A Man of Substance and Style

My dad passed away on September 4, 2010. Today would have been his 91st birthday. I think about him every day, and he is often the inspiration for my style musings. So, it seems right that I should dedicate today’s posting to him.

In the aftermath of my father’s death, one of the hardest tasks for my sister and me was going through his clothes. Looking good was important to him and he loved dressing up every day. He had impeccable style and a knack for creating charming outfits. A lover of fine things, he naturally gravitated to high price tag items, like Bally loafers and Brooks Brother’s suits.  Dad rejoiced when Saks Fifth Avenue opened its doors in the city where he lived. Of course, he became a familiar face there and made fast friends with all the sales associates. Each time I visited him, it wouldn’t take my dad long to ask this all important question: “Would you like to go shopping?”. How could I turn down that invitation? He was as talented as any professional personal shopper and bought me splendid items over the years that matched my style sensibilities. I always gave him credit when people complimented me on one of his purchases. Invariably the reaction from others was the same…”You mean your dad picked that out for you?”.

Dad expressed his exuberance, spontaneity, and joie de vivre through his clothes. He wore purples and pinks and paired polka dots with paisleys. Ever since I can remember, he wore certain signature accessories that definitely made him stand out in our hometown of South Bend, Indiana.  These pieces included a beret that he wore all winter long and a variety of striped wool scarves resembling those worn by British school boys. Always confident in his skin, he never seemed to care that his style was slightly out of step with what other men his age were wearing in  the 1960s.

Beneath the oxford shirts and silk ties, there was an extraordinarily brilliant man of courage and character. He received a doctorate in civil engineering from MIT and spent fifty years in higher education both as a professor and administrator. During his career, he received many awards and honors, and he mentored countless students. A distinguished veteran of World War II, my father served his country heroically as a lieutenant with the US Army Corps of Engineers. He was also the recipient of seven bronze stars and a bronze arrowhead.

After my Dad retired (in his mid eighties), he still got dressed “to the nines” several times a week and headed to the Veteran’s Hospital where he volunteered. He definitely lived the philosophy that dressing your best helps you be your best. So, in honor of him today, I followed his example. Yes, I overdressed for working at home, going to the health club, running errands and hanging out with my grandson. That didn’t matter a bit because I felt good. If that wasn’t enough of a reward, I also received compliments about my outfit from my stepson and a clerk at the grocery store checkout line.  Upon hearing these nice comments, I smiled and almost found myself saying,”my dad picked this out”.

8 Responses to “A Man of Substance and Style”

  1. cktraining Says:

    Corey's father was a perfect example of the man who wears the clothes instead of the clothes wearing him. His style was effortless and timeless. His life and personality were so expansive that it was as if HE invented those looks. Corey certainly is carrying on the tradition of a powerful fashion way-of-life. What we all spend so much time trying to master, you have in your DNA! How inspiring!

  2. ramona419 Says:

    Your tribute to your father on his special day was truly inspirational. It is the truth that when you dress youre best you feel your best.It is then that your inner glow shines and is seldom missed. Your father will live on through your radiance, style and love. What more can a Dad wish for. He is truly proud and so am I . Thanks for the sharing and the caring.

  3. Corey Urbina Says:

    What nice words, Connie. The preparation for this piece brought me back to the many good times that we shared through the years.

  4. Corey Urbina Says:

    Ramona, How very nice of you to have read the piece and thanks for your heartfelt comments.

  5. briana Says:

    I love my father more than I love anyone else. Reading this made me realize how much our father's truly shape who we become. While I do not feel that my dad is the most fashion forward individual he carries himself with a swagger-like confidence and always prides himself on his appearance. I can only hope that I inherited some of that from him. Your Dad's spirit lives on in you and Janine, and I am sure that he was so proud of the woman that you have become.

  6. ryan and maggie Says:

    I'll never forget grandpa and his seersucker suits…it's clear where you and mom get your impeccable sense of style! Such an inspiration!

  7. thehungrysisters Says:

    Definitely agree, Maggie! I especially loved Grandpa's nautical canvas belts he paired with the seersucker years before they became popular. What a trendsetter!

  8. Christina @ New to You, Inc. Says:

    A very sweet story about you and your Dad. I remember my father buying my 6th grade graduation dress with me at Garfinckels — a white dress with brown bows on the shoulders. My father enjoyed clothing, fabric and style as well. Thanks for the lovely post.