The Story Behind Style

[Carola’s beautiful mother]

The ladies and gentleman I photograph always have great stories to tell. Oftentimes they will have things in their wardrobes that they have kept for many years. These special items carry with them, memories of the past. The other day Carola asked if I would like to see some Chinese coats that her mother had passed down to her. We met up in a small city park and I took a few shots of her in her mother’s coats. As a girl Carola always looked forward to special gifts from her mother.I asked her to share some words about her mother below:

Our mother, Emily Hahn, was a dazzling, beautiful adventurer and writer. She had spent some time in Hollywood as a screenwriter and then, on a trip around she discovered Shanghai. She stayed in China for 9 years, teaching and writing. She had a love affair there with a Chinese poet and when this relationship deteriorated she met my father who was stationed in Hong Kong as a British intelligence officer. I was born from this passion. At the behest of my father, who feared for our lives and who had been imprisoned by the Japanese after being badly wounded in the battle of Hong Kong, my mother and I took a refugee ship to New York. We were joined there by my father after Japan surrendered at the end of World War II and he was able to escape from his prison camp when the prison guards abandoned it.

While my mother survived some war years in Hong Kong, she told me that a fur lined chinese robe kept her warm through savage weather and deprivations of food and heat.

My mother was not vain and she enjoyed a life of the mind. Still, her glamor and beauty touched me I remember the gifts my mother would bring back to my sister and me from New York. We lived in England at this time, after my father came to get us in New York and bring us to his home in the English countryside. She brought us dresses. My favorites were a billowy skirted white dress with red roses scattered over it and a persian turquoise summer dress spangled with gold stars. These dresses remain in my memory linked to Rome, city of gold and apricot, where my mother had taken me at the perfect age of 14, for a Roman holiday!
  • What an amazing story. So beautiful. He memories are full of such life in spite of the difficulty they must have endured. Such an abiding spirit is a gift. May she keep her beautiful memories with her always.

  • Wonderful! I want to read her – whole – story now.

  • Love the story Ari, and the way spirit and memory are woven into clothes. More?

  • Nan

    Oh what a beautiful story I really enjoyed this post. You have the most amazing women on here.

  • Carola is beautiful and I loved her story!

    The Styleseer

  • Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh you have me in tears of joy again!!!

  • Wonderful story and beautiful clothes.

  • Stories like that amaze me. I have a grandmother who I feel so lucky to have as a part of my life. She lived through WWII and was a part of the French Resistance. She has such spirit and has done so many amazing things. I really hope I can honor how fully she lives life by doing the same with my own.

  • Mary in Austin

    Emily Hahn was a great writer! I love her books. She led an extremely adventurous life.

  • Rebecca

    Ari, you have done such a wonderful service to us all – bringing so many fascinating and beautiful people to our attention. I love your blog and can't wait for the book!

  • What a beautiful story Carola shared with us all. Just wonderful and she is is just beautiful too. thanks for this post, it brightened my spirits. Regards to Carola!…and you to Ari.:)

  • Carola and her mother are stunning women, and obviously share a love of beautiful clothing. What a great story!

  • Wow. what a lovely story 🙂

  • I want a kimono – this is a very special story. In my journalistic experience I have also interviewed several older people and have remained entranced by their stories of the past, of their world, of their memories. That is why your blog is so special – you bring respect back to the older generation.

  • beautiful story. lovely lady.

  • Such a beautiful story. She and her mother are beautiful too. I love it when clothes are not merely garments, but pieces of history that tell an interesting tale with each wearing.

  • Oh I absolutely adore this blog. She is very stunning and I'm glad you shared her story.

  • What a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. It's always nice to hear a person's memories from a happy time. She is so lucky to have such an eventful life. =)

    ~ Kieli ~

  • Wonderful! I read Emily Hahn's autobiography several months ago and was entranced by her story. It's a treat seeing Carola today!

  • A gorgeous woman with beautiful style! So many people have true stories that could be fabulous movies.

  • What beautiful photographs. I have a deep plum coloured boucle cardigan which I pinched from my mother – it isn't a very glamourous item but I love it for all sorts of reasons.

    In my opinion Advanced Style is the most uplifting daily read, each one of your posts could be the start of a novel (particularly this one) – long may you continue.

  • Maria de Jesus – Brazil

    This lady are so wonderful! I am a huge fan of yours and them.

  • What a story – romantic and very truthfull.

  • Amazing!