Monday, May 2, 2022. It was warmer and sunny yesterday in New York after a pleasant weekend weather-wise; perfect for a walk in the park.
Which is exactly what hobbyist photographer, real estate developer (ever heard of Chelsea Piers?), and friend of NYSD Irwin Cohen has been doing a lot of these days — taking in the miracles of nature in Central Park. You could also say he’s been witnessing the miracles of Frederick Law Olmsted; because as hard as it is to believe Central Park is not an act of God.
Anyway, it’s all connected and certainly relevant in that 2022 just happens to be the 200th anniversary of the birth of Mr. Olmsted. There are many events going on thanks to the National Association for Olmsted Parks and their partners — all to honor the great social reformer and founder of American landscape architecture. You can join in on the fun here (from NY to Connecticut, Massachusetts, Virginia, Illinois and beyond — Olmsted had more than 500 commissions!), but in the meantime thank you Irwin!
This past Saturday, April 30th the 2021/2022 International Best-Dressed list was published by Air Mail, Graydon Carter’s digital publication. Initially, devised to stimulate the buying, wearing, and manufacturing of American clothing when fashion news from Paris was cut off by World War II, the list has gained visibility over the years and has come to represent an annual snapshot of culture through the lens of fashion.
The latest edition of the International Best-Dressed List reflects figures from the worlds of philanthropy, music, fashion, society and sports. This year the List has also officially become non-binary, with the previously discrete “Women” and “Men” categories now merged.
Amy Fine Collins, who is a longtime member of the Best Dressed List and also committee member, has written a brief description of her experience with The List:
Back when I first became conscious of it, the International Best-Dressed List was an Olympian pinnacle, inhabited by near-mythic creatures, and virtually unscalable.
So when Eleanor Lambert, who founded it in 1940, tapped me to be a member of her secret committee, the governing body that oversaw the ballot results, I was both intimidated and thrilled.
I was elected to the List in 1994 as a Fashion Professional, and then after a few more appearances, I was hoisted to the Hall of Fame in 1996. Somehow the committee contrived for me to be absent each time my name came up for consideration.
I know firsthand from my time co-administering the List for Vanity Fair (2003-2017) and now for Air Mail, that these accolades are meaningful to anyone who cares at all about what they wear. Even though everyone gets dressed every day, few excel at the daily ritual.
To adorn oneself with originality, individuality, consistency, distinction, and imagination is a rare talent, worthy of recognition.
A supremely well-dressed individual is an ambulatory work of art, a source of pleasure and wonder. As Truman Capote — who famously cultivated friendships with an exquisite flock of Hall of Famers — observed, “A creation wrought by human nature is of subtler human interest, of finer fascination, than one nature alone has evolved.”
Especially with the state of the world today, and climate change accelerating dangerously, dressing well is life-affirming, an aesthete’s act of hope. Extraordinarily, Eleanor’s invention, the only original and authentic list of its kind, has endured now for 82 years. Seen across the decades, the List forms a snapshot of our culture, viewed one year at a time through the lens of fashion, and remains, in Eleanor’s words, “a permanent record of excellence.”
The International Best Dressed List 2022
Ivy Getty, Amanda Gorman, Kim Jisoo, Luis Miguel, Emma Raducano, Chris Rock, Anya Taylor-Joy, Stanley Tucci, Darren Walker, Zendaya
Dapper Dan, Edward Enninful, Ho-yeoun Jung, Freddie Leiba, Isaac Mizrahi, Michelle Salas, Valentina Sampaio, Hedi Slimane, Elie Top, Charles de Vilmorin
Thelma Golden, Jill Kargman, Jordan Roth, Jon Batiste
Hall of Fame:
Lady Gaga, Norma Kamali and Iké Udé
Couples: Simon Doonan and Jonathan Adler
DPC: The first list, commonly referred to as the Best-Dressed List, was first published in 1940, a direct result of the War in Europe where France had been occupied by the Nazis and the entire continent was living on the edge of catastrophe. And the fashion business had mainly closed down.
Eleanor was a young woman from Indiana who had moved to New York after college with the ambition of becoming a sculptor. Once here — in the 1930s amidst the Depression – in need to support herself, she accidentally fell into working as a promoter of art galleries. Her work was so effective that it naturally grew. It can be said that she built the image of the American fashion industry that flourished after the War. Her creation of The List also raised the public image of the industry for the people, making it competitive thereafter with the French.
Fashion has always interested me from the time I was a young boy becoming a teen-ager, entirely self-conscious and wanting “to look nice” to the world out there. I didn’t think of it as “fashion,” I thought of it consciously as “getting ahead.”
Being an observer by nature I began to see the “differences” in public image that fashion reveals. I was an ambitious kid – in my day dreams – moving forward, getting ahead, were frequently the driving objective of American boys growing up, mid-century. It was very effective to the point where it could transform one’s own self-image in time.
I recall seeing photos of the original list members. It was particularly memorable because it contained a woman I knew, a friend, Dorothy Hirshon. Dorothy at the time was Dorothy Paley, the first wife of William Paley of CBS. A beautiful California girl who had first married one of the Hearst sons, and had become a social and philanthropic figure in New York.
The dress, the costume of those 1940s Best Dressed girls (Dorothy was 32) were tailored, probably handmade, and what today we would call conservative. Very conservative. There was a “uniform” tendency to the dress of that era reflecting the dangerous times.
Twenty years before – 1920 – fashion had gone through an enormous change from the turn of the 19th century. Everything changed. The hem went from the floor to over the knee for the first time ever. The hair was cut short, the shoes were prominent. This was a first time in centuries.
By 1940 and the world being at war, the costume had grown more conservative and practical. A century later, all of that has come and gone. The fashion has changed again, reflecting the changes in our society. Whereas The List once demonstrated social status, it now demonstrates a personal individual image to the world. Whatever else it demonstrates, fashion demonstrates your attitude toward your life; being as it is your art: self-expression.