Sparking joyIsa Giallorenzoon November 12, 2022 at 12:00 pm

Hyde Park resident and former Sotheby’s employee Mary Griffin Credit: Isa Giallorenzo

“I guess I’m an eclectic dresser,” says Mary Griffin, 72, who currently works part-time at Essential Elements-Chicago boutique in Avalon Park. “Everything about me is eclectic. My home is eclectic. There’s not a pair of anything in my house—nothing matches. My friends enjoy coming over to my house because they say it’s like going to a small museum. Everywhere they look, they see something different,” adds Griffin. She says she takes inspiration from magazines, art, nature, and life itself. “I love nature. Being outside and looking at the trees, the grass, and life in general. You see, life is supposed to be eclectic. We’re supposed to see beauty in everything. Even in something ugly or trashy.”

Griffin has had a “passion for fashion” since her early years when her very chic mother decided to let her wear whatever she wanted. “Even if it was something crazy looking, she would just let me go on and wear it because I seemed to be very happy wearing it. Fashion, to me, is wearable art. So I might have something very trendy on, or I might wear something designer, or some people would say I might look like I’m in the circus. It just depends on my mood that day, how I feel when I wake up. I don’t think there’s a rule [people] should go by. I think they should wear what they want, what makes them happy and comfortable. Because if I am not dressed to my taste, that would throw my whole day off. I can’t wait to get back home,” she admits.

Her friends should consider themselves lucky since Griffin makes sure to give away every item that doesn’t bring her joy. The Burberry raincoat she was photographed in had already found a new owner by the time she was interviewed for this article. “If it’s something that I bought that’s very expensive, I have a couple of girlfriends that are my size. I’ll call one of them and they will say, ‘Mary, you’re giving that away? You’re crazy!’ I like blessing people with things that I have if I know that they’ll like them. And I do have a rule: whatever new item I bring into my house, something old has to go out. So if I bring a new sweater in, I have to get rid of an old sweater. That way my place doesn’t become cluttered,” she says.

The day Griffin was photographed, she was running a few errands downtown while sneaking in a little shopping trip. She enjoys shopping in stores from all price points—including thrift stores, which she loves. “You can find some wonderful things at the thrift stores. You just have to have an eye. It’s almost like it’s something that can’t be taught. It’s a gift,” Griffin says. Speaking of a good eye, she found her fabulous, orange frames in the reader glasses section at a shoe store (she later added prescription lenses). Along with the eyewear, her beautiful snow-white hair à la Rei Kawakubo made her stand out. “I started turning gray in my 20s. I used to go through the whole chore of washing, blow drying, and flat ironing,” Griffin remembers. “Then I just said, ‘No, I’m not gonna do that anymore.’ I’m at an age where I can do whatever I want, and it’s gonna be OK because I’ve earned it. I went to college, I had a great job [at the auction house Sotheby’s], I’m retired. I feel free. I’m living my best life at 72 because I feel like I have no restrictions. Now I can just live life to the fullest.”

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