My mother wore Alexander McQueen silk sarouel pants to my college graduation. I remember being equal parts delighted (she looked amazing) and also horrified (why can’t you be a normal mom?!).
My mother, Eleanore De Sole, known to her grandchildren as “Mama D”, was born in Orange, New Jersey. She is strong willed, whip smart and set in her ways. In the 80s, she was a branch manager at IBM with strong ambitions to become president of the company one day. All photographic evidence suggests that the power suit was her go-to look in those days. She was moving up the corporate ladder until she banged her head on the glass ceiling (her boss told her flat out one day that it was never going to happen). A high pressure job, two kids, and a corporate wife—something had to give. She decided to focus on the latter two roles and leave the professional world behind.
My mother’s love of fashion has been a constant all my life, but her fashion awakening really began when we moved to Italy as a family in 1993. My father, along with a then-unknown designer named Tom Ford, was tasked with turning around the ailing Gucci brand. My mother hated living in Florence; she didn’t speak the language and found herself isolated. Fashion became an outlet for all the emotions she was hiding, I think.
As she became more confident in her supporting role within the industry, her love of unexpected fashion choices grew. She went from wearing preppy silk sunflower capri pants to effortlessly embracing velvet hip huggers and pink crystal pants. In her 50s, my mother was wearing cut out tops from Nicolas Ghesquiere’s spring 2002 Balenciaga collection. Her silver-grey hair has always been her signature accessory. It sets her apart in an industry that is often chasing youth.
Fashion is a really important part of my relationship with my mother. She calls me after certain fashion shows to swap notes—a recent Chanel show had her pining for a classic tweed jacket that we ended up giving her as a 70th birthday present. She still reads WWD every morning and often quizzes me on the industry news of the day. We pick out clothes together for my less fashion inclined sister (at her request!). She’s laid claim to one of my black Chanel evening bags and I’ve held on to a pair of her gray snakeskin Tom Ford kitten heels far longer than she ever wanted me to. After I saw her wear my form-fitting, crystal embellished Prada dress, I let her keep it. I couldn’t imagine wearing it again after I saw her in it.