News & Runway

Vintage Memories: Closed Set with Julie Bensman

vintage jewelry

vintage jewelry

Each summer growing up (and still to this day), my mother’s side of the family gathers in Orchard Park, NY (home of the Buffalo Bills, to all you sports buffs) at my grandmother “Mimi’s” house for a reunion of sorts. There’s a laundry list of things I looked forward to, including, but not limited to:

  • Capture the Flag games by day, Bloody Murder by night
  • Countertop jars full of all the Twizzlers, Tootsie Rolls, and Starbursts you could pocket
  • Marathon card games of Rummy, 21, and “I Doubt It” (the PG version of “BS”)

As I got older, the single most exciting activity became rummaging through Mimi’s massive collection of jewelry, purses, and accessories. I can’t exactly articulate what the menagerie looks like, but let’s just say there’s an entire room (closet, dresser, desk, under-the-bed) full of pieces just waiting to be plucked. And plucked, I did: Vintage crème cross-body messengers, silver hammered cuffs (see Outfit #2 from my 7-Day Challenge last week), turquoise stone rings, the works. On the other side of town, in Buffalo, NY proper, my other grandma had her own stash, albeit of a slightly older generation’s aesthetic. From the closet of her Park Lane apartment, my main scores included Dooney & Burke bags, Dior scarves, and the shiniest necklaces my innocent eyes had ever seen.

Whenever someone on the street pays a compliment to these pieces, I smile with extra satisfaction knowing the story behind the bling. When a piece of jewelry is strung with a history, when an heirloom carries a memory, when an accessory serves as a reminder, it makes it that much more special – and enjoyable – to get dressed. In this vein, Jessica Bohrer and I got to bonding over lunch at La Bottega last week. The co-founder and designer of dalla nonna (Italian for “from the grandmother”) was inspired by an old tie pin of her Grandpa Howard’s, which she started wearing on a chain around her neck. “We [with her business partner] loved the idea of taking a family treasure and making it new by adding a modern twist,” Jess told me. “As our line continues to grow, it’s important to us that we maintain a personal connection to all of the pieces, stay true to our history, and maintain our chic, custom, and vintage-inspired aesthetic.”

I love the simplicity of the line’s earliest pieces, the calendar chain necklace, which one can customize with the sapphire color and date of his/her choice. Maybe I’ll get one for Mimi marking the date of our next reunion, to repay her for all the treasures (and compliments!) she’s given me…