Raised without the financial means to purchase fashions new in the store, Sara’s mother handcrafted a wardrobe that spoke to the person she wanted to be and could become with perseverance, patience and hard work.
A few weeks ago, Australian TV show host and positive fashion spokesperson Faye de Lanty of Fashion Hound shared the story of her swingin’ London ’60s fashion mama.
In today’s guest post for Empowered by the Past, Sarara Vintage Couture founder Sara Brandon reflects on how her mother – who was raised in a working class family in the 1950s and 1960s – took small steps toward greatness with both personal and inner style rooted in confidence and creativity. Her mother’s sporty ’70s style was both unforgettable in appearance and personality.
After meeting Sara’s father and “secretly” eloping in Texas, she pursued a course of higher education and redefined her future while never losing gratitude for the teachings of her humble roots.
This series is open to every reader who would like to share the photos and stories of the women in their lives who have inspired them. Whether your mother, grandmother, aunt or a teacher, neighbor, co-worker and the like, Empowered by the Past is an homage to yesterday’s fashion and the stories of the women who lived amazing lives wearing amazing (and now vintage!) style.
Are you interested in contributing to Empowered by the Past? Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) for consideration.
What did your mom wear when she stepped out in style?
My mom was always into fashion and put her own stamp on her wardrobe as a young woman. During the 1960s and ’70s she created many pieces of clothing for herself and later for my wardrobe. Her fabrics were almost always on trend and she created mostly what was in style with her own twist.
She knows garment quality and appreciates history, but was not a vintage wearer. This is due to her less-privileged upbringing—wearing vintage was a necessity, not a desire.
Thus, she achieved her designer look by making items in the latest styles. Even later when she had a job and my father splurged by buying quality fashions, she still enjoyed creating them. I think she likes having items others could not buy or replicate, and are quality pieces.
Her Mom’s vintage wedding dress from the ’60s. They almost forgot to bring a camera to Texas, where they secretly eloped!
I know this is also one reason I enjoy vintage: getting that personal, one-of-a-kind style and taking joy in wearing something no longer available to the masses. In the ’60s and ’70s my mother had an American sporty look mixed with hippie-boho. She created clothing that was easy to wear but still on trend into the ’80s.
Style highlights from my mom’s now-vintage fashion archive include her sunnies in the photo above, her super-mod little white Audrey Hepburn-style wedding dress (she actually bought it at a high end department store), her custom Charlie’s Angels typeface gray tee, and a boho peasant shirt that she made and I still own.
What is an example of how your mom overcame a challenge in her life?
My mother did not have a privileged background. While her father did work hard, they just didn’t have much. This made it impossible for her to go to college when she was younger, so she started out by working at a bank. When she met my dad, he really believed in educating yourself to attain your goals, and she gained confidence. They really worked together to get more out of life than what they both started with.
Later, they were both able to go to college. She got a degree in English and education, and today she is just getting ready to retire. I think of all the kids she helped because she puts in 110 percent all the time. I feel it is a major challenge to go to college later in life, while raising two children, and still attain your goal.
What were your mom’s most admirable traits?
My mom is very beautiful. Honestly, she “could have been in pictures,” as they say. Everyone thinks that their mommy is pretty, but she is a stunner. Even now in her sixties she looks great. She also has a pretty singing voice. Her self-esteem was not high starting out. She never thought she was pretty.
Most important to me is her dedication to being a good mother, her creativity, intelligence, and extremely strong work ethic. Her creativity spanned painting, sewing, and writing—all skills that I admire.
How do you try to embody your mom’s best traits in your own life?
Her work ethic and creativity are two things that I have learned, admire, and apply in my life. I always put all I have into anything I do, especially work-wise. She fostered my creativity when I was younger and I use that on a daily basis. I am sure my eye for fashion and personal style would not be the same without having her as a creative role model.
What physical piece of vintage do you own from your mom’s personal collection?
Some favorites include a gown made out of antique fabric and lace, a wallet she made, and a sort of boho-hippie cotton blouse she created in the ’70s. Mom and I sometimes created items from vintage and antique fabric.
The lace gown was made using her aunt’s antique lace. My great aunt had given yards of 1920s lace to my mother. It had velvet details, ribbon, satin and machine lace. She hid it away until I was older, when we could construct a garment together. There is something about the honor of having garments passed down through the generations. In this case the fabric was something that tied us to the women before us.
The women in my father’s family were also very into respecting the past and learning from our roots. I love how vintage pieces have this life of their own that you get to tap into.
About the Author
Sara’s love of history, culture, and jewelry began early as a participant to local estate sales with her mother and father.
Following in their footsteps (her parents still own a huge inventory of vintage ’60s-’70s Levi jeans), she began collecting 1920s jewelry from estates in Southern Illinois, where she grew up.
Inspired by the stones, gems and metals of the past, Sara launched her own line of jewelry while pursuing her doctorate degree in Anthropology. She completed her doctorate in Brazil, her Brazilian friends nicknaming her “Sarara” meaning person of mixed race in Brazil or “place of peace” in Kenya.
The name stuck and with it, a line of jewelry as inspired by the natural materials of Brazil’s indigenous cultures was born.
After giving birth to her son and moving from Atlanta (where she was a professor of Anthropology at the Savannah School of Art & Design) to New York’s Hudson Valley, Sara decided to merge her love of accessories and vintage into Sarara Vintage Couture, a destination for pieces of vintage jewelry and clothing with rich history and unique style.
Sarara Vintage Couture has been featured in Lucky Magazine, provided wardrobe for Vogue editorial, worked with the stylist of Brooke Shields and sold inspiration to designer Derek Lam.
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