One of my favorite people from my childhood was the local piano and music teacher who gave lessons in her home. She had the unfortunate name of Mrs. Hole. Such was the esteem in which she was held that no one would ever think to make fun of her name. In fact, that aura of class and dignity was so integral to her being was strong enough that the unfortunate quality of her name never occurred to me until it was pointed out by a friend recently. I mentioned her fondly to a friend who remarked on her name and even with that prompting, it took me awhile to see the humor.
That is class – having an aura of dignity that outlasts death by decades. I was reminded of her by this dress from Silver Rose Designs for Vintage Fair. I am sure that Mrs. Hole had articles of clothing that were not made of silk and crepe de chine and not embellished with embroidery, beads and sheer layers of tulle, but I cannot remember any. She always dressed for teaching as though for a performance, it seemed. She gave it majesty. Of course, her students were required to wear dress pants if they were boys and dresses if they were girls, as well. She thought music mattered and she honored it with her formality and respect. I didn’t take lessons from her myself, but she was a good friend of my mother’s and I spent a lot of time with her and she taught me embroidery. Mrs. Hole would wear this dress. She would delight in the sheer bodice overlay and the many rows of beading and the fitted, tailored elegance of it. She was a rather large woman, but she never fell for the trap of wearing clothing that was loose and large. She wore tailored, well-fitted clothing that made her always the best-dressed woman in town
She was not a rich woman – no widowed woman supporting herself by teaching a few hours of music everyday is going to be. Her clothes were old and from another era and were carefully and vigilantly maintained. But she had class. When I think of her in contrast to the so-called Countess who wrote the song with the title Money Can’t Buy You Class, the truth of the title is more self-evident than the Countess could ever imagine. Despite her wealth, the Countess is as déclassé as they come. I kind of wrote her off when she was all atwitter that another housewife asked someone about plastic surgery, insisting that gossiping behind each other’s backs is so much more polite. Anyway, with all her money and privilege, more than one person has joked about her name and title, at her expense. She does not project that aura of majesty and dignity that my small-town music teacher did. If anything, she projects an odd mix of contempt mixed with anxiety – as though she knows she is a fraud, but thinks a veneer of condescension will obscure her failings.