When I was six I moved to Palm Beach, Florida with my Mom. Now, Palm Beach in the mid-1980s was one of the four Jet Set destinations in the world, the places to be. My Mom and I found ourselves there only because that’s where my uncle lived. And I was too young to understand why anyone would need to be anywhere anyway. My Mom was in real estate. She showed me Trump’s Mar-O-Lago mansion which used to be the old Post estate (of the cereal fortune). I saw where the Kennedys had a home, where Estée Lauder lived a few months a year, and the Breakers Hotel where my eight year old mind envisioned my future wedding.
But my years with my Mom in Palm Beach gave me much more than a list of ‘extravagant properties seen’. Being a single parent at the time, my Mom had to find less expensive ways to keep up with the 1980s huge shoulder pads and floral silk blouses while still blending in to the lavishness of Palm Beach society. We couldn’t afford to shop on Worth Avenue, (Palm Beach’s answer to Rodeo Drive & 5th Avenue) even if she handled many of the shop leases on the famous street. She had to find an alternative.
The alternative came in the form of two French sisters who began a resale/consignment shop just off Royal Poinciana Way, the island’s main thoroughfare. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of their little store. But I do vividly recall these two French sisters teaching my Mom all the Coco-inspired lessons of indelible, classic, elegance. By osmosis, sitting on the floor of the change room watching my Mom go over the rules in her head as she tried on the Haut Couture labels on sale for a fraction of their original price, I learned them too.
With these ten basic rules you can literally give away your entire wardrobe (save for what you love to lounge around the house in) and liberate yourself and your style from those piles and piles of clothes in your closet and drawers that you haven’t touched in years and don’t know exactly what to do with. It’s just clutter, clogging your space and your sense of style.
1. Own a navy, black and/or beige skirt/ pants.
2. Own a cream silk blouse. Actually own a few, you can never have enough.
3. Own two or three blazers that match all your skirts/pants in #1.
5. Own great quality shoes in black, navy, cream, brown. A sensible heel is much more stylish than a wobbling woman.
6. Own a cardigan or two in base colors (the colors in #1).
7. Own one fabulous eye-catching necklace, a cocktail ring and several pairs of great earrings. Gold or silver. But keep the metals uniform when you wear them.
8. Own one great fashion medium-size handbag in a base color.
10. Own at least one black dress that falls either at the knee or tea length.
With this you have an entirely self-sufficient wardrobe. Everything can mix and match with everything else. From here you can fill in the categories if you wish, accessorize a bit more, but these are the basics and essentially all you need.
I often wonder if those sisters are still in their store in Palm Beach. I don’t think so, given that they were already in their late 50s when I was between 7 and 10 years old, making them at least somewhere in their late 70s now. But maybe. I think I’ll go back sometime, so my French husband can see where I got my first taste of French culture. And we’ll have lunch at Chuck & Heralds, if it’s still around, to complete my stroll down memory lane.