Your Style is a Part of your Legacy

Note:  This is an article I wrote for the Huffington Post a few years ago.  The holidays make for a good time to revisit the story.  

She moved with purpose and joy.  The ultimate hostess welcoming everyone into a perfectly decorated home.  At ten years of age, I had never seen such beautiful china, mesmerizing paintings, or heard music in a living room from a baby grand piano.  Mrs. L.T. Burns of Wichita Falls, Texas was a legend during my childhood and I was in her home.

In 1954, the Burns began to place lights and displays on their lawn at Christmas.  Every year it grew bigger and lines became longer.  Some years, she would join Santa in welcoming the crowds and handing out candy canes to the children.  My memories include her smiles and lovely coats, coveted by my mother every year of her life.  One year, my church choir was caroling in front of the house when unexpectedly, Mrs. Burns invited us in for cookies.  I soaked in each decoration, each kind word spoken, and the music played accompaniment as the queen of our town greeted every person in the room.  Her Christmas legacy was eventually donated to the local college, Midwestern University, and is called the “MSU-Burns Fantasy of Lights” where her memory lives on each holiday season.

Mrs. Burns’ left behind an impeccable personal style noted by joy, compassion, and generosity.  So many women balk at the phrase “personal style.”  Most often they are only thinking of models in Vogue rather than the legacy left behind, but our style has everything to do with that legacy.  In The Power of Style by Annette Tapert and Diana Edkins (Copyright 1994), ten women are profiled for “transforming their existence into a living work of art.”  They selected women who lived with discipline, a sense of humor, resourcefulness, originality, verve, fearlessness, and intelligence.  Women who left powerful legacies to inspire us all.

The authors remind readers it is less important to have money and more important to have purpose, for style so often is birthed from resilience over heritage.   These are women who dress for every occasion…every time they leave the house… simply because they dress for themselves and no one else.  They have an appreciation for the unexpected and how events work together.  They do not fear what lies ahead.

I did not begin to care about my personal style until after fifty.  Now, how I will be remembered is something I consider.   Each encounter every day is a part of my style.  Each message I communicate with my dress, as well as, my words are a part of my style. Yet, it is important to note, style is just as much about our insides as what we wear and our home décor on the outside.  An excitement for each day and decisions about how to impact others are components of style.  The truth is we all have a style whether we like it or not.  Perhaps, now is the time to consider what your current style looks like.   If it transforms into a living work of art, what do the brush strokes say?

Stylist and television personality, Stacy London, writes, “Style is transformative.” I agree and know this to be true.  At fifty, I transformed from a depressed, dowdy, uninspired woman to a joyful, driven, diligent, purposeful one who hopes to leave a legacy of smiles just as Mrs. Burns in Texas did.   A 10 year old girl may be watching, and I know my five grandchildren will be..   I have studied fashion and myself so much over the last 15 years, I developed my own formula for a personal style.  I know one thing for sure…it is never too late to begin to leave a purposeful legacy full of fun.  Mrs. Burns’ legacy centered around Christmastime, so perhaps this is the perfect time for many to begin again.



  1. Hello Pam,
    So enjoyed your article this morning and agree with embracing life. I especially love Christmas. Never had the opportunity to meet a “Mrs. Burns” in our community but happy you did. Keep up the outstanding writing and inspiration to us all.

  2. What a lovely piece to read. I also strive to leave a positive legacy, at work, church, family, and friends. I dress for me because it most definitely has an impact on my emotions and how I deal with the world. I love this quote, “people won’t remember what you did or said or accomplished, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”

  3. This was a lovely story, Pam! Thank you for sharing and for reminding us that we live as examples to children as well as adults.

  4. This certainly gives me much to think about. I think we sometimes hold ourselves to near impossible standards, and this can rob us of joy. We see pictures everywhere of the most perfectly decorated homes and ours may not compare. It’s not the decor, the clothes or a certain income level. It’s who we are inside and how we treat others that really matters. We can live with style and grace in very humble means. We can make others feel welcome and at home no matter what our circumstances may be. It’s important to strive to be our best, to look our best, but it all starts within. It’s what we give of ourselves that counts.

  5. I completely agree! While I do not live as Mrs. Burns did, it was something about her joy, kindness and yes, elegance, that attracted me to her. How I “style” my life doesn’t have anything to do with income, it has to do with hospitality and a welcoming space for others, with kindness, with my own confidence and joy.

  6. Thanks for sharing this, Pam. As we begin a new year in a matter of weeks, it’s good to take a look at how we see ourselves and perhaps make a few changes.

  7. You are an amazing writer! I find it so interesting how people from our childhood can create such influence on our thoughts and lives and help us to determine what matters and how we want to be perceived. Thank you for sharing this sweet memory.

  8. I guess I do have a personal style after all. 🙂 My son’s different girlfriends have always commented how I always fix my hair (even if that means a messy bun) and have makeup on even when we are just going out to work cattle. The latest asked him about and he said “she ‘never’ goes anywhere not dressed or make up on. That is just her. She even changes clothes to run to town for a quick errand.” She said she might have to up her game. LOL

    I do it for me. Makes me feel better. I love when my Grands tell me I look so pretty after I have driven 3 hours to watch a 8:30 basket ball game. I love when my husband tells me how hot I look randomly. In this world of casualness, I still like to look put together and I want my family to remember that I did it for me and for them to be proud of me. I don’t think it is ego, I think it is self respect.

  9. There’s something about being past fifty that really starts to make us think about those that will tread in our footsteps years later. I hope I can inspire my children and grandchildren to take good care of themselves and to share with others. I hope I can be an inspiration in many things and I try hard to be a Grammy they will be proud of and want to be around in their lives. I think part of taking care of ourselves is trying to look our best and I love that it doesn’t mean draining my savings to do it. It’s a great time to be alive. I love my over fifty years.

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