By: Emily Yakashiro
I love fashion, clothes, and observing personal style. I’ve been into clothes and dressing up since I was wee little, and I like to think that oddly, my penchant for all things sartorial comes from my maternal grandma. Now, this is something, because I know you, dear reader, don’t know my grandma, but suffice to say that my grandma is not exactly a chic woman. You would never find her on Advanced Style. She hasn’t worn make-up in years, I’ve never seen her in heels, and she infrequently brushes her hair. In fact, I (very) fondly refer to her as “the Kurt Cobain of Grandmas” because of her amusingly grungy tendencies.
Despite being a tiny lady, my grandma currently favours baggy clothing, and colours decidedly not suited to her fair skin and blue eyes. She has been known to just pick things up that she sees lying around other family members’ houses, and adding whatever she found to her outfit without asking first (in the picture below, the sunglasses she is wearing she borrowed without permission from one of my sister’s friends because she found them lying around my family’s house one day). She does, however, love scarves, and all things plaid–I attribute that to her Scottish & Irish background.
Above is me (left), my stepsister, and my Grandma.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my grandma’s style. She wouldn’t be caught dead in a Chanel pantsuit or pearls, and she very, very rarely buys any clothing first hand, but I still count her as a major influence on my style. Here’s why.
1. My grandma taught me how to thrift.
Some of my earliest memories of my grandma is going to thrift stores with her. My grandma is a champion thrifter. She got most of me and my sister’s dress-up clothes growing up at thrift stores, ditto for Halloween costumes. She taught me, my cousins, and my aunts (and continues to remind me–she calls me 3 times a week usually) that there is no shame in thrifting-only a good bargain. Thrifting means finding great clothes for cheaper, and finding something unique. Additionally, thrifting is a good way to experiment with items you wouldn’t normally wear. If you have never thought of a pencil skirt, why would you ever buy it first hand when you can easily find one for $3 at a thrift store?
2. If you like something, buy it en masse.
This one lives in infamy in my family. My grandma has but a few hobbies, and one of them is shopping at thrift stores and Superstore, so we all have about 100 pairs of socks, plenty of undershirts, and scarves like you would not believe. But the lesson here rings true: if you find something you like, buy it in bulk. I wear a lot of black skirts–I have four black bandage/pencil skirts, because I wear them a LOT, and I don’t want to have to do laundry that often. 1 of them is from a thrift store, 1 is from a consignment store, and the last two were on sale at the same store (again, bargain hunting lessons courtesy of Grandma!).
3. For the love of God, accessorize.
It has not been uncommon in my younger years where I walk in the door, and Grandma frowns at my outfit, then disappears into her bedroom for a while, returning with a scarf or a hat telling me, “here, Emily, why don’t you put these on?” Message received. I dress modestly around the grandparents, so she’s not telling me to cover up. She’s hinting that I need to accessorize. In the pic above, everything (and I mean everything but my underwear) is from a thrift store–note the scarf and the brooch.
4. Wear what you want.
Like I said, my Grandma regularly flouts every fashion-related rule. But the effect is quite something. No, not in a Anna Piaggi kind-of-a-way, but just relatively interesting for an older woman. She doesn’t give a damn in any way, shape, or form for anyone’s opinion for what she is wearing but her own. I have literally begged her in past years to wear nice shades of lavender and rose, and her daughters (my mother and aunts) have tried several times to buy her sharp little outfits for her birthday or whatever, but to no avail.
5. Layer up.
My Grandma grew up in the prairie provinces of Canada, and if you know anything about that region of the world, you’ll know that the winters are cold. I think the habit of dressing warm never left her, even though she has lived in the relatively-mild province of BC for decades now. Nevertheless, my Grandma has kept our whole family well-clad in scarves, gloves, mittens, hats, toques, etc, for as long as I can remember. The tights I am wearing in the picture above are from my Grandma as well. She’s been buying me tights and socks to wear under skirts, pants, whatever, as long as I can remember, lest I catch a cold.
6. Remember where you came from.
Above is the Smith family tartan which I found here. My Grandma’s mother was from the Smith clan, so there you go. I mentioned above that my grandma is very fond of plaid, and it shows. In the picture of her in the red jacket, she is wearing a plaid scarf. Also, my Grandma wears three rings on her ring finger. Only one is hers–the rest are from women in her family who have passed on. I think it’s lovely that my Grandma always wears those rings to remember women from her family.
7. Express yourself as you see fit.
My grandma’s style is just one thing I adore about her. I won’t go into detail here, but suffice to say that I get my strong personality and outspoken nature from her. This last lesson isn’t so much a lesson as it is an anecdote about how awesome my grandma is:
About a year ago my grandma was at the MCC thrift store buying scarves, hats, mittens, etc, for “the girls” (by “the girls,” she means some of the sex workers in my hometown), which is something she does quite often. She donates them to one of the outreach centres there. At any rate, here she was buying scarves, and one of the women (also a senior like my Grandma) who was volunteering as a cashier kindly asked my grandma why she was buying so many winter accessories. Grandma explained. Apparently, the cashier got very uppity, and said some very strong words to my Grandma, tantamount to “those women got what they deserved, it is their fault that they are there!” Now, my Grandma is nothing if not a progressive thinker. She apparently gave the lady a wicked stink eye (and believe me, her stink eyes are EPIC) and said coldly, “Let’s just say we will have to agree to disagree,” and walked out. Awesome.