At my father's memorial service recently, my friends jokingly referred to his "rules." My dad was always known as the strict parent, both in our house and amongst my friends. I had the earliest curfew, the highest academic expectations and the strictest dress code. Dad was no Puritan: We were allowed a small glass of wine at the table in our teenage years to get us used to drinking, and our house was always full of raucous laughter. But he was strict.
When I was 12, he gave me a beautiful manicure set from Elizabeth Arden. I wasn't allowed to use the nail polish in it, but he wanted me to know how to take care of my nails. As the father of two young girls, his concern was that we should never look "cheap," which meant no miniskirts, nothing too tight and makeup was verboten. But that's not to say that we dressed like Chloe Sevigny in "Big Love" either. Rather, we dressed like kids: Camp Beverly Hills t-shirts, Benetton sweaters and Guess jeans were our uniform.
As for his personal style, well, he didn't care much about what he wore. His style fell squarely into the "Dad" category -- polo shirts, shorts, t-shirts with funny slogans, and much to my mom's chagrin, overused Birkinstocks that left tan lines. An avid fisherman, he always had a hat on to protect himself from the sun. But even though his clothes were purely function over fashion, his opinion about what we wore was very strong.
Dad always favored elegance and quality over anything cheap, whether it was a pair of pants, a kitchen faucet or a garden hose. In high school I worked at Contempo Casuals (I was style-obsessed even then), but he urged me to save my hard-earned money for when we traveled abroad in the summer. To him, European style was the creme de la creme and shopping in Paris would be the ultimate. He was right: Armed with my savings I bought silver plastic pants and wooden platform shoes, which, though they were avant-garde for a suburban high-schooler, were modest in cut, so they passed the test. When we did go shopping in Florida he would ask for a "fashion show." I thought he was interested in what we bought, but reflecting back now, I realize he was more interested in making sure that what we bought was appropriate. He may not have known the difference between Balenciaga and Balmain, but he knew what was well-designed, and he passed that love of quality on to me. I would rather save my money and buy designer clothes on sale than buy something cheap that will fall apart in the washing machine. My appreciation for quality and craftsmanship has lent itself well to my professional life: As a fashion editor I look for the best of the best.
When I was young I envied my friends whose parents let them stay out late and let them wear what they wanted. At the time, my dad's ruling with an iron fist (but a heart full of love) was frustrating. But it's hard to quantify the excitement I felt at 18 when, away at college, I finally started experimenting with cosmetics. To this day my mom, sister and I don't wear much makeup, but we are obsessed with fashion. When I was snapped by famed New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham my dad blew up the photo, framed it and hung it on the wall of their house. My style will always be more Bianca Jagger than Britney Spears, and I have my dad to thank for that.
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