Note: This is an article I wrote for the Huffington Post a few years ago. The holidays make for a good time to revisit the story.
She moved with purpose and joy. The ultimate hostess welcoming everyone into a perfectly decorated home. At ten years of age, I had never seen such beautiful china, mesmerizing paintings, or heard music in a living room from a baby grand piano. Mrs. L.T. Burns of Wichita Falls, Texas was a legend during my childhood and I was in her home.
In 1954, the Burns began to place lights and displays on their lawn at Christmas. Every year it grew bigger and lines became longer. Some years, she would join Santa in welcoming the crowds and handing out candy canes to the children. My memories include her smiles and lovely coats, coveted by my mother every year of her life. One year, my church choir was caroling in front of the house when unexpectedly, Mrs. Burns invited us in for cookies. I soaked in each decoration, each kind word spoken, and the music played accompaniment as the queen of our town greeted every person in the room. Her Christmas legacy was eventually donated to the local college, Midwestern University, and is called the “MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights” where her memory lives on each holiday season.
Mrs. Burns’ left behind an impeccable personal style noted by joy, compassion, and generosity. So many women balk at the phrase “personal style.” Most often they are only thinking of models in Vogue rather than the legacy left behind, but our style has everything to do with that legacy. In The Power of Style by Annette Tapert and Diana Edkins (Copyright 1994), ten women are profiled for “transforming their existence into a living work of art.” They selected women who lived with discipline, a sense of humor, resourcefulness, originality, verve, fearlessness, and intelligence. Women who left powerful legacies to inspire us all.
The authors remind readers it is less important to have money and more important to have purpose, for style so often is birthed from resilience over heritage. These are women who dress for every occasion…every time they leave the house… simply because they dress for themselves and no one else. They have an appreciation for the unexpected and how events work together. They do not fear what lies ahead.
I did not begin to care about my personal style until after fifty. Now, how I will be remembered is something I consider. Each encounter every day is a part of my style. Each message I communicate with my dress, as well as, my words are a part of my style. Yet, it is important to note, style is just as much about our insides as what we wear and our home décor on the outside. An excitement for each day and decisions about how to impact others are components of style. The truth is we all have a style whether we like it or not. Perhaps, now is the time to consider what your current style looks like. If it transforms into a living work of art, what do the brush strokes say?
Stylist and television personality, Stacy London, writes, “Style is transformative.” I agree and know this to be true. At fifty, I transformed from a depressed, dowdy, uninspired woman to a joyful, driven, diligent, purposeful one who hopes to leave a legacy of smiles just as Mrs. Burns in Texas did. A 10 year old girl may be watching, and I know my five grandchildren will be.. I have studied fashion and myself so much over the last 15 years, I developed my own formula for a personal style. I know one thing for sure…it is never too late to begin to leave a purposeful legacy full of fun. Mrs. Burns’ legacy centered around Christmastime, so perhaps this is the perfect time for many to begin again.
KEEP SMILING, IT IS A PART OF OUR LEGACY!