My Fashion Icon
Margaret DuFief Keogh Reed known as ‘Gene
My fashion icon turned 103 years old on July 3rd.
She is the most elegant, well-groomed, beautifully presented woman I have ever known. And she is my grandmother, my Nana.
Nana was born in 1908 in Washington, DC and was one of eight children. She grew up in Georgetown on 33rd and O Streets, attending Holy Trinity for elementary and high school. She continued her studies at Immaculata College and American University. Nana met my grandfather, Michael Keogh, on his graduation day from Georgetown University Law School on May 28, 1928, on Healy steps and they were married eight years later. They had three girls, Joyce (my mother), and my aunts, Katherine and Adele.
My grandmother has an innate sense of style. She embraced her French heritage in both her dress and her home interior. Her favorite magazines — which she followed with great interest — were always Vogue and Antiques Magazine. In fact, my Aunt Adele recounted that even during the war (II), Nana kept her subscriptions.
Nana’s presentation was and is today, impeccable. Her shoes were well-heeled and handbags always in perfect condition. Her wardrobe was exquisitely-edited. Nana focused on fabric, quality and detail. She and her sisters, Marion, Catherine and Agnes were all taught to sew and there was nothing they couldn’t create. Any one of them could resurrect a scrap of lace or piece of silk into something beautiful.
Nana found her favorite designs at Bergdorf Goodman, Bonwit Teller, Garfinckels, Saks Fifth Avenue and Peck & Peck. She loved Adele Simpson, Balenciaga, Nina Ricci, Mainbocher and Pauline Trigere. Nana told me this last evening that my grandfather gave her a stunning grey satin evening gown by Adele Simpson that was always her favorite. She remembered all the details of the material and the cut.
My mother and aunts shared with me her most memorable looks:
-For a luncheon, tea or church — a grey soft wool suit with a grey tulle crown hat with grey pearls sprinkled on it.
-A Bergdorf Goodman brown felt hat accented with a pheasant feather.
-And for more casual looks – either a shirt-waist dress or Bermuda shorts — from Bermuda –with a Peck & Peck Peter pan collar blouse with a gold circle pin on the collar.
And she always had a lace-trimmed monogrammed hankerchief in her purse.
I don’t know a time that I visited with my grandmother that she didn’t remark on my outfit — down to the details of the jewelry — and say “I’ve been looking for something like that. It looks wonderful on you.” There was no greater compliment.
The most fun for me was being able to share clothes with Nana from my twenties on. She liked my fun looks at the beach — ribbon skirts from J. McLaughlin she would wear to cocktail parties and Lilly shift dresses for day. I would borrow her beautiful jackets and sheath dresses — that although snug on me — and short in the arms and the waist — I would make work because they were always the very best pieces that I could only dream of.
At 103, as her photos show, her elegance continues to radiate by a full life of caring for all those around her as much as she cared for her clothes.
Nana surrounded by her family on Easter 2011 wearing a Milly jacket from Julia Farr!