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Older sister had a passion for fashion

Mary, as a teenager, without even a hint of fashion sense. She is wearing saddle shoes and a middy blouse and her hair is styled in "bunches" (a pony tail above each ear). She is sitting on our lawn beside the family cat and dog. In the companion photo, taken five or six years later, she is also posing on the lawn, this time stylishly garbed and perfectly coiffed.

When I was a small child, my older sister, Mary, seemed like a fairytale princess to me. When I was a youngster of seven, she was a sophisticated young woman of 19, employed in the Picton business office of Bell Canada. She left for work each morning, smartly attired and impeccably groomed.
Born to shop, Mary frequently spent much of her pay cheque on new clothing. Her closet was jammed with stylish suits, smart dresses, billowing dirndl skirts and peasant blouses. In addition, she owned several “formals”, glamourous evening gowns intended for special occasions.
My sister’s fondness for fashion was not limited to clothing. She had a great weakness for well-designed pieces of costume jewellery. In fact, her enthusiasm for it prompted Picton jeweller Duncan D’Esterre to place her on his ” be sure to call list.” Each time a striking piece of jewellery came into his shop, he would telephone Mary to suggest that she might like to see it. Invariably, she came, she saw, she purchased.
Although Mary’s room was officially off-limits to me, whenever I knew that she was not home I would study the contents of  her jewellery box and try on one or two of the wide-brimmed hats she favoured. I was also intrigued by the colourful nosegays of fabric flowers that she sometimes pinned at the neck of her blouses.
When she was in an especially good mood, my sister sometimes gave me a hat or dress that she was planning to discard and told me I could use it for “lady dress-up.”
Mary’s passion for fashion did not go unnoticed. Frequently, when Picton fashion shows were held, she was asked to be the commentator. Of course, this always required a new dress and another wide-brimmed hat. New shoes were a must as well.
Following her marriage, my sister relaxed her fashion standards, slightly, to raise her children. However, she made it clear that it was always important to wear earrings and mascara. She never left home without them. Her make-up was kept in a small, leather train case that had been a gift from our aunt. I jokingly referred to it as Mary’s “face in a case.”
In her golden years. Mary remained a stylish woman. Sometimes, when I suggested that she cultivate a few outside interests, to avoid concentrating too strongly on her health issues, she would reply that she already had an interest – she emphasized that she was interested in fashion.
When the time came that my sister required foot care, I suggested that she call her local Community Care office for information on where to obtain it. The next time we spoke, she confided that she had followed my advice, but with a twist. Instead of opting for the sort of therapeutic footcare sought by most of her contemporaries, she had gone to a spa. She might still have an in-grown toenail, but it was painted a fetching shade of coral.
Recently, I looked at a photograph of Mary, taken not long before serious health problems forced her admission to a nursing home. Fashionably dressed and elegantly coiffed, she was still a beautiful woman. I noted with a smile that she was also wearing earrings and mascara. The fairy tale princess remembered from my childhood days had been captured by the camera, still complete with crown.

Filed Under: Margaret Haylock-Capon

About the Author: Maggie Haylock is a freelance writer and former newspaper reporter who has co-authored several books with her husband, Alan Capon.

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  1. Ann says:

    Some very nice memories of your sister. She was quite a lovely young woman. I never got to know her very well, but, i enjoyed the time I spent with her. Thanks for sharing these stories.

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