Friday, October 25, 2013

My Grandmother's Leather Legacy

Jacket (vintage Montgomery Ward); Wool Plaid Dress (Willi Smith, TJ Maxx); Carnelian Necklace (Steinmart); Bag (Ellepi, Marshalls); Boots (Ralph Lauren, Zappos)
Other than my wedding dress, this milk chocolate nubuck leather jacket is probably the most significant garment I've ever owned.  You see, it belonged to my grandmother, Dorothy, and wearing it gives me a visceral connection to her even though she passed more than twenty years ago.  It's been far longer than that since we passed long hours together in the back room of the home my grandpa built, playing Black Beauty and noshing on homemade apricot butter slathered on long, thin strips of toast carefully placed on bright Fiesta Ware from the nearby china hutch.  She always cut her toast into strips instead of on the diagonal like most people.  I don't know why, but somehow those narrow little slithers of crisp white bread were better that way.  I can almost taste the apricot buttery goodness as I write this...

But, back to this gem of a leather jacket, for which I have this blog to thank!  The jacket was passed along to me this summer after my Aunt Linda found it while cleaning out closets in her own home.  She regularly keeps up with my blog, and as a result thought I might be interested in the vintage piece. Words can't adequately describe the emotion I felt when my mom presented it to me at a family reunion in August, or the joy I felt when I slipped it on over my sundress to discover that it fit me like a glove.  Thank you, Aunt Linda!

Like me, my grandmother appreciated quality things, and kept and enjoyed those she most treasured for years and years.  So, I suppose it's not terribly surprising that the jacket was in pristine condition; the leather still supple and velvety; the contrast stitching tight; the Montgomery Ward tag unsoiled.  But then again, considering she got the jacket new in the 1940s, its condition is actually astonishing.  I mean, really, this jacket is approximately 70 years old! 

I didn't remember her ever wearing it - she'd probably outgrown her "leather jacket phase" by the time I was born, though she was always a stylish dresser and I distinctly recall her penchant for purses to match every outfit (just one of so many things we have in common).  My Aunt Linda remembered the jacket well, however, and relayed that grandma wore the jacket regularly in the 1940s and 50s.  In particular, she often wore it with jodhpurs and knee high boots on Friday evenings to accompany my grandfather to the motorcycle races!  I knew my grandparents as Buick driving bowlers in their later years, so it was beyond cool to get this glimpse of their younger selves.  

Cropped leather jackets are en vogue this Fall, so I was excited for weather crisp enough to wear it, and knew from the moment I tried it on in August that I'd pair it with an autumnal plaid. As fate would have it, Aunt Linda was an avid photographer in her youth, and a bit of searching through boxes of old photographs uncovered an image she captured of grandma wearing the jacket in the 1950s while walking with their collie (below).  To my delight, she also wore the jacket with a classic plaid.  My grandma had good taste.  

It makes me proud to hear my mom recount the many ways I remind her of my grandma.  I hope my grandma would be proud of me, too.
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!


  1. Grandma was always proud of you and I'm sure she would be so pleased to know you share her love of clothing, shoes and handbags and that you are wearing her jacket!

  2. The story behind that jacket is amazing, and I love that you also have a picture of her wearing it! Not that many pieces of clothing are kept within the family for nearly 3/4 of a century! That's a treasure.

    1. Thanks so much, Rachel! Wearing the jacket feels like a continuous hug from the exquisite woman that was my grandmother. I appreciate you taking the time to read and share your feedback

  3. Jody this is wonderful and made me cry! Your grandmother is living on in you my dear! You have definitely inherited her fabulous style and good taste! Look forward to your postings!

  4. Thanks, Debbie. I really appreciate your feedback and kind words. This post, in particular, was really gratifying to write.

  5. Wow that's such an awesome one of a kind side by side picture simply lovely!