Diving into the past surely is made of shades and layers, of memories and new discoveries. Preserving the past goes beyond preserving the beauty and aesthetics of an era. For preserving the past is much more about preserving past values, past ideas and past rituals.
Preserving the past felt like entering a bygone world, which suddenly seemed to be real again. During my many research hours, I met my deceased grandaunt through her bequeathed photographs, clothing, furnishings, even through her vinyls and sewing set. Although I admittedly did not know her too well before her death, it feels like her passing brought me much closer to her persona and thereby discovering a new icon and idol.
Mary indeed was an icon, ahead of her time yet in love with old habits, the mountains, her two-eyed Persian cat and the elegance of getting dressed. She has also been a keen collector, which I only found out the day I’be had the chance of browsing her huge wardrobe, filled with treasures of all kinds.
To me, Mary is an icon for her style was so different and remarkable from the rest. She loved sewing too and once even had the chance of presenting her own creations to some local fashion boutiques. But Mary is not only an icon because of her unique taste and tendency towards old-fashioned grace mixed with modernist details. She most certainly is an icon because of her strength and love towards the good life.
For instance, Mary never had any intention of getting married and being dependent on any man, for she decided to allow her most handsome boyfriend Frank to live in her beautiful home, which was furnished again with her elegant taste, and had the most romantic garden, which was again filled with joys and flowers of all kinds.
According to the many photographs, Frank used to be a dear one to her. She seemed to be very much in love with him, which I can totally relate to. Yet, she did not marry him, which may have been a good decision, for she forever wanted to be herself and be free-spirited. Mary loved spending time with her friends up in the mountains, but then also loved spending afternoons at home, sewing some fancy dress or listening to some traditional folk on her handmade vinyl player, which I gladly own since her death.
I was indeed very astonished not to find a single classical symphony in Mary’s vinyl collection, which would have fit her elegant style perfectly, but as I discovered again through her leftovers, Mary was not only different but beyond that she was diverse and filled with surprises.
On the one hand Mary seemed to have a cold heart, at least according to strangers and acquaitances, but according to her own writings and her close friend’s stories, she seemed to be very good-hearted and sensitive, which is something I too felt later in her life, when visiting her every now and then. I do remember how she has been most thankful for everyone appearing at her annual birthday parties and at the same time, how sad she was when everyone left after the tea party.
Another ritual from her pasttime was creating diversity, which has been visually manifested in the modifications and extravagant details she loved adding to her coats, hats and bags. While every historian’s heart might bleed, she also modified her magnificient antique beds, in order to make them appear more contemporary. That again proves she had been a collector of her own taste, a collector of diversity, and a collector not driven by the influence of others. And I’m convinced if Mary would still be alive, she’d be a figure that’d be loved on Instagram. Perhaps she was an early influencer, for she walked her path with pride and style, being an icon then and now.
Gladly enough I’ve managed to rescue all of Mary’s closet, which was filled with beautiful old treasures tasting like her fashion sense, which I’m now trying to bring back to life. I don’t dare thinking of were the clothes would have ended up if I didn’t get to rescue and reuse them. They would have been buried at a graveyard forever and longer, just like her body was. Instead, I’m aiming to preserve the gone, to preserve the old values, the old fabrics, and in the end the old life. Preserving the past is about becoming aware and conscious about where we have been and where we want to go in the future.
Special thanks to Mary for her most beautiful birthday parties and her soul watching us hopefully.