March 21st, 2021 / posted by paularath

Photo courtesy Jerry Mayfield

This safari skirt may look like something I wore when living in Botswana and visiting the elephants in the Okavango Delta. Far from it! In those lean years, my ex-husband and I didn’t have enough money to buy gas to get to the Okavango Delta.

This skirt has a different story.  It joined my wardrobe much later, in 1987, on my 40th birthday.

My son, Duncan, was 12 years old, and he wanted to give me a memorable gift for this special birthday. Duncan and I had some fun times shopping in the original Banana Republic store in Ala Moana Center. It was a different experience to shop there in the ’80s. Before it was bought by GAP, it was a relatively small family-owned company. The visual merchandising was reminiscent of a thatched hut in, well, a banana republic. Lots of raffia and rattan and “old family travel photos.”

Duncan has always taken pride in the fact that he was “made in Africa.” (I spent the first seven months of my pregnancy in Nigeria.) So it felt natural for him to go to Banana Republic for my gift.

At the time, Duncan was doing some acting and landed a couple of commercials and a full shooting day as Tom Selleck as a child in “Magnum P.I.” This meant he had his own money to spend on his mom. (Although, sadly, the “Magnum” footage ended up on the cutting room floor.)

When Duncan stepped into the store, he knew exactly what he wanted. He described an A-line, long safari skirt with a pocket. He had scouted through my closet to find what size I wore.  Green was always his favorite color, so he preferred a khaki skirt that skewed toward green.

The surprised sales people showed him the skirt pictured above and Duncan said it was simply perfect. He added that he needed a belt that would coordinate with it, and he gravitated toward a brown leather belt in a distinctive asymmetrical style with an interesting faux horn buckle. It was my favorite belt ever! (Sadly, the climate in Nuuanu destroyed it a few years ago.)

(Note: The reason I know this story is because the sales people at Banana Republic were so taken with Duncan that they called me a few days after my birthday to tell me about his shopping experience with them. They said he was a charming young gentleman on a mission to make his mom happy.)

And so he did. This skirt is still one of my favorite garments and I love pairing it with my safari jacket and a Uniqlo white T-shirt!

Paula Rath

 

March 9th, 2021 / posted by paularath

My father, Bobby Rath, and I start down the aisle at Punahou Chapel.        Photo Courtesy George Smith

From small kid time, girls dream of the dress we will wear on our wedding day. When the time is near, shopping is a treasured (though sometimes fraught) task. What style of bride do we want to be? Romantic? Sophisticated? Minimalist? We worry and waver and finally choose the outfit that we will wear down the aisle. But how much do we think about what our future husband might like?

When I married Jerry Mayfield on September 3, 1988, it was a second marriage for both of us. We were grownups. I eschewed the wedding gown altogether and decided on a chic silk suit. Wanting to be a little sassy, I chose a hat with a tulle veil and fresh flowers that coordinated with my bouquet. I was quite happy with the look…until I saw Jerry’s first glance. His was not a happy face; it was rather obvious to me that he did not like my wedding outfit.

What to do? Well, at that point, nothing. I simply had to saunter on down the aisle with my Daddy, pretending I had never seen that look on Jerry’s face.

There’s no need to go into the deep psychological scars that might have affected Jerry’s take on my choice. (I’m kidding.) And the experience certainly didn’t leave me scarred. It was just a moment in time, and it passed quickly by.

At least Jerry loved my Princess Kaiulani hula muumuu!

At our wedding reception at Halekulani, I changed into a holoku, which had been planned in advance of course. I was to dance an appropriate wedding hula, “Pua Hone,” as a surprise for Jerry. (He didn’t know I danced hula.) I walked up to the front of the room with a little trepidation regarding my appearance, but the grin on Jerry’s face was quite different from the one in the chapel. So I simply sighed with relief and danced on.

As we left the reception, we were showered with rose petals, thanks to my sister Roberta’s thoughtfulness.

Much later, Jerry told me that the color and style of my wedding suit, sort of 40s-ish, was just slightly reminiscent of a suit his mother wore. And his relationship with his mother was, well, a bit complicated.

I’ve never worn the suit again, but it still hangs in my closet. Like it or not, it’s a reminder of the day when Jerry and I became husband and wife and began the incredible journey that has been our life together.

Paula Rath

 

February 25th, 2021 / posted by paularath

Living in a tinker’s caravan in County Cork, Ireland, with a couple of British friends                                            Photo courtesy Helga Hoefert

When I was about 10 years old, I read a travel article in my mother’s Sunset Magazine about a trip in a horse drawn tinker’s caravan in Ireland. The idea quickly became an obsession. It took me ten years to get there, but the girl you see on the left is 20-year-old me, with friends I met at the W.B. Yeats International Summer School in Sligo, Ireland.

The jeans I was wearing in Ireland are my beloved green jeans. When I traveled to Europe for the first time in 1967, I was determined not to look like a hippie. In those days nearly all the young Americans in Europe were hippies – or dressed like them. They often got stopped and searched in airports, and it was hard for them to escape a stereotype. I didn’t want any of that.

I did not carry a backpack; I had a turquoise Skyway suitcase my grandmother gave me. I did not wear ratty sandals, I wore red ghillies (Scottish dancing shoes). Instead of flowing Indian dresses, my “uniform” was a polka dot shirtwaist dress. My coat was not a well-worn sheepskin jacket, it was a proper double breasted trench coat. And I did not wear blue jeans; mine were green.

Those green jeans spent 12 months going around the world with me, all by ourselves, from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland, to Hong Kong. They had many adventures, such as hiking in Norway, dancing in Mykonos, visiting the Wailing Wall in Israel and Taj Mahal in India, touring bazaars in Istanbul, kicking a soccer ball in London, walking the beach in Ireland. They served me well for years.

On our Irish caravan trip, we went all the way to the coast of Cork. The horse was smarter than the poetry scholars; he refused to go more than 14 miles a day!

In the summer of ’67, I spent a month in Norway with the family of Erik Holtedahl, who had been our foreign student at Punahou my senior year. My grandmother was Norwegian and so is my middle name, which was her first name: Ragna. I felt right at home in the Rondane mountains, in Oslo and in the Holtedahls’ second home, perched over a fjord.

In Norway, I hiked in my green jeans for a week in the Rondane Mountains with my Norwegian “brother,” Erik Holtedahl.  It was a glorious time and place!       Photos courtesy Knut Mugaas

 

We stopped by a glacial stream for a picnic lunch. The water is gorgeous but freezing cold. We ate cheese the color of caramel, a type of beef jerky, and that delicious iced water.

I honestly can’t remember what happened to my beloved green jeans. I looked for another pair similar to them for many years, and about five years ago, I found these:

Jerry gave me this terrific green safari jacket for Christmas last year, and I love it with my green jeans! The shoes are a gift from my dear friend Cheryl Tipton.

Everything in my wardrobe has to have a story, or else why bother with it?

Paula Rath

 

 

February 18th, 2021 / posted by paularath

A gleaming new look for pearls in a most original pendant

Walking into the Punchbowl studio of jewelry designer Lynda Caris of Muse IX Design first reminded me of a walk I took in Vienna, Austria in mid-winter. There was magic in the air in that winter wonderland where every tiny tree branch was shimmering with icicles. I felt magic in the air at Muse IX as well. Dozens of strings of glistening beads hung everywhere, from lamp shades, chair backs and overloaded jewelry racks. Jade, amethysts, amber, tourmalines, pearls and crystals were strewn in every nook and cranny. I was transfixed.

For Caris, COVID has been a time of creativity. She doesn’t have to worry about her materials, as many years of travel to gem shows and repeated visits to her secret sources in Beijing have given her an amazing inventory with which to create. For her, lockdown has actually been a time for growth, learning and experimenting.

I visited Nohea Gallery in Kahala Mall to see what Caris has been up to for the past ten months. She hasn’t missed a step along her path to creating new and beautiful pendants and earrings.

One of Muse IX Design’s “Waterfall” series, featuring Edison, Tahitian, Akoya and cultured pearls with gold overlay links

 

“Champagne Rhapsody,” cultured golden bronze pearls, keishi shells and cultured white pearls

 

Natural amber whimsically woven with baroque glazed cultured pearl

 

Carved jade pendant with Tahitian/Akoya pearl drops

 

A pair of dramatic drop earrings with crystals

The pendants all have adjustable chains so they can adapt to a variety of styles and necklines, from crew neck T-shirts to plunging evening gowns. Some can even be worn down your back.

Nohea Galleries are the exclusive purveyors of Muse IX Design. Nohea takes pride in presenting the best Hawaii has to offer in arts, crafts, jewelry, home and fashion accessories. Find them online at www.noheagallery.com or in Kahala Mall (open 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sunday or at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki (open 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday).

Paula Rath

 

February 16th, 2021 / posted by paularath

A maternity dress that didn’t quite make it to nine months.

It was a mistake to go to a traditional Nigerian tailor in Lagos – a man – to have my special maternity dress made. What’s worse, I neglected to ask him if he was a father. Clearly he was not. Or he would have had a more realistic take on how a woman’s tummy grows as the months go on. This got me through to about 7 1/2 months.

But oh well. I love the embroidery and I can still wear the dress, and every time I wear it, I am taken back to my strange pregnancy in Nigeria.

The nine months in 1974 leading up to the birth of my beloved son, Duncan (my only child) was an adventure all the way.

At the time, my ex-husband, Dick Graham, and I were living in Apapa, Lagos, Nigeria. We were pioneering for the Baha’i Faith, and pioneers must support themselves with jobs. Dick was working for a Canadian advertising agency and I was freelancing for women’s magazines, focusing on the issue of the importance of breastfeeding your baby.

You see, it had become quite trendy for Nigerian women to NOT breastfeed. They thought it was more “western” and “sophisticated” to give their babies formula. However, the water in most parts of Lagos was dreadful and women often didn’t know the mix ratios, so babies were dying of malnutrition. Such a tragedy and totally unnecessary.

Unfortunately, I hardly got to wear this dress because, unknown to us, we were illegally in Nigeria. The ad agency had our passports and were committed to renewing our visas. However, unbeknownst to us, our visas had expired in February, and the complex Nigerian Indiginization Decree signed in April meant that Dick was one too many expats for the ad agency to retain legally.

Yikes! We didn’t learn of this until June, when I arrived at the airport to take a plane to London to meet my parents for a road trip to Scotland. The military police escorted us home and we were put under house arrest for several days. Oddly, I never worried about it. I was in this sort of blissful state and I chose to believe the agency when they blithely said  “Don’t worry. We’ll get you back to Nigeria.” I flew off to London while the agency sent Dick to Ghana. We never returned to Nigeria and we lost everything: house, car, pets, possessions.

A traditional Nigerian embroidery design

I had a wonderful trip with my parents, although it’s a bit tricky when you’re seven months pregnant and on Scottish country roads with no petrol stations and thus, no bathrooms. My father got quite used to dropping his daughter off near farm fences so I could, well, you know.

Eventually, Dick joined me in the U.K. For awhile we thought I might have the baby in London. I did get a little prenatal care, but the National Health Service would not kick in until after the due date. So we reluctantly flew to Pennsylvania, to Dick’s family, where Duncan was born.

Sadly, I have precious few memories of my time in Nigeria. It was learned a few years later that if a woman takes Paludrine, a drug commonly used to prevent malaria, during her pregnancy, she is likely to lose a lot of short term memory. And boy did I! It’s really a shame.

Close-up detail

I do have one clear memory, though. My parents and I were staying in a beautiful lodge in Pitlochry, Scotland. All the guests had gathered to watch the BBC News. It was the night Richard Nixon resigned his presidency. I had never been so embarrassed to be an American, and we were the only ones in the room.

I still wear the dress occasionally, and I only have happy memories of the excitement I felt carrying Duncan. And, regardless of not knowing where we would be living for a few months, and where he would be delivered, he came out just fine!

Please return for the next installment of “What I Wore.”

Paula Rath