You may have noticed a #FashionFriday post I write every Friday featuring my mom’s designs. Fashion wasn’t just a hobby for her; it was her life. It brings me joy to share her designs—I have hundreds of them!—with others. She used to create outfits for me for every occasion, even for play time. At school, I won “Most Attractive Costume Contest” for Halloween at school every year. In Girl Scouts, my mom really was the hostess with the most as she designed tablescapes, invitations, centerpieces, and even our clothing that would coordinate with whatever theme we had chosen.
She’d always been fascinated with design, even as a child. She would study patterns and fabrics and as she grew older, creating her own new and unusual Avant Garde styles. Inspired by icons like Jackie O. and Elizabeth Taylor with their tailored sophistication, her own designs (in my opinion) are glamorous yet accessible. I think Liz and Jackie would have approved.
Benita Miriam Levinson Charles studied design at school in New York and once she was married, she taught all the design classes at the Boys Club in New York City in the 1950s. My father, her husband, was the house physician at the Boys Club. In her class, the boys learned how to sew, darn socks, and mend tears.
Later, she taught design classes at the Patrick Air Force Base for the Officers’ Wife Club in Cocoa Beach, Florida in the 1960s. Amidst teaching all these classes, she still made time to dress me. When she’d host evening entertainment, she would always design her own hostess gown—and a miniature replica for me. Along with her clothing, she made her own purses and hats with the matching fabric of an outfit.
When we’d travel to places like Spain, France, Greece, Italy, she would wear her own designs and I would too. She was inspired by the places we toured. It was on these travels we acquired so many of the things you see for sale in my store, including some of my mother’s designs from dresses to shoes to purses. It’s hard to explain to people just how vast my collection of my mother’s things is—not only do I have so many of her designed dresses, tops, skirts, and purses; I also have her sketches a far back as childhood.
I think if she had pursued it, she could have had her fashion line. But she loved her life of traveling around the world with her family, and I am lucky enough to share her designs and their individual stories. And that’s really priceless.