My Fred Leighton Mexican Wedding Gown 1972

I always read the Times obits. But I’m particularly interested when there’s a name I recognize, like earlier this month when a write-up about Fred Leighton caught my eye.

I’d recently recalled his name in my memoir draft because I’d bought the gown I’d be married in at his store in the Village. Leighton, in 1972, was the equivalent of Vera Wang today, assuming you were like me–slightly hippyish–and sought a Mexican Wedding Gown for your barefoot-on-the-beach wedding. Mine wasn’t quite that, but I wanted the look.

I was fascinated by the story I found:

Fred Leighton was not, for most of his life, Fred Leighton. He was born Murray Mondschein in the Bronx, on July 23, 1932. 

He opened a florist shop in Los Angeles and later, back in New York, bought a store that sold Mexican arts and crafts on Macdougal Street in Greenwich Village in 1959. It was called Fred Leighton, after its former owner — the name he would take as his own.

He added wedding dresses to his store, and later Mexican and Native American silver jewelry. But when a dealer gave him some Victorian-era jewelry to sell, and he saw the prices he could get, he began to envision a different future.

What gives me heart when I read about famous people’s lives is all that I didn’t know about them in addition to the breadth of what I’d remembered him for. I love how the happenstance of a dealer bringing him Victorian-era jewelry changed his future.

How often do I feel that I am 100{3132d11415989f3a9ce467d4470234ea06fdec39c609b79d7aa76a3791cb93df} responsible for the trajectory of my life when, by happenstance, a fellow teacher demonstrates how to make Ukrainian Easter eggs–something I’d never heard of–and I find myself on a 30-year career path? Or a colleague who shared with me questions her coach asked her and piqued my interest in a new career for me.

If you’re pondering what to do next in your business, get out in nature, socialize or say ‘yes’ to an unexpected offer. It may take you in a whole new direction that serves you and your clients well.


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