Editorial: Granny is the New “It” Girl!

Photo: Genevive Leiper Photography
via Offbeatbride.com

“Grandmas are just antique little girls” may never have rung truer than in this month of honoring mothers.   Granny, always  an important member of the extended family, has managed to attain “it” girl status while maintaining a sterling reputation in her golden years, or so it seems.   It’s no secret that  often grandmothers are able to enjoy a better rapport with their granddaughters than even a mother can.  That skip of a generation seems to make all the difference and provides a much needed distance and perspective that mere parents, by nature of proximity, can’t bridge.

I suddenly became fully aware of this phenomenon on Sunday which was of course, Mother’s Day.  An article in the Vows Sunday Styles section of The New York Times entitled “Today, in the Role of Flower Girl: Grandma” by Margaux Laskey initially struck me as one of the sillier things that I had read.  As if by way of acknowledgement ,  the article begins “Like many good ideas, it started in jest.”  It details how a prospective groom’s  grandmother jokingly asked if she could be the flower girl in his and his fiancees wedding.   In fact, there were no little girls in the family of the appropriate age; the couple wished to honor both of their grandmas in a significant way and best of all, the grandmas were “hams” who didn’t “mind being the center of attention, making it all a perfect fit” said his now wife.

According to the article, grandmas have also been chosen as  bridesmaids in several weddings either along with other “age appropriate” attendants, or in the case of one bride, alone.  Noting that she couldn’t have 15 bridesmaids she would cede it only to one, as  granny “is on another level.” The article points out that grandparents generally don’t play any major role in a grandchild’s wedding, therefore this is one way to “celebrate who this person is.”  Additionally, the role of a bridesmaid as someone who is there to support the bride, could not be better served than with one’s Nana.  As a side note, attire for the “more mature bridesmaid” can become a little tricky but most brides have solved it with a covered up version of what the other bridesmaids are wearing such as an ensemble of a dress and jacket or a pantsuit in a similar color.

Another example of a fashion forward granny came to me in the form of an email from a local store.  Instead of doing the usual Mother’s Day sale they had decided “to take a more personal approach. Something closer to home.”  In honor of one of the shop’s owner’s grandmas who bonded with her granddaughter for many years ” over the love of fashion and the joy of clothing” they were donating 10% of every sale for the following week to the American Cancer Society.  This grandma had started a tradition of going shopping with her granddaughter as a young girl at the beginning of every season and had kept the tradition going even now even as she currently battles cancer. ” Grandma Norma would sit delighted as her granddaughter  Gabby shopped, watching and enjoying the impromptu fashion show” the email said.  This in turn inspired the granddaughter to become a founding member in the  store years later.  The store was suggesting that their customers could start a similar tradition in their families by bringing in their daughters and granddaughters and shopping with them.

This struck a chord as I (mostly) fondly remember (truth be told, there were some  battles, too when I might not have gotten everything I wanted) shopping trips with my mother, stepmother and grandmothers, all who contributed in some way to my current fashion interest.   Sadly they are all gone now, but in turn I get to enjoy the ritual with the next generation by shopping  with my daughter.  Occasionally, I am enlisted on a shopping excursion with my young professional  nieces which I consider a great honor; that my opinion is sought out and revered. (The fact that my credit card comes along is just an added plus, I’m sure Ha-ha).   I have been consulted on job interview attire,  work related social events and dates.

They also enjoy shopping “chez moi” in my “homegrown vintage” closet of mostly ’90s clothing.   According to them, they are always asked where they “bought” the item that was unearthed and are thus complimented on it. I am thrilled to think of my well-loved “castoffs” receiving another chance to be loved.  Similarly, even though  my mother-in-law is not much of a shopper, her tradition is to gift all of the grandchildren  on Thanksgiving weekend when we are all together, sending them to the mall on Black Friday, each with the same allotment of cash.   They are to buy clothing knowing that later in the day there will be a “show and tell” and a modeling of each grandchild’s purchases for Nanny’s amusement.  Esther, ever the thrifty one who grew up with a seamstress mother and learned to sew herself,  bestows extra points for the “best deal” and truly enjoys seeing their finds and hearing the stories of stalking the wild fashion prey.

“Say Yes to the Dress” show
(Photo TLC Network)

Incidentally, I think that this convergence of shopping with mom or grandma (sometimes many others as well) for  the purchase of a wedding gown, arguably the ultimate clothing purchase, is what explains the endless popularity of TV shows such as “Say Yes To The Dress” and the more recent budget version, “I Found The Gown.”   These long running TLC Network features tap right into both the bridal market interest and almost always feature shopping with a maternal figure.  If one is not available either for reasons of death or distance, she is almost certainly lamented (as in brought to tears) by the bride-to-be.  Often, even the “mom-like” surrogate known as Randy, the flamboyant bridal director at Kleinfeld on SYTTD, finds it tough to hold back his tears.

This makes me think that Mother’s Day and the whole month of May is therefore the perfect time to reflect on the preceding  generations of style conscious women on our family trees who helped to shape us, as well as the budding young vines that we are pruning and nurturing  for their fashionable future.

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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