my mom the style icon: maria mercedes tibau

Whether putting together the perfect outfit or writing about love, this romantic poet made sure everything she crafted was close to perfect.

EVEN AT A SLEEPY, BEACHSIDE vacation spot in Ecuador, my mom, María Mercedes Tibau, stuck to her rule: Dress to look your best—especially if your picture might be taken. Mom was a poet, and in every verse she wrote and every outfit she assembled, she celebrated the beautiful. Sprawled in a hammock, she looks completely elegant thanks to her Hepburn-esque updo, golden heels and crisply ironed pants. I certainly inherited her urge to look put together: Even when I’m on an archaeological dig, I’ll tie my hair up with a floral scarf to feel a bit more polished. Doing so I feel like I’m carrying on her impulse to share beauty in every way she could. —María Nieves Zedeño, 49, research professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona, Tucson

Faintly shimmery thread makes the classic mariner shirt a little glam.