Alice Carey Reflects on Her Mother’s Vintage Dress

Each time I get together with Alice Carey, she pulls out the most marvelous pieces of clothing from her wardrobe. Alice has a way with clothes– she can swiftly turn an old men’s suit jacket into the most elegant coat, just by adding a few bakelite buttons and a brooch. This past weekend Alice was dying to show me a dress of her mother’s that she brought back from Ireland. Check out her story below and for more of  her writings you can find her book HERE.

wanted Ari to photograph me in this dress for a long time.  You see it
was my Mother’s, and it’s the only thing of hers that I own.  So a few
weeks ago I brought it to New York from Ireland, where she was born.

The buttery yellow Irish linen, made even more buttery from the sun as I
examine it here on the bed, hasn’t faded.  The Deco styling echoes the
1920s and made me think of the Empire State Building.  And on closer
inspection, it appears to be handmade with the exception of the help of a
sewing machine for belt hooks, two snazzy ‘V’ darts running from bust
to waist and repeated down from the shoulders.  Also two similar lines
from waist to just above the hem that must have given kick room to show
off shoes – perhaps brown and white spectators.  Everything else seems
to be hand sewn.

It’s just a dress. Yes.  Worth several hundred dollars in a Vintage
store today.  Yet, I’m left with thinking, who was that young woman
(younger than I am now) who made this dress?  I don’t know.  My Mother
died when I was barely out of my teens.  When I was a child, one didn’t
ask about the past.  It would have been rude.  So the young woman who
made that dress, wasn’t the mother I knew who worked as a maid for the
rich.  And so the memories I’m left with are those of her clothes,
always bought at the great New York department stores – Bonwits,
Bergdorfs, Altmans, Tailored Women.  On sale of course.  Then again,
wearing a Hattie Carnegie to Mass no one knew the difference but she and

  • What a very touching piece. I don't have Alice's experience of trying to put together a picture of my mother from her clothes, but I can imagine how poignant that must be. Thanks again for gracing my day with another bright shaft of beauty and individuality.

  • I wish I could have your panache, and be photograph by Ari one day.

  • Alice's mother's dress looks beautiful on her. A lovely story behind the dress too. I just purchased her book. Thank you for sharing.

    ps. your blog is one of my favorites

  • Alice is one of my favourite Advanced Style ladies – she has such a strong look, such an innate sense of style.Beautiful.

  • Ms Carey expresses herself so very well. Clothes and memories can be linked for a long, long time. Hand stitching is precious and precise. As someone old enough to be in your photos, I know.

    Best wishes.

  • Oh I love this lady, and love the green dress.

  • What a wonderful reminder of memories of her Mother's great style which has passed down to Alice!

    2012 Artists Series

  • Just started following this blog. I cannot thank you enough for what you do!! You are bringing beauty and pride to all of us.

    Love this post as well. Ihave quite a few of my mother's and grandmother's clotes. Just wearing them makes me remember and treasure them!

  • What a beautiful dress! ANd love those designer accessories

  • So chic. So dashing. This is "Our Ms. Carey." I love her attention to details, not only in her clothing and accessories, but in her story-telling, too.

  • The Salvation Army Thrift Shop is loaded with men's coats in excellent condition. Alice Carey is brilliant to change the buttons and add a brooch. I'm on the prowl now for a coat for myself. And, if I look carefully, I might also find an inexpensive blouse with the perfect buttons.

  • These ladies are simply immaculate! Check out these discounted authentic designer handbags to match!

  • Ah Bonwit Teller – what a great store! Shopped in the Boston location many times in college.

  • Anonymous

    What a marvelous story!! I felt like I knew her mother and could learn a lot from her. I have for years not cared how I dressed but now I intend to go out with my style, no one else's and have made several outfits with the style and comfort I like. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • I always look forward to Alice's tales…well done.

  • Very nice dress. she look beautiful 😀