Friday, August 26, 2016

Seeing fashion

Conservatory Garden in Central Park. 4:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Friday, August 26, 2016. Nice late August weather, yesterday in New York. Very warm but often overcast, and not much humidity. You can kind of feel the holiday time lessening and the city beginning to pulsate again.

Otherwise it is quiet and I have nothing to write about. Or so I think when I sit down. Or rather, I feel I have nothing to write about. It is probably my age but my thoughts are less on social activity (I don’t have much) and more focused on the world I’m living in — and the world I was born into and grew up in. The changes are recognizable as changes and those that are alarming (to these eyes) are certainly just part of whatever change is in life as history.

Which, speaking of Change. Fashion Week in New York begins on the 7th of September and runs through the following week. The whole notion of fashion week has changed dramatically in my lifetime of recollection (since the 1970s when I had a retail business). In those days, the fashion business, which was known to one and all as the garment business, pretty much had the same physical center it had had for a century. Seventh Avenue (and thereabouts) was the title that covered it. Now “Fashion Week” is like the industry itself, far flung and all over the place. And so is the fashion.
People think of the fashion/garment industry as a business, and well it is. But it is something more in a sociological sense. It is a barometer of Us. There are many others of course but Fashion, as it were, is a barometer of our nature like most natural barometers. It often presages also.

For example, there is the moment of Queen Marie-Antoinette in her muslins. A famous portrait by Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun. Vigee-LeBrun was a young woman when she painted the Queen of France, as was the Queen herself. The portrait was executed at Versailles in 1783. Antoinette had been at Versailles since her betrothal to Louis XVI when she was 14. Vigee-LeBrun (who would paint five portraits of her subject) was the same age.  The two women shared a great enthusiasm for fashion and the new. Muslins were “the new” at ths time of that painting. Vigee-LeBrun painted many of her subjects in muslins thereafter.

Queen Marie Antoinette painted by Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun in 1783 at Versailles.
The early '80s in France were already an uneasy time with the economy on edge in aristocratic and royal circles in Europe and especially France. Change was in the air although it was not recognized as that. Certain natural catastrophes such as bad harvests made matters worse, because the ordinary people (then known as peasants) were out of luck after a bad harvest. Starvation loomed and often moved in. This kind of situation was accompanied by rustling of aristos who had their own problems of keeping up with the Joneses. And, they didn’t like the Queen.

She’d become a pariah for reasons hard to fathom in modern society since she had no real power except over her staff of dressmakers, jewelers, furniture and porcelain makers. Furthermore she didn’t like a lot of the custom of dressing her that was designed for a Queen -- such as a group of titled women vying to dress her (and to choose her garments) every morning from nudity on up to the finished product. She changed that, which did not hold her in good stead with the vying ones and their supporters (all royal assignments were major assets to procure).

She had her circle as well as her charisma that kept her on everyone’s tongues. And she was The Queen.  But she was also a young woman whose life had little to offer except divergence – of which fashion is still to this day a major subject.

So when the Vigee-LeBrun portrait was presented for everyone (those being the aristocracy and the nobles) to see, Mon Dieu!  As the French would say: there was a major rustling of the feathers. The Queen was accused of not behaving like a queen (which meant posing only queenly garb of silks and taffetas, diamonds and pearls …. And feathers in her hats). Her “irreverence” was read as arrogance, or stupidity, or betrayal even. The brouhaha is referred to historically as a scandal. But it was actually nature’s winds beginning to blow, as would, less than a half decade later, the entire monarchy.

So what does this tell us? That muslin – the garment became known as the Chemise a la Reine in a style that is known as the gaulle. It was considered beneath a queen’s obligation to wear that which was sort of, but not really, peasant stuff. Aha! Peasants!

We all know what happened to poor Antoinette who never knew what she was in for from the moment her mother the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria decided to sell her youngest daughter off to the French monarchy in exchange for Peace. All irony and really, only muslin.

That’s how I see fashion. You might too if you looked around.
Vigée Le Brun's portrait of Marie Antoinette and her Children, 1787
One of my great pleasures in summertime (and warmer weather) in New York is the "garden" I make every year with a couple of my houseplants and some purchases that flower through the warmer season on my small terrace. No doubt one of the best things about my apartment is my terrace. I can open the door every morning and walk outside my apartment without bumping into anyone. I don't get great Sun because I face west and look at another apartment building across the avenue. However, I get a lot of light and in mid-afternoon, I get some Sun until it heads farther west and out of my terrace's range. A couple plants – the two crotons, and the plant to the right of it (I don't know the name although it was rescued from the laundry room about ten years ago and is still flourishing after a long recovery) are with me all year round. I take them in and keep them close to the light. The other plants: the impatiens (pink this year), and the coleus (which I grew from three cuttings I took off the street (in front of one of the other apartment buildings), the potato plant (light green leaves), the plant to the left of it a friend had sent it to me from Charleston along with others (and it was the only one to survive the journey), and the fern.
On the terrace nearest its entrance is another flowering plant that looks sort of like impatiens that I planted for the season. As long as there is warmth in the air, they will be in residence. When the cold weather comes, I don't have the inner light to support them. When I was a kid growing up in Massachusetts, my mother had a garden, or gardens. She had an enormous vegetable garden that took us through the summer and into the winter when she canned many veggies. She also had a small flower garden. One of my clearest memories was of her on a Sunday afternoon, her day off of her labor burdens, dressed more fashionably for the day and walking around her little garden by herself, just staring at the flowers. I always thought it was odd. What was she looking at?

I know now. My little "garden" – pure amateur – I walk out to look at several times a day, sometime more often than I can remember. I know what Mother was looking at: the beauty and the growth enhancing it. It is a calming, an assurance that there is something greater to this life than our quotidian decisions and attitudes. And that is the Beauty and the natural flourishing. Those three coleus cuttings that I began in glasses with water for the stems amaze me with their beauty every time I look at them. And the crotons with their gorgeous leaves thrill me too. As for the flowering impatiens and its cousins, watching them grow and flower is the greatest reassurance of them all.
When I lived in California there were always flowers blooming around the exterior of the house. They seemingly required no attention except fo an occasional hosing. But every time I walked out the door to the pool, they were everywhere. These flowers, including the impatiens, are my reverie of those times and that place.
The Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons celebrated another year of rehabilitating and successfully releasing animals back into the wild across Long Island with its annual GET WILD Summer Benefit. The event was hosted by Molly Channing at the Channing Family Sculpture Garden on Saturday, August 13, 2016 and honored Ingrid Arneberg and Will Marin. Cindy Clifford was the evening’s emcee.
Shelley Berkoski, Director of Development at the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center thanked all the volunteers and sponsors for making the event possible. She presented honorees Ingrid Arneberg and Will Marin with an engraved plaque to commemorate their time dedicated to the wildlife hospital. 
Handler Jane Gill and Beth Ostrosky Stern.
A silent auction was held, on smartphones and iPads at the 501 Auctions website, before and during the event. Auction items included: Birds with Wisteria watercolor painting on silk by Ingrid Arneberg, Montauk photograph by Ann Weisman and the Wonder bronze figure with steel base by Gwen Marcus. Other notable auction items included paintings, photography and sculptures from: John A. Bell, Barbara Bilotta, Tim Cole, Vito DeVito, Dr. Robert Dressdale, April Gornik, Sylvia Hommert, Bill Kinney, Dianne Marxe, Barbara Maslen, Terry Nestle, Connie Oshrin, Christopher Paparo, Herb Simeone, Clarissa Payne Uvegi and Brian Wasarhaley.

Among those attending: Beth Ostrosky Stern, Howard Lorber, Leslie Alexander, Liz Brown, Ginnie Frati, Jackie Rogers, Curtis Sliwa, Shelley Berkoski, Sylvia Channing, Molly Channing, Ingrid Arneberg, Will Marin, Frances Cole Jones, Cindy Clifford, Missy Hargraves and Jill Rappaport.
Read about The Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center of The Hamptons and see what we all can do to maintain our natural environment.

The Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center, Inc., Eastern Long Island’s only wildlife hospital, is a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to the rehabilitation of wild animals impacted by encroachment of humans on their habitat. It is a grass roots organization that grew from a few concerned friends to a group of over 3,000 members and supporters. The center is a full-time professional wildlife hospital staffed by licensed rehabilitators, biologists, animal behaviorists and volunteers. Over 300 people have been trained to assist in wildlife rescues. The Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center is located on Munn’s Pond Park through a cooperative licensing agreement with Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation.
The center is situated on a greenbelt of public land parcels totaling several thousand acres and stretches from Tiana Bay to Peconic Bay located on the eastern end of Long Island, NY. This is a unique and irreplaceable ecosystem consisting of salt and fresh water wetlands, Pine Barrens, deciduous forest and meadowland. It is the perfect setting for a wildlife rehabilitation center. The hospital is designed exclusively for wild animals. Unlike a veterinary hospital, there are no ambient noises or smells to stress the wildlife that are recovering within. The Wildlife Rescue Center receives over 10,000 calls each year for information or assistance with wild animal encounters. We also provide educational programs to local elementary and secondary schools. Students from local colleges participate in cooperative education programs and internships. The Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center annual operating budget exceeds $650,000, almost all of which comes from the generosity of donors.

For more information, visit:
Leslie Alexander, Liz Brown, and Cora Smith.
Sylvia Channing, Molly Channing, Keith Douglas, and Frances Jones. Karen Goerl and Jackie DeAngelis.
Carol Vaughn-Rivera, son Baron, and Shane Carter.
Vivian and Stan Picheny. Missy Hargraves.
-Daniel and Mary Ann Mulvihill-Decker, Alyssa Moudis, and Jeanine Imperatore.
Jackie Rogers.
Ingrid Arneberg and Will Marin. Curtis Sliwa and Nancy Regula.
Jessica Schnaider, Paul Wexler, and Tracie Wexler.
Shelley Berkoski,Ingrid Arneberg, Will Marin, and Ginny Frati.
Jill Rappaport. Joe Kowaldwski and Kristen Dichiaro.
Theressa Valla, Kelly Cusick, and Signe Slomski.
Christine Pressman. Howard Lorber.

Contact DPC here.