This is how I want to remember my mother

style icon

The second Sunday in May is Mother’s Day in Finland

and I decided to celebrate it with another Style Icon post, showcasing the unique style of my very elegant mother.

This is also the only way I can celebrate Mother’s day, as my mother, and my two grandmothers, are no longer with us. My mother passed away after a long illness almost 19 years ago, on Christmas Day, one week before her 55th birthday.

Yes, that makes Christmas a rather sad holiday for me, and yes, it’s tragic when someone dies so young (which is becoming more and more poignant with every passing year, and especially now that I’m just a few weeks away from my own 50th birthday…)

But I don’t want to dwell on the sadness of losing my mother here. I want to celebrate what she gave me: her sense of style.

vintage style

Style is probably the one and only area of life where we connected. What I mean is that my mother and me, we were very different people… as if we were living on different planets, that different. Really, if there wasn’t the obvious family resemblance, I would have thought I had been switched at birth… (in case you’re wondering, I never felt much closer to my father, either.) But this is not about my dysfunctional family and childhood neuroses, so let’s get back to business.

The photo above is from the mid-70’s, and she’s wearing a dress she made herself. She was quite gifted at sewing her own clothes (unlike me, even though I even studied dressmaking), and would often just source the material and make whatever she wanted to wear when she couldn’t find it in the shops. I wish that skill had been passed on to me…

70s fashion

And no, you’re not seeing double here

And this is no photomanipulation. The woman on the left is my mother’s identical twin sister (who is alive and well still today), and my mother (on the right) is again wearing a dress she had made herself. This photo was taken in my aunt’s living room as the two sisters were getting ready to go out with their husbands (this is part of a series of photos, some of which also include the said husbands…) I assume the photo is from the early 70’s, but I couldn’t give you the exact year (obviously, I was quite young then… but, as by 1973 both sisters were divorced, that should give us some sort of a timeframe…)

80s fashion

And the 1980’s…

In retrospect, my mother always managed to avoid the worst fashion faux-pas of the decade, yet look completely current and trendy… Whereas I did it all: the shoulder pads, the ra-ra skirts, the tube tops… no trend was too ridiculous to experiment with, I was a total fashion-victim… No, there are no photos (thank god!); I was a bit camera shy back then.

Anyway, the blue dress above is from 1981, and the black and white jacket and skirt combo below from 1986.

vintage fashion

But even the most elegant woman has her dressed-down moments and days when she can’t be bothered with clothes and make up:

äiti ja tytär

Has your mother influenced your sense of style?


DEDICATION: in loving memory of Ritva L (1 Jan 1942 – 25 Dec 1996)
For more posts on my mother’s style, go to Style Icon


  1. josep-maria badia
    8 May 2015 / 11:31 am

    A wonderful story about your mother, a sentimental and beautiful story. A very elegant and beautiful mother, and so you say, with great skill for sewing. It reminds me a little history of my mother who was a dressmaker (she taught me to love fashion and elegance) and died because of Alzheimer's. The stories of mothers excite us sensitive people.

    • Tiina L
      11 May 2015 / 7:27 am

      Thank you so much. Yes, our mothers do influence us, don't they? My mother certainly passed on her love of style to me.

  2. Suzanne Carillo
    8 May 2015 / 5:13 pm

    I loved this. You are so lucky that you have a wealth of photos to choose from. My parents hardly took any photos at all. You do look like your Mother's daughter. She looks like she would have been fun to hang out with. My Mom was never really into style that I remember. I think once she had her children she gave up most of that. I am delighted to have and still wear several of the dresses she made prior to getting married. They are a treasure to me. bisousSuzanne

    • Tiina L
      11 May 2015 / 7:30 am

      Thanks, Suzanne. Yes, I have a few albums, and boxes full of photos. And the great thing -or annoying, depending on who you choose to look at it – is that there is not a single photo where my mother looks anything but absolutely gorgeous… even the photos where she's not dressed to the nines…

  3. Tine Jensen
    10 May 2015 / 9:55 am

    Your mum was so beautiful, and very elegant. Sad that you never felt a real connection. But you do look a lot like her!My mum is almost the same age as your would have been, she's made her own clothes too since she was 15. Now she's retired but has started a career as a painter. She still does lots of other things with her hands. To her, expressing herself through dressing has been natural and she's always been extremely stylish. But also very camera shy. I don't have any photos of her! She's still alive, but I would have treasured some from her younger years, in those fabulous dresses and coats that she made. Luckily we now have a very good mother-daughter relationship, but there's been a few rocks to climb on our path! Today I'm focussing on building a strong relationship with my 15-year old daughter. A more harmonious one 🙂

    • Tiina L
      11 May 2015 / 7:36 am

      Thanks, Tine. You know, the first thing anyone (both those who knew her and those who didn't) ever says about my mother is that she was very beautiful and elegant… Oddly, I don't think she herself thought that, even though she enjoyed being photographed and was very conscious of looking her best. What a wonderfully active mother you have! Quite a wonderful role model, I would think.

  4. Rebecca Harasym
    11 May 2015 / 7:37 pm

    What a beautiful post and a lovely way to remember your mother. These pictures are such wonderful memories for you to cherish forever. Your mother was gorgeous and a complete fashion queen! Thank you so much for sharing these special moments!

    • Tiina L
      12 May 2015 / 6:00 am

      Thanks, Rebecca. Yes, my mother was quite a style maven, and very good at reinventing her old outfits, too. I'm doing my best to follow in her footsteps…

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