Alia’s Mother’s Day Tribute: My Mother, a Muse for Life

May 5, 2010 • Lifestyle


1. My maternal grandparents 2. My mom as a child, the only girl with a bunch of boys. 3. Mom's high school senior picture. 4. Mom in her early 20s in pea coat.  5. Mom in hippie gear. 6. Mom and Dad just married. 7. Mom in hip sunglasses with newborn me!

Alia Rajput

It's always fascinating to me how much a mother can influence one's identity, even if there are more differences than commonalities. In terms of fashion, my mother and I couldn't have been more different. The baby and only girl of three, my mother grew up as a prototypical baby boomer with a pair of stylish, jet setting parents and an adorable halo of golden curls. Although clearly her daddy's little princess, she was also a natural tomboy from countless hours of tagging along with her older brothers and cousins. Her mother, an elegant matriarch with bright red finger nails and impeccable taste, may very well have been my mother's guiding light to a fully developed love of fashion. But tragically, my grandmother—my mother's mother who I would never meet—died suddenly when the family was vacationing in Arizona. My mother was only nine years old.

With no shortage of love coming from her father and the rest of her family, my mom continued to grow and thrive during a time of significant change and development. A child of the 50's, she was the definitive impressionable youth. Her style seemed to reflect the changing tide as her cat eye glasses evolved into ironed hair, bell bottoms and floral sheaths. She was a fully fledged flower child in the 60's, and wore the trends of the time effortlessly and with a natural grace. She joined the legions in protesting the Vietnam War at the legendary rally in Washington D.C. She traveled everywhere, from San Francisco to Mexico, allowing her fashion choices to express herself and the incredible life she was experiencing.

Having majored in Anthropology in college, she was forever fascinated by the inner workings of other people and the beauty of different cultures. Her adventures fed that desire somewhat, as did the job she scored at the Field Museum right out of college. But it wasn't until she met my father—a charming, handsome brute from rural India who had already lived in the U.S. for over a decade when they met—did she finally feel like was satiated. At least, for the moment. They shared an appreciation for simplicity and no frills (though my father was a male model in his heyday and actually loves clothes), and decided to wed in a City Hall ceremony, with a big party at the house they had already bought together. My mother wore a turquoise sari and was the very definition of resplendence. I can only hope to one day look that beautiful.

Having never been a very self-involved person, it was easy for my mom to throw herself into motherhood (at least, it looked easy to me as a child!). A mother to three herself, she channeled the unparalleled love and support she received from my grandfather into her own children, two girls and a boy. Immediately from the beginning, I held a conviction similar to hers in that I knew exactly what I wanted and refused to be talked down. But somewhat unlike her, I took an early liking to very girly things, demanding to be put in little pink dresses with matching hats, something my mom was only too happy to oblige. She seemed to bring out a lot of her inner girliness through me, perhaps something that had been stifled for years.
As I got older, the interest in me increased. I would help her pick out what she would wear to work, arrange her jewelry boxes, and accompany her shopping. My sister never really became a girly girl and all my other available relations were boys. So it was really with my mom that my love for fashion truly blossomed. Though her interest in the industry may not have been as strong as mine, she was the one to provide me with outlets in which I could express myself, something more genuine and selfless than I could have ever asked for. Today when I complain that I don't have enough room for all my clothes, bags and shoes, she tries not to smirk. As a university librarian, she fills entire rooms from floor to ceiling with books, and understands what its like to have a passion.

So its in odd ways that we end up resembling our parents. Though my mother has never been a fashionista or as much of a clotheshorse as me, she did pass on the confidence and strength to go after something that you love, and to always express yourself as an individual—values I use everyday as a fashion lover, writer and professional.  And though my mom didn't have the gentle touch of her mother to help steer her through some of the important and formative years of her life, she helped me through mine like a pro: sensitive, understanding, and always, always available. And I only hope I can make her proud by doing the same for my daughter someday. Thank you Mom, for everything!

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One Response to Alia’s Mother’s Day Tribute: My Mother, a Muse for Life

  1. Alia,
    I enjoyed your Mother’s Day tribute.
    You might likewise enjoy my book on the subject “Steal This Style:Moms and Daughters Swap Wardrobe Secrets” (Random House, 2009).

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