My Grandmother, a Beauty Icon

I wrote a little piece for submission to the beauty & style section of Southern Living Magazine. It was well received, but as they have quite a backlog, we’ll see it in print one of these months.

My grandmother, Lucille Oeland Sumner of Greenville, S.C., was a glamour puss. Though elegant in every sense of the word, Mudda—as I called her–had a lively sense of humor and often dissolved into helpless giggles. She never failed to meet me at the door of her home without a, “Hey, darlin,’ you’re so beautiful!”

A self-taught hat designer, Mudda opened a home studio in the nineteen forties, Lucille’s Studio of Millinery, where an array of her creations blossomed from pegs and faceless forms. I remember gloved ladies coming by to shop the collection, that would make a derby party attendee salivate. Trying on those hats as a little girl made me feel as beautiful as Mudda believed I was.

I was riveted by her beauty routine. My grandmother poured L’Air du Temps perfume into an atomizer with a big puffer and then spritzed it on. She plumped her slender lips by creating an exaggerated cupid’s bow with rose lipstick. She did her eyes, wearing the only pair of magnifying make-up applying readers I’ve seen to this day.

And her hair! When an occasion called for an updo, Mudda matched hair pieces to her Clairol Summer Blonde coif. In the nineteen sixties when mature women cropped their hair, Mudda wore hers longer. She hosted cocktail parties in taffeta hostess skirts, a white gypsy blouse, and gold shoulder-brushing loops.

Darlin’, she was so beautiful.

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