My Mother’s Clothes: A Photographer/Writer Explores A Life Through Fashion

BY JEANNETTE MONTGOMERY BARRON

My Mother's Clothes

My Mother's Clothes

My mother Eleanor Morgan Montgomery Atuk had an undying love for clothes. She wore, loved, and befriended classic American and European designers. When she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and her memory began to fade, I decided to photograph her clothing as a way of both sparking my mother’s memories and coping with my own sense of loss.

With the publication of My Mother’s Clothes, I have attempted to create a portrait of my late mother through still life images of her cherished clothing, shoes, and personal possessions. The book became one part fashion diary, one part personal memoir, one part loving memory, and one part celebration.

As you can probably gather, my mother was widely acknowledged as a great dresser. She loved exquisite clothes, especially those by designers Bill Blass, Yves Saint Laurent, Halston, and Norman Norell - some of whom she even called friends. She was fearless when it came to fashion. I’ve come to call one favored piece, a curly white fur vest, “The Lenny Kravitz jacket.”

To say that my style differs from my mother’s is an understatement. I have a sort of uniform (as most people do). Mine typically consists of jeans, a T-shirt or a white shirt, and boots. In the summer, it changes to linen shirts, a skirt, and sandals. My mother (who truly believed in designer clothes for their quality and craftsmanship) often told me that Calvin Klein would be a phenomenal designer for me to wear - she recognized and understood my minimalist style (which is almost a dress code for photographers!).

My mother always said, “Never wear white before Memorial Day or after Labor Day.” While today the rules have changed a bit, I take to heart the advice and passion my mother had for clothes every time I get dressed. In Rome, where I live for part of the year, I see white jeans being worn on the coldest day in the middle of January. I think it looks fantastic, refreshing. But I can’t help but wonder what my mother would say.


March 1, 2010

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    What an honorable thing to do.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like lovely story, would love to read the book!!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Congratulations on following through with such a wonderful honor for your mother, whom I sure you had many a frustrating discussion with on this topic! I’ll look for your book this summer!

  4. Anonymous says:

    c’est charmant! Gorgeous photos

  5. Anonymous says:

    A picture is worth a thousand words, especially to someone with Alzheimer’s. You’ve created a unique and beautiful tribute to you mom with your book.

  6. Anonymous says:

    love it. what a great idea!

  7. Anonymous says:

    I can tell you one thing, I understand the connection with the clothes, I also had a mother that was close to eighty when she died suddenly of cancer, and I still have clothes of hers that I wear. When she passed I pressed my face to her clothes. ILH

  8. Anonymous says:

    She was stylish, fashionable, and chic. Having the few things in the closet was heaven, and helped myself and my sisters cope with our loss.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Just love this idea, will look for the book! Just did an essay on my mothers hands ..love your prose. http://www.katrinehome.com

  10. Anonymous says:

    What a tribute. My Dad recently passed. His sheepskin slippers remain in the house and anyone of us will slip into them on a cold winter night. Your mother gave you a great legacy!

  11. Anonymous says:

    cant wait to read the book! what a dedication!amazing!
    i believe any mother in the world would b proud of havng such a daughter! ~

  12. Anonymous says:

    sounds like a book that I will enjoy! can’t wait to pick it up!

  13. Anonymous says:

    A wonderful path to take to cope with a difficult situation she has given a gift with this book a gift to herself to her mother and her memory a gift to her children to help them forever remember their grandmother and possibly share the inspiration.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Looking sooooo forward to your book….what a wonderful tribute to your Mother….I understand the treasure and sweetness of the clothes matter…..it is not only a hobby but a true challange to find the fashion and the fabric that complement YOU.

  15. Anonymous says:

    What an absolutely wonderful idea. My Mom’s legacy is the wonderful needlepoints, macrame belts, knitted and quilted items she made for me, my family & friends. I hope to put them in a book someday.
    Bravo to you!

  16. Anonymous says:

    Wish I knew you! My mother was a minimalist with style and a firm believer in “The Suit”. MMM tried to like them. I often wondered when I would eventually succumb to the idea. Never did! It was my Grandmother that loved the frocks and feathers

  17. Anonymous says:

    cute

  18. Anonymous says:

    Will keep an eye out for your book, and pass your info onto a writer friend, who is taking care of her dear aunt who has Alzheimer’s. Her blog is called “Ageless with Aunty.”

    I think she will be very interested in your book.

  19. Srinivas says:

    Victoria Posted on I WANT SOME BLACK EYED PEAS NOW!! It is so awemose to see the wonderful things my classmates are doing, especially when they let their powers combine! *Thumbs up*