Mothers & Heirlooms with Hamilton Jewelers
“It’s very difficult to keep the line between the past and the present.” –Edith Bouvier Beale
Having lived across multiple state lines from my mother for over a decade, there’s a customary order of things she does the minute she steps off the plane and into my home for a visit. First, she hands me a bag of fresh picked mangos from her tree in Florida, followed by a survey of how many Chinese food staples are in my kitchen (and a mental grocery list for our inevitable trip to the Asian food store), and then she digs into her luggage to bring out gifts for the grandkids, and usually something special from her closet for me–a vintage goody bag of sorts, if you will.
Today, in collaboration with Hamilton Jewelers for Mother’s Day, I am sharing family heritage stories from moms about the special items passed down from mother to daughter, along with a few style tips on how to incorporate a vintage piece into your everyday outfits. Hamilton Jewelers (in Princeton, NJ and Palm Beach, FL) is third generation family-owned–so they know a thing or two about heirloom pieces, like this engraved 14k yellow gold swivel locket I’m wearing from the Hamilton Jewelers Gold Classics Collection, perfect for mamas to tuck a special picture and to wear close to your heart.
When I was younger, I used to raid my mother’s closet. (Didn’t we all?)
I remember a perfect pair of wide leg blue jeans, relaxed in that casual-cool 70s way and cropped to her petite frame. There was a stretchy white tube top that I wore as a mini skirt to school whenever I could get away with it. And then there was my fave for playing dress up at home, an elegant two-piece set consisting of a tailored long skirt and matching puff sleeve jacket in an emerald green crepe material that I wore while teetering around in her purple and gold strappy heels.
But perhaps my absolute favorite piece is her tomato red trench coat from 45 years ago, somehow still perfectly preserved and in mint condition, that she passed on to me. I had just gotten married and was preparing for a move out of Miami to Chicago. She came back from the dry cleaners with it in hand, and told me the story of the red trench, which she purchased in Hong Kong in 1974 just before immigrating to the United States with my dad. At the time, the coat was very expensive, but she saved up to buy it because she loved the cut and color, even knowing that she wouldn’t get much use out of it in the tropical pastures of Miami (though she did wear it a few times to the lawyer’s office to apply for her residency).
Whenever I’m in a style rut, I don’t look to buying something new, I look to her and the way she combined classics.
Today, I am sharing a few of my favorite ways to incorporate a vintage piece into your everyday outfits – whether it’s your mom’s trench or Grandma’s vintage brooch – to celebrate the women before us.
ONE // Vintage style jewelry
The generations before us always seemed to have such fun brooches, earrings and rings, don’t you agree? Funky costume jewelry is an easy way to add flair to an outfit, but timeless heirloom pieces like this engraved oval swivel locket in 14k yellow gold from Hamilton Jewelers never go out of style. If you’re in need of Mother’s Day gift ideas, Hamilton Jewelers has an incredible collection of lockets (some styles are engraveable!) that are perfect for that special mama in your life. Each piece from Hamilton Jewelers is luxurious and well-crafted–and, as with any good heirloom, meant to last forever.
TWO // Statement outerwear
Does your mom have a funky fur coat in the back of her closet? Or perhaps one in a brocade jacquard that would do Blair Waldorf proud? Throw on mom’s favorite statement jacket and it will set you apart in a sea of black coats.
THREE // Silk scarves
Want to channel Jackie O or Audrey? Tie your mother’s silk scarf over your head and under your chin for a fun retro style. Or wrap it around your wrist (or your handbag’s top handle) for a pop of color. You’d be surprised at how far a silk scarf can take your OOTD.
I think it was the way my mom wore clothes — that being, she wore them. They didn’t wear her. With her straight-down-the-middle part, high-waist trousers, feminine tailored dresses with soft details like ruffled sleeves and big bows, it’s no wonder my mom’s style is a twist of her coming of age in 1960s Hong Kong and her coming to America adventures in the 1970s. Holding onto what was, but exalting what is.
It’s keepsake pieces like my mom’s red trench coat that stand the test of style over time and tell of stories past. When I don it on chilly spring days, I feel close to her, even though she’s states away. And don’t get me wrong. I love a good trend. God knows, I’ve tried a lot over the years, with the photographic evidence to prove it. But I have to say, you can’t beat a classic, no matter how hard you try. And I have my mom to thank for my love of miniskirts, polka dots, high-waist jeans, and a bold red lip.
T-12 Days to Mother’s Day, but who’s counting?
Do you have a special piece passed down from your mother? Here are some of my favorite stories from #NJMOMs about keepsake style pieces handed down from their mothers, and what makes it so special.
Alpin, @teamrampeen (Kingston, NJ)
I love this one coral necklace my mom kept and gave me! It’s a chunky coral necklace handmade in Turkey, where she is from. She said she never took it off during the summer, so whenever I wear it, it reminds me of my mom in the 70s and sunshine days.
Hilary, @itshilarymorris (Montgomery, NJ)
My mom handed down to me two special furs: one is a fur stole that was her mother’s and has her nickname inside. My mom’s mom was very glamorous and at one point worked for Glamour. There are photos of her all done up, and when I wear the stole, I channel some of that retro glam vibe. And recently, my mom gave me one of her old furs (because she took advantage of Flemington Furs closing to upgrade) which her dad had gifted to her. I don’t think I would ever purchase a fur coat for myself, so it is really special having something from both my mother and grandmother. My daughters love “modeling” with the stole, so I’m sure I’ll pass it down to one of them when they’re older.
Angie, @fabulously.angie (Woodland Park, NJ)
My mom was always very into fashion. She handed down to me one of the most stylish earrings I have ever seen. Only problem was, I was 9. Who at that age appreciates fashion? I thought the earrings were ridiculous looking and threw them out when I was a kid. Now as a grown woman, I want them! The best way I can describe it is something of a futuristic flower. I remember it looking like something straight out of Studio 54, very bold in color. I have been searching high and low for something similar, but haven’t found anything that comes close.
I also had a step-grandmother who passed down to me an amber necklace, which was handmade in her hometown of Rio San Juan, Dominican Republic. The necklace is vintage style, with fossilized bugs still inside the amber beads and a silver drop pendant. Remember Jurassic Park? The movie was filmed in her town, which is known for amber. I always thought she hated me, since I was from another marriage. Eventually, she developed dementia, but for some reason, she remembered only me out of all her biological grandkids. When I wear this amber necklace, I’m reminded of an elegant, strong-willed, and progressive woman who once told me not to sit on her bed. “Never let another woman sit on your bed–they will take your man!” she said. Mind you, I was 7 years old.
Unfortunately my mom and I have a tumultuous relationship. She lives in Puerto Rico and I guess you can say that we are estranged. However, one thing does come to mind... I took my first trip to Walt Disney World with my parents when I was about two years old and my mom kept (and eventually gave me) a personalized Mickey T-shirt with my name on it. It still has my name along with the original graphics, which is over 30 years old—very retro! It’s actually very sweet. It’s not technically an item from her closet, but it’s special to me because it’s something that I still have from my childhood–not to mention Disney is so magical and my kids are obsessed (and one day, this shirt may get passed down to their kids).
When I think of style there are two things that come to mind, classic and trendy. For me, one of my favorites has been a rose gold necklace that my mother passed down to me from my grandmother. It might not be a piece I wear every day, because it's on the fancier side, but when I do, I love how its rose gold accents bring an outfit to life. When I'm wearing it, I know it's the perfect piece for special occasions and it brings back fond memories.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Thank you to Hamilton Jewelers for partnering with me on this post! All opinions are my own.