Leaving a Legacy Through Personal Style
She moved with purpose and joy. She was the ultimate hostess, welcoming everyone into a perfectly decorated home. At 10 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 grander 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 playing 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), 10 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 50. 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 in The Truth About Style , “Style is transformative.” I agree and know this to be true. At 50, I transformed from a depressed, dowdy, uninspired woman to a joyful, driven, diligent, purposeful one who hopes to leave a legacy of joy just as Mrs. Burns in Texas did. Maybe a 10-year-old girl is watching.
Please share with us… do you consider your style as part of your legacy?
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