My dear friend Carolyn died last month at the young age of 71. Diagnosed with a serious form of cancer eight years ago, she only began to slow down in the last months of her life. There is so much to say about the substance of Carolyn’s life. She was a distinguished scholar, a gifted administrator, a beloved friend, a wonderful mother.
I think of all of these accomplishments when I remember Carolyn. However, also I want to remember her sense of style. She was a woman of the West, with roots in Idaho, Texas, and California, but she never dressed in a completely casual way. There was something extra to every outfit—a scarf, a necklace, a jacket—that raised it above the ordinary.
In her youth, Carolyn had been a talented seamstress, a skill she set aside once she had a family. But she had a seamstress’s eye for fabric and had kept many beautiful pieces over the years. When we became close friends, I started sewing for her. We planned simple things together—unstructured jackets, scarves, blouses, cardigans—where the fabric was the main event. Some came from my collection of old kimono; some came from hers, like a swath of fine Irish linen she had kept for decades. Occasionally we went to LA garment district to look for treasures. In the picture above, taken in Paris, she is wearing a sweater I made from a textured cotton knit we found on one of those adventures.
Carolyn and I shared a love of buttons, those tiny works of art. When I made clothes for her, we chose buttons from my stash. Sometimes she would bring me buttons from her travels, found in out-of-the-way shops and flea markets. She made her last trip in early summer, when it was becoming clear that her health was failing. In our last long conversation, she told me that she was sorry she hadn’t felt strong enough to go on a search for buttons. That’s the kind of friend she was. I miss her.