruise, and my feelings about her imminent departure are an equal mix of admiration for her wanderlust, unquenchable in spite of her many health issues, and a sadness bordering on dread of the unknown (the earth could still be flat, you know…), which equates to her being out of touch for three and a half months. And yes, Mom, I know you’ll send postcards from the exotic yonder, which may even reach me before your ship gets home, but being unable to email you daily political spam or phone you for a quick cooking tip is going to be very tough on me!

After she’d read my little profile of my father as stylish gent, I raised the prospect of doing one about her—her inimitable, paradoxical fashion personality and its influence on me. At first, she balked a little, but once I reassured her that my objective was to write not Mommie Dearest but a tribute to her, she warmed enough to the idea to send me some great photos of her in her teens and 20s, captioned, dated, and ready for my nostalgia-drenched, probing and wildly unscientific analysis.

In the interest of time, I’m going to pull off what for me will be a first: I’m going to wrap up this photo essay by tomorrow! (But I reserve the right to tinker with it—and even broadly revisit the topic–while she’s off sailing the seven seas…)

Our tale begins with this fur coat: seal coat collar openMahogany velvet, it bears up nobly under the burden of its elasticized cuffs and taupe metal zipper, which runs from mid-thigh to nose-tip, meshing teeth ominous and clunky as the track of a giant roller coaster. Whittled in the early 80s from the mid-50s “Matara” (or dyed brown) Alaskan seal swing coat pictured at the start of this post, all it preserves of the elegant original is the high neck and impossibly silken fur, panne-blinding in strong light, erstwhile insulation for seals swimming the Eames-era Bering Sea.

Its rather fusty, car-coat sensibility reflects the fact that, by then, my mother’s days as a fashion plate were pretty much behind her. But it also happens to embody her central style tenets: Aim high (but be sensible!), get your money’s worth, and outclass rather than submit to trends.

2 Responses to “Make Do & Mend (that Matara Alaskan Seal Coat…)”

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  2. admin Says:

    thanks very much for the kind words! Funny some of the dots Google connects, isn’t it?

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