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The Only

Find vintage fashion at The Only, a one-of-a-kind shop in oxford that celebrates the collection and legacy of a unique woman.

Written by Leslie Criss | Photographed by Joe Worthem

Styled by Mary Kate Whelan | Modeled by Lilly Mcelreath

When Charlotte Ralph Brunt died in March 2016 at the age of 99 years and 7 months, she left behind friends and family who thought the world of her. She also left a treasure trove of fabulous fashions, jewelry and other accessories she’d accumulated during her lifetime.

Recently, Rex Harrison Brunt, the younger of Charlotte’s two sons, decided it was time to go through his mother’s things. He found it quite overwhelming. After much thought, Rex came up with a creative plan of which he believes his mother would approve.

At some point in the near future, Brunt will open “The Only,” a unique shopping experience where he will have his mother’s clothing, jewelry, scarves, sunglasses and shoes on sale. The proceeds will be given to charity. Rex, a self-proclaimed eternal optimist, hopes the shop will be up and going by the end of February.

When Charlotte said, “Accessories make the outfit,” she meant it. Anyone who sees the inventory of Charlotte’s life in fashion will have no doubt. Among the items that will be for sale through “The Only” will be 135 Hermès scarves, more than 30 Chanel handbags and numerous pairs of shoes, some that have never been worn.

The shop, which will be upstairs over Yaya’s Frozen Yogurt on the Square in Oxford, will be open 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, or by appointment.

“This will be the only shop, certainly in Mississippi, that will carry all of these vintage clothes,” Rex said. “The phone number, which took some time to secure, will be 662-THE-ONLY.”

Listening to her son speak of his mother, one quickly learns much about Charlotte. She was born in Memphis and lost her mother when she was 6 months old. She lived near Kosciusko with her maternal grandparents while her father worked in New York City. She met her husband on a blind date, and they ended up owning the Chevrolet dealership in Louisville, Mississippi.

According to Rex, she was a staunch Baptist, but more important than her denomination, she loved the Lord. She loved teaching: The Mississippi State College for Women (now MUW) graduate taught English just out of college and later taught fourth grade. She also taught the senior women’s Sunday school class at First Baptist Church, Louisville, for more than 50 years.

“She loved fourth graders,” Rex said. “She always said, ‘They can tie their sashes and their shoes, and they can go to the bathroom by themselves, and they’re young enough not to be smart alecks yet.’”

She was humble and kind and generous, and she had impeccable taste — especially in all things fashion-related, her son said. She held firmly to the belief that, “To be one’s best, one should look one’s best.”

“That’s how she lived,” her son said. “She also believed in taking care of herself, doing high-intensity aerobics, even in her 70s and beyond. She never met a stranger.”

The idea for “The Only” has taken many months of work, and with the nationwide supply chain issues, it has taken longer than normal to receive cases and other items for the shop, but it has also been a labor of love from a son to his mother.

“It has been a long journey and more work than I ever thought,” Rex said. “Sotheby’s offered to fly down, pick up Mother’s things, insure and sell them, but I chose to go a different direction. I would love to know who buys these things my mother loved and took such care of. I’d love to know they will be appreciated and cherished by someone else.”

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