Almost time for the light wool jackets

Central Park. 5:15 PM. Photo: JH.
September 14, 2010. Yesterday was a heavenly day weather-wise in New York. Sunny and mild; almost time for the light wool jackets. Perfect weather for the fashion mavens now crowding the sidewalks of New York while Fashion Week goes speeding down the runway. It’s over on Friday.

NYSD readers may have noticed we’re getting fashion coverage from not one but three women, all of whom love fashion in their own individual ways: Ellin Saltzman, Jill Lynne and Jamee Gregory. Each woman comes from a different point of view despite the great mutual interest. Jill is the artist/photographer taking it in. Jamee is the connoisseur, the shopper par excellence who has an enthusiastic eye, albeit sharp.

Ellin Saltzman (above) and Jamee Gregory (below), photographed by Jill Lynne.
Ellin is doing a daily fashion diary. She is the pro in the group, and I love her diaries because, as a one-time fashion retailer, I know she writes what the (older) girls with the dough want to read: Common sense and fashion sense; and an eye for beauty and the innovative. With a natural sense of history. For me fashion is all about history. Ellin was Fashion Director at Saks Fifth Avenue for years. In their heyday, SFA was one of the two most glamorous department stores on the avenue. Saks and Bergdorf’s. After Saks, Ellin went over to Bergdorf’s. In those days the women of society and prominence in New York went there, all of them, all the time.

I don’t go to many runway shows. I have great admiration for the designers’ profession and objectives. When I was in the business I couldn’t help looking at everything in terms of who will buy. It’s tough business and a lot of work all the time. (Reading Ellin Saltzman now I understand why they will buy what they buy.) But I’ve no great personal interest. It’s great people watching, New York-style although the runway has become more and more like the Hollywood red carpet of late: glitz on a stick.

I do attend the Oscar show out of support and allegiance to my friend Boaz Mazor who is Oscar’s sales director (See NYSD HOUSE) and who loves his work and his product. Boaz a wonderful friend to all. And also, you know you’re going to see spectacular beauty on that runway because Oscar comes with that provenance -- such as Balenciaga who generations before came with provenance. Tradition. Plus I know NYSD readers love a dose of Oscar’s collection; it’s the New York that still has magic to everyone whether they know it or not. Even Oscar’s front rows still have some of that international polish.

Monday night’s preview of Judy Price’s
National Jewelry Institute Notable and Notorious exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York comes to mind in all this. Looking at the luxurious garments along with owners’ identities and accompanying thumbnail histories, you get a strong sense of the women as individuals and the world which they inhabited and it inspires awe.

I was talking about this at the exhibition with a young woman friend of mine. We were looking at garments/costumes that were ten to a hundred twenty years old, and a couple even older. Despite the time span, there was a unity in the point of view. It was art, intended to enhance and to flatter. It was celebration.
Left: Ivory hand-embroidered caftan, 1999 (Oscar de la Renta for Pierre Balmain, gift of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman). Right: Evening pajamas, mid-1920s; Blackfloral silk damask/geometrically printed stubbed silk, unattributed, off-stage wardrobe of Imogene "Bubbles" Wilson, one-time Ziegfeld girl. Stage costume designed for Gypsy Rose Lee, circa 1937.
Left: White silk for Jesseye Norman. Center: Norman Norell for Lauren Bacall, circa 1966. Costume designed for Carmen De Lavallade.
Marie Antoinette fancy dress costume, late 1920s; pink silk floral metallic brocade, trimmed with silver lace, rhinestones and ribbon flowers, designed by Callot Soeurs/Paris. Worn by Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh to the Knickerbocker Ball held in New York City. Center: Balenciaga for the Duchess of Windsor.
My young lady friend who isn’t a fanatic but loves fashion and follows it with acumen was in awe. She wondered where it went. What changed. My quick answer: Everything. Although I think a lot of the change resulted from the liberation movements beginning with the Women’s Movement and the burning of the bras. It all has turned out to be far more significant than anyone could have imagined. These changes are sociological and evolutionary (whatever that means). And then Hollywood (movies and television) did the rest.

Dress was a matter of tradition and habit.
There was a regimen. Look at archival photographs of the midday crowds on Fifth Avenue sixty, seventy years ago. Most of the crowd were average middle-class, working people. Yet there was a high sense of style, compared to anything today, and it was pervasive, in the women and the men. It was agreed upon in metropolitan life.
What interested me about the FIT Couture Council luncheon where they honored Karl Lagerfeld last Friday at Avery Fisher Hall was the way people dressed for the occasion. This was bigtime fashion New York with the editors of Harper’s Bazaar and Anna Wintour present.

Most of the men, except for the paparazzi, were in suit and tie. Or blazers and tie. The older women (late thirties, on up) were mainly classically dressed, and often in Lagerfeld designs, to pay tribute. The younger women were all expensively dressed, in search of style. Very high stiletto heels that look hazardous to your health, one way or the other. And very short skirts often missing the great legs to back them up. It’s fun to look at. The bywords are “chill” and “relax.”

Lady Amanda Harlech, John Richardson, and Daphne Guinness
“And the hair ...” my young (early 30s) friend added to my remarks, considering her peers.

Then there is Daphne Guinness. She was there and she’s all over the fashion pages this week. I don’t know Ms. Guinness but her recherche chic is just too good to pass up. I could just stare at her (I won’t, I won’t). She’s a very good looking woman, and there is great vulnerability behind that delicate and girlish face, and a comportment that speaks haut confidence that’s not necessarily true.

Then there’s the glitter, and it’s almost thrown away. Thrown away glitter. That canary yellow diamond pin on a black velvet bow, on the back of her tiny Scarlett O’Hara waist.

It’s the closest moment we’re ever going to get to our own fin de siècle, like that of the Gilded Age.

Because I don’t know Ms. G, I don’t know what the motivation is for her, but the result is, in person, to my way of thinking, what in the musical theatre used to be called “The Eleven O’clock Number.” The one with the tune you’d be whistling (when it was a hit) on your way out of the theater. After the final curtain.

That’s fashion for me.
Daphne Guinness's shoes, when ballet slippers can add four inches to your height (to her height, that is).
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