Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mommy Dressing: A Love Story, After a Fashion by Lois Gould

Bad mothers are the most interesting mothers, particularly when they are someone else’s.  In this light, Jo Copeland, mother of author Lois Gould, was a particularly interesting mother. She was a perfectionist who could not express any kind of warmth or kindness to her two children. Copeland was a fashion designer for over fifty years, beginning in the 1920’s.  Professionally successful and glamorous, she helped create the American fashion industry (as opposed to the French.) Her designs were worn by such diverse personalities as Gypsy Rose Lee and The Duchess of Windsor. Both Copeland and her husband were shallowly obsessed with appearances and their marriage did not last, leaving Gould and her brother in the care of nannies and housekeepers. They were isolated in their bedrooms, subjected to long periods of enforced silence and strict senseless rules. In general, they were left out of their mother’s life. A father who bragged that he could “handsome up a room” and a mother who would criticize a daughter for perspiring or getting a pimple were not best suited for raising children. However, Mommy Dressing: A Love Story, After a Fashion is not the emotional, self-pitying memoir it could have been. Gould delves into the story of her mother’s own emotionally deprived childhood, a childhood that left her unable to mother her own children. Good writers always have a talent for empathy and sensitivity that helps them explain the incomprehensible behavior of others. Lois Gould’s purpose in writing this book was not revenge but understanding and her success is the reader’s gain.