Sunday, October 17, 2010

Looking your Best



As far as I remember my mother repeatedly told her daughters they should never leave the house without looking their best. In her book, looking your best includes fashionable clothes and shoes, make-up and jewelry.

After being hospitalized ten times two years ago, Mom moved to an assisted living facility. She used a wheelchair to move around, had to raise her legs most of the day, inserted an oxygen tube in her nose to breathe better…and swallowed so many pills my stomach hurt for her.

Looking your Best. My mother practiced what she preached. Mom was always perfectly well dressed in pantsuits, and twin sweaters, and would never forget to wear her earrings, bracelets, necklace or rings. There was a beauty salon in her building. So Mom had her hair set and her nails done once a week. Salesmen from a couple of stores came twice a month to sell clothes to the residents of the assisted living facility. My mother was their best client. Although she was a professor before retiring, my mother’s hobby had always been fashion designing and sewing her clothes and her daughters’ clothes. Before moving to assisted living, she gave us her precious jewelry, and bought fashion jewelry to replace the expensive pieces.

My mother professed that being nicely dressed and jeweled helped her forget she was a very sick person, confined to her wheelchair or recliner. The other residents complimented her and tried to emulate her. The assisted living staff admired her positive attitude, and the compliments of an old gentleman filled her with pride.

If I forgot to wear makeup when I visited, Mom asked me if I was sick. When I explained I was too busy to pay attention to my appearance, I regularly received a lecture. Basically, it went as follows: I didn’t have the right to neglect myself when I was healthy; I should realize that an agreeable face and a nice smile went a long way to cheer people confined to their living quarters. A presentable person projects a good impression and commends respect.

Mom died two weeks ago. Everyone remembers her lovely smile.

Needless to say, I’m always aware of what people wear around me. Including my characters. While authors describe their hero and heroine’s eyes, hair, figure, I always have to describe their clothing as well to better characterize them and situate them in a scene.

In TO LOVE A HERO, my heroine, Dr. Cecile Lornier is a career woman. You will find her dressed in dark suits that match her profession of serious scientist. When she’s attracted to General Sergei, she will let Tania, her sassy Russian driver, influence her into buying more stylish, colorful outfits and of course a Russian mink chapka (hat) to warm her during the freezing Belarusian winter.

In FRENCH PERIL, the heroine, Cheryl Stewart, is a young graduate student practically living in jeans and t-shirts. Yet to attract the handsome count François, she won’t hesitate to follow his sister Marilène’s advice and buy a Frenchy black dress.

In BABIES IN THE BARGAIN, my first medical, Holly, the pretty resident lives in scrubs but wears a tight long black dress, slit up to her thigh, when the hero invites her to the opera. The dress is a killer and the hero can’t resist.

In Rx FOR TRUST, my heroine, Dr. Olivia Crane is a psychiatrist, a university professor and a single mother. At work, she favors professional suits and classic silk shirt, but as soon as she is home she changes into a velvet pantsuit that matches the color of her eyes. The French hero, Dr. Luc George dreams of seeing her in sexy shorts or sophisticated short dresses.

I have given examples of heroines. Yet the same goes for my heroes.

Are you a fashionista when it comes to your characters? How do you dress them? Do they look like the picture on your cover? Or do you avoid mentioning what they wear?

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32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mona, I'm so sorry to hear about your mother's death. She was a beautiful woman. And your post did just motivate me to go put on a smidge of makeup before I went out to run errands (still dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, but still...).

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Very nice post, Mona. The parts about your Mom tugged at my heart strings. :)

Carolyn Hughey said...

Mona, what a beautiful tribute to your mother. I loved reading that she had a positive attitude until the very end.

You do have beautiful memories of a beautiful woman. Thank you so much for sharing a piece of your life with us. And now people see your mother through you because you radiate the same beauty.

And yes, your characters come alive on pages as elegantly dressed. :-)

P.S. You

liana laverentz said...

What a lovely tribute to your mother, Mona. I'm one who rarely pays attention to what I wear when I run out for errands. There are women at church your mother's age who look just as beautiful as she did, all the time. Now I understand more about why. Thank you for sharing, and God Bless you and your family. Love and hugs,

Keena Kincaid said...

I teared up at your tribute to your mother, Mona, and instantly felt guilty for all the times I run out without paying a bit of attention to what I'm wearing. When I was younger, I wouldn't have left a burning building without being done up, even if it was just t-shirt and jeans.

My characters vary in what they wear or how much attention they pay to their looks, although in historicals there's not a lot of options for make-up or clothing styles. So I pay more attention to how they wear their hair or the quality of the fabric and sewing for their clothes.

Sheila Tenold said...

Mona, your mother's view on dress reminded me of my mother who passed away last year. Every day she wore coordinated outfits, makeup and her hair styled. That didn't end even with her lose of memory due to Alzheimer's Disease. She loved to "sparkle" in a crowd.

My characters' clothes are important to me too. I leaf through magazines to find that perfect dress for my heroine. One that knocks the hero's socks off!

Emma Leigh said...

Excellent post, Mona. What a tribute to your mom. I'm sorry for your loss.

Joanne said...

Oh, Mona, what a lovely post. It brought tears to my eyes, looking at the lovely pictures of your mother. She was a beautiful lady, and took such pride in her appearance.

My Mom is 81 years old and she is the same way. She is 5 feet tall and would never think of leaving the house without wearing a high heel shoe, although she cannot walk well anymore.
Thanks for sharing!

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Mona, What a great tribute you are to your mother. You can see by the look of pride in her eyes as she sits with your book in her hands that she was proud of your writing career and I am certain with your children as well. I know your accomplishments never cease to amaze me.

Like you, I had a mother who always had to 'put her face on' and we used to wait hours for her to do this when we wanted to go someplace. She looked her best even when pulling weeds. I wish I had her style, but that just isn't me.

Jean Drew said...

Nice post Mona, A worthy tribute to your mother. I don't pay half enough attention to what my heroines are wearing, so I guess it's time to change that. I remember seeing an interview with Princess Grace who admonished her chidren for not looking their best. She said, "Other people have to look at you." How true.
Jean

Judy said...

Wonderful blog, Mona. I felt your pain as I read through it. My grandmother was very much like your mother and loved to copy all the top styles by designing and sewing her own for herself, her daughters from time to time and her five granddaughters... Thanks for sharing

Barbara Monajem said...

What a lovely post, Mona. It was wonderful to see pictures of your mom.

I don't mention clothing, jewelry, etc. it in my books unless they're significant to the story. This is more often the case with historicals.

Jill James said...

Mona, a lovely tribute to your mother. My mom didn't even go to the grocery store unless she was pulled together.

Your post really got me thinking about our characters and what they wear and why. thank you.

Autumn Jordon said...

Mona, You have me choled up. What a wonderful post. Your mother was and is proud of you.

And you're so, I often wonder why some authors forget the little details, like clothing.

(((HUGS))) AJ

Mona Risk said...

Dear anonymous, I smiled when I read that my post inspired you to look at yourself in the mirror and add makeup. LOL

Mona Risk said...

Dawn, I still see my mother all the time in my mind. The pain is still raw.

Mona Risk said...

Thank you Carolyn, I know you went through the same pain a couple years ago.

Mona Risk said...

Liana, I thought about you this morning when I spent the day volunteering to bake cookies--me cookies, LOL. It's not a soup kitchen, but it's a starting point.

Mona Risk said...

Keena, I read historicals when I want to relax and love learning about their clothing, chemise, petticoats, pantaloons, and others...

Mona Risk said...

Sheila, I see that we have several things in common here. Our moms, dressing up our heroines, and looking through magazines for appropriate clothing. LOL

Mona Risk said...

Thank you Emma Leigh. My Mom's passing is too recent for me to write anything without mentioning her.

Mona Risk said...

Oh Joanne, tell your mother to be careful and hold a cane. It's safe AND elegant. Falling is so horrible for older people.

Mona Risk said...

Marlene, don't put yourself down. You have a lot of style. It's your style and it suits you.

Mona Risk said...

Jean, I was a great admirer of Princess Grace. Thanks for sharing that bit about her.

Mona Risk said...

Judy, can you sew? Mom taught me, but I always needed her to fix things so I could wear them without embarrassment.

Mona Risk said...

Barbara, I love your historical and the book cover is so pretty, I imagine your heroine wearing that dress.

Lilly Gayle said...

Your mother was a truly remarkable lady. My condolences on her passing.

Mary Marvella said...

Mona, now I understand where you got your lovely fashion sense. Your mom did a good job with you in more ways than one. Her goodness shines through.

Mama loved wild prints and wanted to dress us in them. I prefer solid colors but a lot of jewelry.

Mama, her mama, and I were all named Mary, how funny is that? We all loved reds and brilliant pinks. Our mamas sound similar.

My daughter is finally letting some of her conservative tastes go and wearing red! About time. She never leaves the house unless she's perfect!

Joan Leacott said...

A tender tribute for your mom, Mona. I wish I'd met her on of my trips to Florida. As I've sewn everything from winter coats to wedding dresses, I'm always conscious of my heroine's clothes, especially the party gowns.

Mona Risk said...

Thank you, Lilly.

Mona Risk said...

Mary, you are lucky your daughter followed the tradition. Mine has still to learn that. She's always in black!!

Mona Risk said...

Joan, I can't believe you never met her. I don't remember how. You would have loved talking clothes with her. Mom said she never breathed better than at Macys!!