A few minutes ago I finished hemming my red Coronation Norse underdress.
As you can see from the 1980’s-era photograph of me playing the lute at the Columbus (Ohio) Arts Festival, over the right shoulder of the Norse underdress, I do like red dresses a lot! The dress in that photograph is an Elizabethan court dress, which my Mother made at a time when very few people wore costumes that were anywhere near authentic replicas of that era. I wanted one because my lute repertoire was the Elizabethan lutesong. But such costumes were nowhere to be found, for love or money.
So my Mother studied many paintings from the period and, since she was a master at fiber arts who could make and tailor her own patterns, she designed this costume for me based upon her studies. She did the entire thing, from the headpiece (which had a veil and snood attached, but which I ditched–bad bad me!) to the ruff (this is the small one), a chemise with drawstring neck whose ties ended in pearls, to the boned bodice with separate sleeves tied on with ribbons whose ends were metal aglets, an overskirt, and underskirt, as well as a bumroll, and farthingale. She hand-sewed all the pearls and other trim on each piece. To me this costume is a work of art, and I wore it proudly for many years. ❤
Hanging under that photograph are the crescent 7-stringed harp that my sons’ father found in a local antiques mall and a Russian balalaika that my parents gave me when I was in high school:
Propped up on the basement stair ledge under the instruments is a painting my Mother did of herself and me when I was two. I think she looks rather Egyptian in this profile. There is also a print by el Greco, one of her favorite Spanish artists–my Mother was a Spanish teacher in secondary schools for many years until she retired, got her PhD at age 65 and went on to become the head of Wilmington College’s Modern Languages department–what a retirement!
Here’s another of her self-portraits:
Not only was she a talented fiber artist and amateur painter, she also had been a concert pianist in her teens (see My Life As A Musician) and was a beauty queen in her early college years at The Ohio State University. During her reign as May Queen after World War II, Howard Hughes spotted her and had her flown to Hollywood, where Jack Warner gave her a screen test and offered her a starlet contract with Warner Bros. She turned that opportunity down in favor of having a family life with my Father in Ohio. Luckily for me! 😛
Here is one of her photos from the screen test. The only makeup she was wearing was that dark-red 1940’s era lipstick:
And here is a double portrait of her and my Father during the same period, when they were “pinned,” which meant that my Dad had given her his fraternity pin (you can see it on her sweater) as a step towards being engaged to be married.
He was pretty cute, himself. But I would think so, since everyone used to say I looked so much like him. LOL! 😛 Mother was a beautiful young girl, too, which you can almost see in this badly-shot photograph that is mostly obscured by reflections from the lamp:
She had saved the pale blue dress that she wore in that portrait, and I have it still…. The funny thing about this picture is that she looks so meek and mild, whereas she was a real tomboy and daredevil as a kid. The tales she used to tell me would make your hair raise–my poor Grandmother! 😛
Later in life, when she was a professor, she had a book published in Madrid that is still used in Spanish-language graduate schools around the world. It compares the American author William Faulkner with the Spanish author of the Spanish Civil War era, Luis Martin Santos. Their works had many similar elements and the authors influenced each other, a fact that had not been detected before my Mother’s research, which also uncovered a previously-overlooked correspondence between them. Here is the portrait that was taken for the book jacket:
She retained so much of her youthful beauty, to my eyes. But in her entire life she placed much more value on education, accomplishments, and family than what she considered to be a mere lucky genetic break in the looks department. Here’s the book cover:
And the back of the cover:
As you can probably tell, my Mother was a tough act for her only daughter to follow! 😛 But she was such a very aspirational role model, and such a loving mother. ❤
I was a lucky daughter! 🙂