Friday, August 03, 2007

Paul Poiret and My Mother

Denise Poiret in a chemise at the Park Avenue Hotel in New York Yesterday I went to see the Paul Poiret fashion exhibit at the Met. It closes Saturday so you better run.

Isabell at 16 At the exhibit all I could think of was my mother, Isabel (in the photo). I’m certain she made that dress. She always wanted to be a fashion designer. But her her family was against it. Still she won a scholarship to Moore College of Art in Philadelphia.

Poiret illustration I only discovered after she died, that she'd graduated at the top of her class with the best fashion design collection in 10 years! I found an old newspaper clipping she had never shown me hidden away in her dressing table drawer.

Isabell at 16 She did get to work briefly as an assistent to a reknown Philadelphia hat designer. Her duties - chauffeuring him around town. Then her parents wanted her to "chauffeur" them out to a hot springs resort in California and she quit her design job. The end of her dreams as a fashion designer.

Poiret illustration
At the resort she met my father. They danced. Three days later he proposed marriage.

My Mother
My mother wanted desperately for me to fulfill her own unfulfilled dreams. I was having none of it. I was the classic ‘rebellious’ teenager. I did go to art school. I went to many art schools. All I did was draw ✏️  I had not one ounce of ambition to do anything else. No particular professional direction. I was 24 when my mother died. She was just 57. 

Suddenly I had to go to design school. I had to become the fashion designer she'd always wanted for herself. I dashed off to Parson School of Design in New York. I did work on 7th Avenue for 10 years. Then, by chance, I fell into
shoe designing and so many other professions.

The rest is my crazy career history. My path has been twisty turny. I LOVE what I'm doing now - Paris letters & watercolors etc. Who knows where the road turns next? Did I say my Mom painted watercolors and I still use her black metal watercolor box? Mom, I hope I've done you proud.

Photo from cousin Bill and Louise
  My mother often me as a foil when I was small. Together we'd go sleuthing in designer shops. She would try on and secretly examine the inner construction of couture dresses. Then she would go home and create her own version. We made doll clothes together. Her plan for me was to go to design school and complete her dreams of becoming a fashion designer. My mother designed and made her own bias-cut silk wedding dress. Voila

My mother on her wedding day in her bias-cut wedding dress


  1. What a wonderful tribute to your mother! Now we know where you got your talent from.

    I'm quite sure she's proud of you. What a rich life you're living.

  2. Your tribute is heartwarmingly beautiful. Your mother, wherever she may be, sure is carrying around a portfolio of all your accomplishments, in order to show them to everyone willing to stop for a second. You really do her proud. And so sad, how women were treated not so long ago. What a waste of talent.

  3. Lovely memorial to your late mum.

    I'm sure she would be quite proud if she were here to see you Carol.

  4. Well there you go. Talent just oozes out of your family. What a beautiful legacy and what a beautiful Mother. This post brought tears to my eyes.
    Cris in OR

  5. Anonymous9:41 AM

    Carol, you and your mom, are amazing women. I keep wondering how old you are to have done all these things?? Your talents just bubble forth like champagne. And how wonderful you are willing to share them and bits of your life story with us. Thank you for your life and inspiration.

  6. Anonymous9:52 AM

    Carol, that was the most beautiful tribute!!!
    You have blessed my day in more ways than I could ever express. Thank you for sharing your/her story!!!
    Treasure all of your memories and treasure that magical paint box!!!!

  7. Anonymous10:01 AM

    Dear Carol,
    Your mother was an amazing woman! So talented, and with so much humility!
    Her creative spirit certainly was infused into your life. It's heartbreaking that you lost her when you were 25 yrs. Did you feel her presence at the exhibition?
    Do you still have anything that she sewed?

  8. Your mother was an amazing woman...and so are you!!! I'm SURE she's incredibly proud of you :-)

  9. Beautiful tribute to you mother!

  10. Anonymous10:22 AM

    Dear Carol,

    Your post is so "emotive".
    I´m sure yur mother is proud of you(I use the present because I think the people we love are"watching"us).
    You´re an artist,you´ve travel around the world always reinventing yourself, living different lives in only one.
    Maybe you've done all the things your mother dreamt of when she was waiting inside the car to chauffeure her"boss"?
    And add to all of this, everyday you create dreams for lots us around the world, writing your thoughts,showing us your paintings,and a beautiful view of your world.
    Thank you!
    PS-I adore those old photos.
    I had thousands of them from my family and yours remind me of so much...

  11. Carol, beautiful post, It's making me well up here.....such poignant words for your mom.....I lost my mom at 24 and I have yet to uncover her mysteries. My mom was the one who filled out my application to art school (without telling em!).

    What a coincidence, I was at that show with a dear friend a week ago and I thought about You- yes, you! I have to go tell PB that she needs to see this. I just love the handpainted silk backdrops....I touched them so I could closely examine the work and like your mom, go home and make my own..LOL!
    PS. Thanx for sending Merisi to my roses : )
    PPS. you 've made my day with this post.

  12. wow Carol, your story so wonderful, made me stop and write, you and your Mom sound like two very amazing women! more stories please!

  13. Anonymous11:46 AM

    What a lovely woman, your mother. Carol, thank you for posting all the photos of her and for telling us her story. It's so personal and moving. My dad died when I was 26 and just recently I've been thinking of him so much. We were so alike, like you and your mom. Not being able to know my dad while I'm an adult is the greatest sadness for me. But, I guess, we really do carry on their spirits, don't we?

    Thanks again.

  14. Yes, a beautiful heartwarming tribute to your mother! Sorry you lost her when you where 25 years old... I simply cannot imagine being in the world without my mother! also my inspiration...

    I think your mother is very proud of you :)

    Very sweet...

  15. Anonymous1:48 PM

    Dear Carol~

    What a beautiful mother
    and a beautiful tribute to her as
    Of course, she is proud of
    you...right this very minute you
    are making her smile.

    Best wishes,

  16. oh you have done her very proud on your twisty turny path...blessings, rebecca

  17. What a wonderful tribut to your mother, Rest assured she is Very Proud of YOU!

  18. Anonymous3:03 PM

    What a wonderful story... I love the pictures. Your path is SO interesting. Thank you for sharing!
    PS: I also went to the Paul Poiret exhibit!

  19. Anonymous5:39 PM

    What a post !!! Very moving...
    Your mother was very talented and looked beautiful. I love her picture in her bathing costume on the beach...
    Was she fond of Paris?

  20. I'm SURE you've done your mother proud!
    She sounds like a fascinating person -- this is a wonderful tribute to her.

  21. Anonymous10:42 PM

    That last line made tears .
    love you

  22. Wow - that was such a lovely post! I'm sure she is very proud of you!! That's so great you've experienced so many things! I've been reading your blog for awhile and am commenting for the first time! I love macarons as well and seeing your beautiful watercolors always makes me want to go out and get some!

    By the way, I noticed in your previous post - you're a fellow Astorian? Do you know of any good bakeries with macarons around here? =)

  23. Oh my goodness, your mother is so beautiful.. That pretty smile!

    I often do steal garment construction designs to make my own version (poor college student here). So I can empathize.

  24. Fabulous.......
    I enjoy coming to visit you each day............
    You are blessed!

  25. A BIG MERCI Everyone! :)
    Over a year ago I would not have had you to share my stories with.
    Your kind words and thoughts mean so much!

  26. What a lovely tribute to your mother. I'm sure she would be extremely proud of your accomplishments.

  27. oh,
    this is so lovely
    that i have to read it again...

    your mother left you
    with more gifts
    than i think you know!

    i can not help but wonder
    if you have a daughter?

    did i miss that?


  28. What a wonderful post about your mother Carol! Thank you for sharing! I am sure she is so proud of the fascinating life you have lived!!

  29. Anonymous1:40 AM

    I was entranced by your story.. That is novel quality.. beautiful... Your mother was so gorgeous.. her wedding gown.. Gasp....

  30. Anonymous6:34 AM

    What a lovely post a real tribute to the Mother who raised you and shaped your destiny.

  31. This is a gorgeous tribute to your mother, her persistence and fabulous style! And you have obviously inherited some of her many talents. Beautiful photographs - thanks for this wonderful glimpse into this bit of your history.

  32. You know your mother is watching your life and your art. She must be very proud.

  33. Anonymous4:53 PM

    Your mother is beautiful and vibrant-looking in those photos, Carol. How sweet that you introduced us to her! My mother was an extremely talented seamstress,too, and your tales remind me of her. We all became seamstresses, too, and I still peek inside clothing to see if it's well made or "a bum job," as she so often thought of clothes in stores. Wonderful post, anyway!

  34. Anonymous10:46 PM

    Is that your mum in the 2nd photo? Lovely! You have fallen in her 'footsteps' both of you have/had exceptional taste and style and used it to share with others! Bravo! How can she not be proud?!

  35. What an amazing touching post and what a life you've had so far! I'm thrilled to read all of this, follow the links and discover your widely varied talents and accomplishments. Phew! Do you have any of your mother's drawings? I have a few of my father's cartoons (his second wife through away all his paintings and drawings when he left for his third) and I treasure them. I loved the photos of your mom and of your creations. Thank you so much for sharing all of this with us!

  36. What a lovely, sad and exciting story all wrapped into one.

  37. Wow you must be so proud. Now we all know where your talents come from.
    On the Art School front - I went to Art College for 3 weeks and left because I didn't like to be told what to do anymore.

  38. OH, WHAT A LOVELY TRIBUTE... I think your Mum is extremely proud of you. This post brought tears to my eyes.

    I love popping over here to read your blog, it is always so inspiring to me, and makes me want to pick up my brush and paints - especially good for me as I fight all those excusues not to get on with it ;-)
    In fact your blog is so inspiring to me, I have nominated you for a Blogger Reflections Award on my own blog, as a very heart-felt thank you! Lizzi

  39. A beautiful tribute.
    Guess what! My daughter graduated from Moore College of Art!!

  40. Anonymous7:23 AM

    The apple doesn't fall far from the tree as they say......I am sure she is proud!

  41. What a heartfelt tribute you have posted about your Mother. Generous, and painted with details of awe and wonder. Strokes deep and blending, fabulous. The photos you share, the underlining song, the patterns of success and connecting to your beauty. Wonderful post Carol! No wonder you are so rich with creativity and spunk!

  42. Anonymous2:17 PM

    Beautiful tribute to your mum. She was beautiful!

  43. Anonymous6:18 PM

    As for whether your mom would have been proud - I feel very sure that she was already terribly proud of you and knew in her heart that you would make the most of your life, just as you have.
    Mistress of Longears

  44. So beautiful what you wrote about your mother. Your talent in art is so great. I love your watercolors! I hope that you always do very well in everything you do.

  45. Anonymous12:49 PM

    What a lovely tribute to your mum and such an interesting story. You look like her:-)
    I am sure she would be very proud of what you have done and continue to do.
    Cheers, Shelagh

  46. Hi, Carol,
    I really enjoyed your sweet blog, starting from its name - until I got to your mom's story, then I absolutely loved it. We all love your mom by now, strong and sweet like women can be. Found your blog through the Daily Painters group at Google. All the best to you, sweetie!

    P.S.: I like the French handwriting too :)
    When my son James was born, my father-in-law went on a trip to France and brought a set of 7 long-sleeved onesies, each one with a day of the week embroidered in a different pastel color, in this type of handwriting, all in a pretty canvas box. So cute!

  47. Anonymous5:02 AM

    You're such an inspiration, Carol. In fact, I've been inspired to go on holiday. My first holiday in 10 years. It's going to be .... France! - Julie

  48. You share so much with your Mother, all incredible gifts. She was very beautiful, and you look so much like her. Sweetie, don't ever have regrets about the things you didn't do while she was here. That is the basic relationship of all parents and children; it always has been and most likely will continue to be. We all have a purpose which is uniquely our own. Regardless what you have chosen to do with your life, I can tell you in no uncertain terms that your precious mom will always be watching over you with huge pride. Parents always want the very best for their kids (because we love them so much), but part of this love requires that we let go and allow them to walk along their own path. You did what every normal person does. I'm just so very sorry you lost her at such a young age sweetie.

    It takes a BIG person to accept full responsibility for their own happiness and an even BIGGER person to accept full responsibility for their own unhappiness.

    But man, it takes a spiritual GIANT, who upon realizing any degree of unhappiness or remorse, decides to be the change they seek - in spite of having to endure the challenges and hurdles.

    You should be incredibly proud of yourself. As a parent, I know that I would be totally gushing at your accomplishments, dedication and success. You're truly lovely. Feel great - always!

    Big HUGS,

  49. Anonymous12:50 PM

    Beautiful post! I wonder why she did not show you the newspaper clippings about her design accomplishments.

    The photographs and the story are wonderful.

    Thank you! It makes me want to visit my own mother immediately.

  50. I love reading your posts. This one is very sweet. What a lovely tribute to your mother.

  51. I loved reading this entry, very sweet and loving memory.


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