Why Well-Made Clothes Matter with My Grandma Gen Rosen
My grandma Genevieve Rosen was not impressed I wore jeans and an old Chicago Bulls t-shirt to our family brunch last month. “Put your sweater on before we get out of the car.” my grandma said.
I taught my grandma about Facebook, dating apps (she is still on match.com, 70-85 fellas), Uber, and Britney Spears circa 1999. She taught me about the importance of traveling, speaking up for what I believe in, how to properly curl my hair, and that it’s okay to care about fashion. It can be fun and can make you feel good.
See below for her rally cry to have us all not dress like slobs, why well-made clothes matter, and which decade’s fashion she misses the most.
So, who are you? :)
I was born in Chicago, Illinois, on July 28, 1932. I’m O-L-D. I grew up on the South Side in Hyde Park until 1968. Then we moved North to Lincolnwood, an area a little outside the city. I have been in Lincolnwood ever since.
My mother and father were both born in Chicago. I had one brother, 5 years and 10 months younger than me.
I met my husband in 1953. We had a very brief courtship. We knew each other for 6 weeks and then became engaged. Four months later we were married at the most beautiful Edgewater Beach Hotel. I have 2 children, a daughter Sherry born in 1955 and a son Brad born in 1959.
I had a few jobs. I taught preschool for several years and then I became a travel consultant. I traveled mostly through Europe—many, many countries in Europe. I then did a small bit of Asia and all over the U.S. and Canada and several places in Mexico.
My hobbies now that I’m retired still include traveling. I like partying. I like going out and being with people. I am a people person. I am not one to stay home and feel sorry for myself.
How do you describe your style?
I like good clothes. I don’t like inexpensive clothes; I probably spend too much for things. But my style is fairly simple. I don’t like gaudy looking clothes or super fancy. I like a more tailored look.
How has your style changed throughout the years?
I never wore fancy, fancy clothes. I always wore classic, simple clothes. I like things to look smart—what I feel looks smart-looking for me.
What was your favorite decade in terms of fashion?
That I know. I was in my 30s; it was the early 1960s when Jackie Kennedy became First Lady. I tried to emulate her looks. I loved the clothes then. It was dresses with jackets, dresses with coats, and very beautiful. That was my favorite time. She came out with a whole new look, very classic but stunning and smart. I loved her.
What was a favorite outfit of yours?
For my daughter’s bat mitzvah I wore a sheath red dress with a jacket and a red hat. I thought I looked fabulous. I got it at a store called Bonwit Teller, a classy store on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago. I used to shop there with a friend of mine.
How do you make sure the clothes you buy are good quality?
It’s hard because the clothes today are not like what they used to be. You can spend a lot of money and they aren’t made well. It’s not like the clothes I bought years ago.
I’m having a hard time with clothing now. I want to look nice but people also don’t dress up like they used to. Life is much more casual so clothes are more casual—so it’s hard to find.
What was your least favorite decade in terms of fashion?
I remember when they wore these poodle skirts in the 1950s. They were big and I hated them. This was during high school and college.
What is your go-to look now?
I like Elie Tahari pants with a sleeveless top and a little jacket or sweater. I like it because I think it looks nice on me. But I don’t love my clothes like I used to. I find them harder to love them. I am happy I have found a brand like Tahari that I do like now and fits me well.
What's a piece in your closet you wear to make more of a statement?
I like that top that I wore to this palace in Portugal. I think it is pretty with the detail, with the appliqué sleeves. I feel good in it. I want to feel good in my clothes.
What's your advice for women looking for their own style and building closets they love?
Some people your age wear loud tops. And you’re always in jeans which are nice—but you don’t get dressed up very often. Like when you came to Passover I thought you looked sharp with those pink pants and that top. That was a good look, but that’s rare. That’s okay you wear jeans; I know that is the trend. [Thanks, grandma…]
I would like people to get dressed up, even men. My husband always wore a shirt and a tie and a jacket. Men never wear that anymore. They used to look nice when they went out. It is a very casual world as far as clothes go. People don’t get dressed up. Some people go to lovely restaurants and they wear shorts. It’s hard for me to understand this because I came from an era where people got dressed up when they went out.
Why was fashion so important to you and your husband?
My husband loved to buy me clothes. We liked to go out and we wanted to look good and in our opinions nice clothing made us look good.
My husband was most unusual because he loved women’s shoes. He used to sell women’s shoes when he was young. He also liked fashion. He would go to Saks Fifth Avenue and buy me designer clothes. He liked good mens clothes and he liked good women’s clothes. He noticed what people were wearing.
He once bought me a shoe from France by Maud Frizon, a beautiful blue opera pump.
But things are ever changing. I don’t condemn or say people are wrong. I would just like to see younger people get a little more dressed up.