Lessons in Great Style I Learned from my Grandfather

The world just got a little less cute.

Last week when my Grandfather passed away. Paul Buglion was truly the cutest man in the world, and that’s not even close to being the greatest thing about him. For the sake of sentimentality and tears however, I’d like to share with the rest of the world some style notes I picked up along the way from this great man.

My Grandfather had exquisite taste in everything, no surprise manifesting itself in great style. Even in his signature overalls he exuded classic intellectual fashion with the most charming warmth and approachability.

 

You can be stylish when dressed comfortably – it’s more about you than what you’re wearing – in fact, if you have good style but are uncomfortable, it can easily ruin your style, especially if a rock collecting granddaughter is involved.

 

In retrospect, the first style lesson I learned from him was to allow yourself to be comfortably dressed. There was never a moment he didn’t pull off great style, even in pajamas – he just had it. He had a way of arranging his situation, words, thoughts and dress to always achieve his best look.

I’ve been a rock hound my entire life, incapable of leaving stones unturned and shells unpicked wherever I go. The earliest memory of stone collecting involved my grandfather. I don’t remember how I convinced him to, or why I thought it would even be decent to request, but I had my Grandpa lug a giant piece of granite, with a small (yet remarkable) burst of quartz, up an enormous hill and all over a waterside park. Beckoned by my desire, just to ensure that special rock would be mine, he did so dutifully. (It was more like a boulder, I have it to this day and just weighed it at 13 lbs!) Now, I’m certain he took breaks to puff a stogie, but, if he had been in ill-fitting pants or insensible shoes, he wouldn’t have pulled this act off (albeit an unfair test!)

 

There are uncommon opportunities all around us to aide in clothing customization. Creativity and stubbornness can be a very fashionable couple.

 

To understand my Grandfather’s style, his size is also important. Now Paul Buglion was a great man – a gravelly booming voice that could erupt in explosive debates, a howling woof that graduated to whole body laughter, and carefully orchestrated tales as tall as a mountain; But, he himself was not a tall man. Much like other Buglions before him, he grew less and less tall with age.

I learned my very first alteration technique from my grandfather.   Anyone else who’s vertically challenged can understand the frustration of too long pants legs on every single pair of pants off the rack. Some creative problem solving and clever engineering resulted in my Gramps commonly stapling his pants to the right length hem.

 

Dress your finest for important events.

 

My favorite moment of fashion for my grandfather was my high school graduation. He was perfectly dressed in a crisp pale suit with a deliciously colorful necktie – supreme. He could turn it up at the drop of a hat. Although he didn’t always dress up in a suit and tie he knew when to break out his best.

 

Style is also what you know, not just what you wear. To understand and appreciate the world around you and the history of its great thinkers dresses you with an aura of cultured sophistication.

 

Grandpa was always there for me and my brother. Growing up we lived less than two hours away from him, pretty much everywhere we lived. Our father died when we were young, and Gramps always took care to share special days with us when he could. My Grandfather and Step-Grandmother flew down to Tampa, FL for my college fashion show, loud and hectic, but they did it because it was important to me.   All throughout my life I have great memories of plays and museums and long conversations about the cultural and social heritage of our great country. He wore his heart on his sleeve and was so wise and educated and eager to share.

 

A great signature scent paired with authentic personal style is the perfect recipe to becoming unmistakable and unforgettable. May we all have the good fortune of discovering our perfect complimentary scent, with silage in a room as well as a memory.

 

Although I no longer condone it for anyone else (Gramps was my only exception), my Grandfather often had a long cigarette of his favorite pipe delicately balanced on his slightly curled back and elegant thumb. That pipe smoke has been and always will be one of my most favorite smells. I’m heartbroken to know that scent will never be emitted by him again. Scent is the strongest sense that connects us to memory. Have you ever gotten a whiff of your childhood best friend’s out of nowhere? When we pick up a scent tiny particles of what we smell are physically entering our body through the nostrils. Perhaps this and the proximity to our brain/memory maker has something to do with the lingering stamp certain smells have on our psyche.

 

Great style is best complimented by other skillful methods of personal communication. Dressing is just another method of communicating ourselves to our community.

 

Grandpa was a great thinker and speaker and author. His command of the English language (and many others) was easily recognized upon meeting him. He took delight in communicating and connecting with everyone. He was very thoughtful and considerate with his words. Taking long pauses and puffs to collect this thoughts wasn’t common, but crucial to conversation. I always took great pride in awaiting his next phrase, knowing it had been skillfully arranged just for my ears. My Grandfather was also a man of many pens. When wearing overalls he was sure to have a grand collection of pens in the front pocket. He always had a pen, and I have inherited his affinity for a great ink pen. The pen truly is mightier, and he sure could wield one.

 

Great personal style must be authentically you in order for it to work. Take care in how you select signature items, knowing you will want to wear them for many happy years.

 

As I have mentioned several times, my Grandpa could often be spotted in overalls. He wore them with a proud utility and universal sensibility. Paired with beautifully crafted fishermen’s sweaters and a woolen beret, his signature style was specific, suiting, simple, and composed of long lasting, well-made, quality pieces. He dressed professionally and snappily in suites and ties, but the “overall” signature look was how I most often saw, and will always remember him.

 

Style takes time, and fashion deserves practice and trial. Before establishing your signature look be sure to test it out in a controlled environment with people whose opinions you value.

 

Some of my most favorite family memories were with my Grandparents on Long Lake at a family home of my Step-Grandmother’s affectionately known as “Toad Hall”. The magic of this place is truly remarkable. As a young child, through teenage years and up to my most recent trip in 2011 (too many years ago…) with my husband Brett and my brother Arlo as “adults”, every visit there with my Grandparents was magical. One year they allowed me and Arlo to take separate trips with two friends each.

Although I wasn’t there, I could still smell the “brut” leftover from the boy’s trip. My trip was a frenetic whirlwind of glitter and giggles. It takes a very brave man (with a patient and generous woman behind him) to invite three pre-teen girls into the Adirondack Mountains!   The pristine and isolated lake was a safe haven for us to experiment with hair and makeup and tiny tops without abandon or fear of judgment. The freedom they entrusted us with gave opportunity to canoe down past the summer camp – host to cute boys who we were proud to parade unabashedly in front of from across the water. We ourselves actually did look pretty cute, I have some photos to prove it- considered as a rough draft towards our eventual personal style.

I’m sure there’s still glitter in that cabin. I’m pretty sure that was my Grandfather’s closest interaction with glitter too!

 

By being true to yourself and understanding what is important to you daily, your personal style will emerge over time and evolve to aide you in comfort, protection, and communication.

 

If being on a farm is important to you it will ultimately reflect in your perfect personal look – If you can hone in on your authentic style over the years that which is important to you will not define your look, but you will rather redefine how people think about the things that are important to you.

Paul Buglion raised six daughters (including my mother) and one son. He was a volunteer, a radio voice, he worked in theater, was a cat lover, avid reader, crossword expert, tinkerer, farmer, engineer and great orator, among many other things at different points in his life. My Grandpa had a professional life I knew little about, he was in his 50s when I came around as his first grandchild. I’ve only seen childhood photographs of him, never a 20-something picture or anything like that. He took careful consideration in all things, so I can safely assume his personal style developed slowly and thoughtfully. His dapper persona was no act, many years afforded him the wisdom to so fully embody his impactful style so true to his spirit and values.

 

You don’t have to be rich and famous or a supermodel to be iconic, you just have to be great at communicating your story through the many angles of style.

 

Fashion is a tool at everyone’s disposal that can be used to communicate our unique personality and lifestyle. When someone does that as well as my Grandfather did that’s what great style is. Some may think a Grandfather to be an unusual source of style education. I’ve always sought inspiration from unlikely places, perhaps because I had such a great source in Grandpa Paul.

Women worldwide would benefit from the style knowledge I’m not certain my Grandpa knew he possessed. Fashionistas would have bottled him up if a style serum could be crafted. Paul Buglion may be an untraditional choice, but he is a fashion icon that will live forever in my heart.


Jesse Junko Beardslee, She is Fierce! Contributor

Jesse Junko Beardslee

Jesse Junko Beardslee has a degree in Fashion Design and Marketing, has been making clothing over a dozen years, has lived in New York, Florida and Louisiana.  She currently resides in the Finger Lakes wine region of New York State with her musician husband, Brett Beardslee.  Jesse is developing her ethical fashion brand, Themis and Thread, and contributing to magazines and fashion blogs.

Connect with Jesse… Thermis and Thread

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