Of Sentimental Value: The RealReal Mother’s Day Heirloom Photo Album


For many of us, our first education in fashion is combing through our mothers’ closets and jewelry boxes. Before we started flipping through the magazines or studying collections, we lost ourselves in our mother’s things, layering on her necklaces, wobbling about in her heels, tucking things away in her purses. It’s how we begin to experience the magic that clothes can yield–and how we’re drawn to the power in heirloom pieces.

Our mothers’ pieces chronicle the style that was cultivated from her mother and her mother before her and connects you with previous generations. This Mother’s Day we celebrate these invaluable acquisitions and the mothers who pass them down by talking to eight incredible tastemakers, examining the style DNA they inherited from their mothers.


These interviews have been condensed and edited for length.


Mara Hoffman,
Designer, Mara Hoffman

Her Mother: Francesca Lippman
Her Heirloom Piece: Her mother’s peasant blouse


What Mara Loves About Her Mother’s Style
“My mom was my first foray into style and fashion. To me, she had the best style. I think she had such a huge part in why I went into what I do. I remember making my first piece of clothing for her when I was eight for her birthday and she must have been 37. I made her this wrap skirt with 30 buttons sewn onto it, and she wore it for her whole dinner party–this skintight piece of fabric wrapped around her. But she wore it with such pride. My mom was so tuned in and inspired by clothing–she never had a big budget to buy clothes. She was a single mom. My parents got divorced when I was 8, and we lived in a very humble, sweet place, my mom, sister, and I. She worked as a bookkeeper in the family produce business. But she would buy maybe one piece of clothing a year or a season–one piece that she loved from Norma Kamali, Claude Montana, Morgana La Fey, or Donna Karan. She would cherish it. I still have some of  those pieces. And she took risks in fashion. She wasn’t afraid to express herself. She was such an inspiration of how people can truly love and appreciate their clothes. I didn’t get that then but I always thought, ‘She’s the most stylish person I know!’ As I got older and I began to hone in on my own personal discomfort to fashion and the industry, she came flooding back to me.”


The Origin Story of Her Heirloom Piece
“This top I have from her is from the late ‘60s, it’s a wrap top with no buttons in beautiful Indian cotton. I always shove it into a pair of jeans. My mom has always been politically charged and active and she was a deep hippie, a protestor and all about ‘power to the people’. They were protesting the Vietnam War. She was chased by police with pepper spray. She talks about old ladies dropping soaked cotton balls from the windows so the protestors could dab their eyes. She also talks about wearing mini skirts and knee-high boots. It’s so now. This top I got from her feels like it was made and printed in India and I have an affinity toward India. It’s such a beautiful and symbolic place in my life, a place I love to travel to and feel very connected to. I’ve been there for work and for exploring. It’s such a beautiful place.”


What The Piece Means To Her Now
“My mother is so generous and I know she loves to see me living in her pieces. It’s like seeing her life continue, through me. She’s 72 now. I think there’s also some sweet validation because she wears so much Mara Hoffman now. She looks so beautiful and she is such a chic, elegant version of it. I’d love to pass clothes down to my son, Joaquin. It’s very pastel pink, but he has such an expansive palette that I could see him being into wearing them. I could see him having a Jim Morrison moment in it.” 



Cynthia Cervantes-Gumbs,
Creative Director, Maroon World

Her Grandmother: Ofelia Alvarez
Her Heirloom Pieces: Opal ring and diamond and gold bracelets


What Cynthia Loved About Her Grandmother’s Style
“I never realized it before, but my grandma had a very subtle uniform she stuck to that was composed of classic staple pieces. She was far from a minimalist though, and for each classic silhouette, she had probably a hundred variations of that item! The major exception to her pared-back style was her affinity for accessories – shoes, purses, hats, and most importantly, jewelry! Thinking back on it now, it’s as if she wanted her clothes to be a gentle melody playing in the background while her jewelry hit the sweetest high notes under a spotlight. Think: multiple gold chains with heavy religious pendants, along with at least three to seven gold bracelets on one arm, plus multiple rings in a variety of gemstones and/or diamonds–not to mention small but heavy pearl drops dangling from her ears. It gave her an air of effortless cool that I think about every day as I put on my own jewelry each morning.” 


The Origin Story of Her Heirloom Pieces
“The pieces I am sharing were all given to me on different special occasions. Each time she would pull me into her bedroom, close the door gently, and start whispering! I knew something magical was about to happen. The bracelets were given to me on two different occasions. Both times I was home visiting from college and it felt like she wanted to give them to me so that I could have a piece of her with me. They also let me know that she considered me responsible enough to gift them to – a responsibility I took, and still take, very seriously. When I graduated from college, she kept asking me if I wanted a college ring, and I said no a few times–I really didn’t want her to spend the money on me. But one day she started whispering for me to come to the room and she gifted me with an opal ring to commemorate the achievement. She kept apologizing that it wasn’t a class ring but it meant so much more to me. She knew it wasn’t really my style, as it was pretty flashy (many small opals surrounding a larger opal), but she told me I should have it modified to make it more my own. I ended up wearing it for a while but when it became too flashy I stored it away and sometimes wore it on a gold chain around my neck. After she passed away, I started wearing it again to feel close to her, along with another low-key flashy diamond ring she had given me.

After a while, I realized both pieces were a bit too much for me on a daily basis, but I really wanted to figure out a way to be able to wear them in a way that felt truer to my own style. Slowly I have been reworking the rings – I made the small opal band and two small diamond bands from the rings she gave me. Working with my friend Suzann Atala at Tuza in Mexico City, I have been carefully considering what to do with the remaining stones, using all the original gold from the rings to make the new pieces. I still have a good amount of small stones left, as well as gold, and am looking forward to making pieces for my son Tenoch, that he can wear as he gets older and that can be passed down in our family for years to come. I’m already planning to save stones for a future ring for him, as well as earrings (fingers crossed that he wants to pierce his ears)!”


What The Pieces Mean To Her Now
“I used to wear the bracelets almost daily, but Tenoch is teething right now and is too tempted to bite them, so I don’t put them on as often. The rings I wear every single day and when I put them on each morning I think of her and feel close to her. I like to stack them with pieces I have gotten for myself – a mix of me and her on each finger. I think more than anything I feel especially connected to her when I wear her pieces. They make me feel close to her in a special way, as if me wearing the pieces is somehow keeping her spirit and energy alive. I have come to feel as though wearing jewelry is an important daily ritual, in direct homage to the ancient practice of adorning yourself in celebration of life. I know this feeling is something I inherited from her.”



Maria Dueñas-Jacobs,
Founder of Super Smalls

Her Mother: Rosaria Pugliese
Her Heirloom Piece: An opal and diamond ring


What Maria Loves About Her Mother’s Style
“My mother is truly the queen of authentic effortless chic. She has the type of style that would look great in a photo 10 years  from now because it feels so real and so simple in its execution.  She alternates between a ‘work look’, which is very practical–lots of pockets and even hammer hooks (think overalls or cargo pants)–and an  ‘I-can-go-anywhere-in-this’  look which is  typically monochromatic silks or linens and can be accentuated by jewelry depending on her mood. These looks can have a bit of a Far East feel sometimes, because of the fluidity. She had a phase where she only wore black and white for YEARS. She said it simplified her mornings. The crazy part is she never looked dull and her outfits never looked forced or lazy. She does not fuss over fashion but somehow always seems to know what’s up. Last time she visited she showed up in a matching cerulean sweatpant look with white shell toe adidas–she nailed the airport style and didn’t even know it.”


The Origin Story of Her Heirloom Pieces
“All the rings here have a special significance as does all my jewelry. I feel that tying a memory to a piece is what makes it an heirloom. The opal band I actually designed after the birth of my twins Isa and Silvi. Their birthstone is diamond and Luna, my oldest daughter is the opal. I dreamt up this ring and reached out to the very talented Nicole Rose who sent me cads throughout the process and executed it perfectly. I love rings. I pile them on and feel strange when I don’t have any on, they are sort of like my armor. I especially love yellow gold and ‘chunkier’ rings like Brent Neale’s designs in the image.”


What The Pieces Mean To Her Now
“They will absolutely be passed onto my daughters when the time is right. Their love of jewels (and them trying to get their sticky fingers on my collection) is precisely what inspired me to create Super Smalls, a kids accessories brand inspired by high fashion and fine jewelry but made for play! So, instead of offering up the rings in the picture I’ll give them each this little ring set until they are ready for the real deal someday.”



Estelle Bailey-Babenzien,
Visual and Interiors Designer & Co-Founder, Noah Clothing

Her Mother: Alwyn Bailey
Her Heirloom Piece: A vintage ‘80s party dress


What Estelle Loves About Her Mother’s Style
“I loved my mum’s style and my auntie’s. My mum had three sisters and all of them really enjoyed fashion and clothing;. My grandmother, too. I think they got their love of clothing and their sense of style from my grandmother. My mum’s style has always been colorful and she loves original prints and pieces with a little bit of ethnicity to them. Her sense of style has always been quite eclectic. She mixed vintage with designer with basics, like high street stuff. Growing up I loved her dresses–I have so many of my mom’s dresses that are still great pieces. I think a lot of her older vintage stuff, even if it wasn’t a super high-end designer, the quality of it was just better.


The Origin Story of Her Heirloom Piece
“She’s definitely a social person and she’s full of life and she had loads of party dresses and a lot of them I have–especially the really good ones from the ‘70s and ‘80s. This dress is from the 80s and it is such a classic; very inspired by the ’50s with the high waist, the belt, the full-skirt and the way it crosses over at the neck. She bought it from a high-end boutique where they had smaller designers, good-quality pieces that weren’t mass commercial brands. It’s a really high-quality dress. It’s so well made. Over all of these years, I wanted her to give me this dress and at one point, she couldn’t fit into it anymore and I was like, ‘Mum, I’m taking this dress! I know you don’t want me to!’ But now she’s super skinny and it fits her again. A couple of summers ago she met up with us [my husband and daughter, Sailor] in Venice, and she wore it. After Venice, she was going back to England and we were going on to Greece and she was like, ‘Ok, I’m going to let you have this dress. You can have this dress.’ And that’s when it really became mine!”  


What The Piece Means To Her Now
“I just love the feeling of wearing clothing that has a journey of its own and a history to it. My daughter, Sailor is like, ‘Mummy, can I have this when I’m older? Can this be for me?’ and I’m like, ‘Sure! You can have all of it!’ Because I don’t like to waste things. I love clothing, I love fashion, and style and I work in that industry, so it’s easy for me to hold on to pieces. But I’m also like, ‘Let’s recycle! Let’s get rid of stuff, so you can get new things!’ And so when I say ‘new’, it doesn’t necessarily have to mean ‘new’ but ‘new to me’.  I have always worn and bought second-hand clothing because that way you can be original with your wardrobe. When you buy new stuff, you’re very likely to run into someone wearing the same thing.”



Leigh Plessner,
Creative Director, Catbird

Her Mother: Blanche Batnick
Her Heirloom Pieces: A carved jade bracelet, a brooch, a pearl and diamond bracelet, and a gold watch


What Leigh Loved About Her Mother’s Style
“In the middle of crossing a snowy Manhattan street after brunch, my mom turned to me, my brother, and my husband, and said, ‘This really is the perfect outfit for the day.’ She was wearing her moose fleece with matching bucket hat that she bought in Alaska, capri petite-length jeans that still skimmed the snow (she was small and so cute), and a pair of Uggs that her dearly departed friend Fred had walked all over the city to find for her and his wife Mary (when finding Uggs required a full day’s walk all over the city). My mom was sweet, silly, and content. My mom wasn’t that interested in clothes, but she taught me the deepest lessons of style: how you feel in clothing is more important than price tags or labels or how other people think you look, and that our insides are not a reflection of our outsides.” 


The Origin Story of Her Heirloom Pieces
“I’ve shared with you a carved jade bracelet, a brooch on a chain, a pearl and diamond bracelet, and a gold watch. They belonged to my mother and my grandmother. My mom gave me everything joyously. What was hers was mine. I spent many, many hours as a child in Temple, examining my mother’s jewelry and clothing — opening and closing clasps, staring at stones, feeling her sleeves, concentrating on the smallest things. At holidays I admired how my beautiful, formidable grandmother wore rings and bracelets. The two of them are with me always because of this jewelry.” 


What The Piece Means To Her Now
“One of the joys of my life is my job. It is animated for me by the women in Temple when I was small, my mother’s hands, and the idea that one day our daughters will find our work in their mom’s jewelry boxes.” 



Rita Nakouzi,
Editorial Director, The RealReal

Her Mother: Marie-Rose Nakouzi
Her Heirloom Piece: Her mother’s custom embroidered blouse


What Rita Loves About Her Mom’s Style
“My mother’s style was stealth luxury before that term even existed! My mother grew up in Beirut, Lebanon. Her clothing was made by a seamstress and the clothes fit just right. She was understated and always elegant. She loved tailoring and never wore colors that were too bold. The palette was generally neutral, and beige was a signature color. She paid great attention to the details. Never big on makeup but her hair was always flawless. She loved tailoring and everything was made to measure and fit just right. My grandfather was a tailor so we always had fabrics in the house. I love both my mom and grandmother’s style for their love of tailoring and they both rocked a strong pencil skirt with a knit combo. My mom veered towards a blazer on work days and my grandmother was always about the cardigan and knit set. She had both a summer and winter version!”


The Origin Story of Her Heirloom Piece
“This piece is a hand beaded top that was meant for a lavish event. It came with the most beautiful tulle skirt but the only thing that remains is the top. It was made for my mom in Beirut in the 60s. My mom had a seamstress who made all her clothes, especially the evening wear pieces. She knew how to dress up and be elegant, but somehow was never show-offy. She was always noticed without seeming like she was trying to steal the spotlight. This top is actually quite out of her norm given the pink in it. But she loved to mix things together in a way that was effortless and chic. It was a piece I admired throughout my childhood and once, when she was moving, she gave it to me along with another top that I’d longed for. It’s a beautiful black shirt with embroidered black flowers. I haven’t worn it yet but this one I’ve worn a few times. I’m excited to pass along to my daughter one day. She’s 11 and she loves to sneak into my closet and play dress up with her friends and sometimes she’ll pull it out and ask if she can wear it. I always say yes. I love seeing her in my mother’s old clothes. There are a several pieces that I look forward to handing down to my daughter including this, and some heirloom jewelry, an Hermes Kelly bag, and a Chanel evening dress.” 


What The Piece Means To Her Now
“I grew up in Lebanon and this piece is definitely a celebration and a symbol of the beauty of my culture and the creativity that’s woven into my family. If you don’t know about the Middle East, and Lebanon in particular, you may not have a sense of the style or rhythm of the place. So, when I wear this piece it’s definitely a conversation starter and an opportunity to share the beauty of my homeland. My mom has so much pride for Lebanon and it meant so much to her to be able to share such beautiful work from there that was done by hand. Just sharing this piece with me connects me to the elegance and the style and the beauty of Lebanese women. What I love about this piece is that it’s handmade and celebrates craftsmanship.” 



Yara Flinn,
designer, Nomia

Her Mother: Amrah Cardoso
Her Heirloom Piece: Her mother’s gold ring


What Yara Loves About Her Mother’s Style
“My mother doesn’t care much about fashion trends and doesn’t really enjoy shopping, but she loves jewelry and uses her clothing as sort of a canvas on which to showcase her pieces. Growing up, her mother made most of the clothes for her and her siblings, including her prom dress, which I still have–a pink lace column dress.”


The Origin Story of Her Heirloom Piece
“This is the ring my mother received for her 13th birthday. Her parents bought it for her in Rio De Janeiro. It has kind of an Art Deco feel to it and a mix of white and rose gold. The details on the side of the ring are what I love the most about it. I don’t think it’s common to see that kind of workmanship in newer designs. I inherited my love of jewelry from my mom, and I knew she would probably give it to me, but she wanted to teach me to be responsible before she would give me anything so special. Eventually, she gave it to me for my 15th birthday which is culturally significant in Brazil. I still have my eye on other pieces in her collection, too.” 


What The Piece Means To Her Now
“She did teach me how to style it because she’s been a fan of ring stacks for a really long time and that is how I like to wear all my rings now. I style it with other rings and casual outfits. I don’t like to appear too dressed up, so it’s more about feeling comfortable with the pieces and styling them in a natural way. Actually it’s hard to find anything that looks like this now, which is why I love it so much. It has made me have more of an overall appreciation for jewelry as a kind of miniature work of art. I’m sure she would get upset knowing how little I clean my jewelry. She bought me a special polish a few years ago which I use whenever she reminds me. She is a big endorser of safety deposit boxes as well. I think it’s so meaningful to be able to have tangible relics from our mothers and ancestors. It’s not about the object itself, but the story that the object represents. I think it has made me think about how I purchase things more, and what I would like to pass down to my child. I have a son, Teo, so maybe he can wear it on a necklace! Hopefully, he could pass it down to his children one day, too.”



Kaitlin Kivetz,
Head of Brand Identity, The RealReal

Her Mother: Susan Sousa
Her Heirloom Pieces: An exotic skin chain purse


What Kaitlin Loves About Her Mother’s Style
“Being from Massachusetts, there is a lot of Kennedy family influence in the style that I love; very classic, timeless, sophisticated. This has been consistent with the way my grandmother dressed to my mom and myself. To be honest, it was my grandmother–my mom’s mom–who really had nice style. She took great pride in getting dressed, even if it was to cook a meal. 


The Origin Story of Her Heirloom Piece
“Her style had a feminine classical twist. My grandmother gifted this bag to my mother for her 12th birthday in 1964.  She said, “You always need to have a classy clutch.” It happened to be in her favorite color, red. My mom always loved that her birthday, November 26th, fell the day after John F Kennedy, Jr.’s which on Nov 25th, and the day before Caroline Kennedy’s, on Nov 27th.” 


What This Piece Means To Her Now
“I was gifted this bag many years ago actually, I was in my early 20’s. It has become a staple in my wardrobe, I love the balance of high low and relaxed/elegant. I have a closet of handbags that I keep near my front door so this is often the bag I grab when running out to a dinner. No matter the look it just works. I’m big on accessories over trendy clothing. I am pregnant with my first daughter and so excited to someday share the pieces that were passed down to me, as well as the pieces I have collected on my own. I love the tradition of passing down your most special coveted pieces.”


Honoring heritage brands and extending the lifecycle of luxury items.