My grandmother, who we've always called Nan Nan or Nan, passed away recently. The days since have been filled with plenty of tears but also cathartic laughter, recalling the little details that made her so special and some of the phrases that always made us grandchildren and great-grandchildren giggle. While reminiscing, I couldn't help but think of her signature style and how she shared her approach to beauty and fashion with me so many years ago...
Nan was extremely fastidious in every aspect in her life but perhaps even more so when it came to her cuticles. I'm not kidding. Her hands were always perfect, even up to her last days. While cleaning out her belongings, I found a plentiful supply of cuticle creams, emory boards, cuticle nippers and pushers, multiple bottles of clear polish (she rarely wore actual color) and her favorite hand cream by Aveda. My husband and I were talking about her extreme dedication to her cuticles and he proposed that perhaps it was something she learned while attending finishing school that really stuck with her. Something like, "A lady must always have clean and elegant hands." We'll never know. I just wished I'd asked her about it when I had the opportunity.
Nan was dedicated to her multi-step skincare routine and natural makeup look and used the same products by Elizabeth Arden, only updating when certain colors or formulas were discontinued. Every once in a while, she'd branch out and visit the Clinique counter* with me and pick up a new product.
*She took me to my first Clinique skin diagnosis and set me on a path toward caring for my skin - if you know me at all, you know that took hold. By the way, her skin looked and felt fabulous right until the end.
As she aged, Nan's hair became the most gorgeous metallic silver, with a small patch of soft brown hair at the nape of her neck, a holdout from her younger years and, in my mind, a testament to her youthful spirit. She wore her hair in a sleek 1920's pageboy style and it was never out of place, thanks to her once a week hair appointment. On the rare occasion she'd wash her own hair, she only used Paul Mitchell.
Nan loved the scent of lavender but her signature scent was always Lily of the Valley, just as her mother before her. My mother, sister and I always have at least one bottle in our supply as it was a popular Christmas gift from her. In my mind, the words Lily of Valley and Nan Nan are synonyms.
In the early 1980's, Nan Nan had her "colors done" by Color Me Beautiful. My grandfather and mother thought it was a hilarious notion but she took it very seriously. Nan was a "Summer" and followed the rules (for the most part) for the rest of her life, eschewing bright red and deep black because she was told they'd wash her out. And they did. She truly looked best in pastel colors and wore fuchsia in place of red and navy or grey in place of black. Rose, light pink, periwinkle, lavender and mint were her best colors. And she always looked radiant in them.
When I was a pre-teen, visiting Nan in Miami, she took me to her Eckard drugstore for my first real foray into cosmetics. My mother had so far refused so I took advantage of my sweet grandmother's offer. My first products were clear mascara, a lash curler and small tube of clear Vaseline lip gloss. It was just enough to satisfy my craving yet wouldn't clash with my mother's wishes or my Catholic school's no makeup policy.
When I moved away from home at the tender age of 12 (to train for competitive figure skating), I'd spent my entire school life in a red plaid Catholic school uniform and had no idea how to dress myself. Nan took me to GAP and we picked out some outfits. We chose five pairs of colored jeans, five turtlenecks and five v-neck varsity sweaters (oy). Nan liked the turtlenecks so much, she bought a multicolored striped one for herself and continued to wear it, even up to last winter. As I was cleaning out her closet, I found it. I just had to save it...
Nan Nan had many other signature pieces like her three strand pearl necklace and single pearl earrings, her half-millimeter gold wedding band that she hadn't removed since her wedding day in 1946, a thick, white plastic bracelet for casual looks, her white (and when she felt sassy, metallic gold) Daniel Green Dormie bedroom slippers (another gift she'd occasionally give to me and my sister). But nothing is as special to me as her gold charm bracelet, started when her first child, my mother, was born. By the time she passed away, her delicate bracelet held charms for her two children, three grandchildren and seven of her eight great-grandchildren.
There's so much more to write but I just can't see past the tears...