I don’t think it’s odd that fashion found a path into my life. I was the fourth girl in this pattern in our family of eight: 1 boy 3 girls, 1 boy 3 girls. I got a lot of dated hand-me-downs. I still possess the first store-bought dress my mother let me pick out for first grade. I either got it at Grant’s or a shop on Main Street before the shopping centers came in and drove them all to closing. I’ve kept that dress all these years even though it is ripped and faded. My kid sisters wore it too. It is turquoise blue on its gathered skirt with a pattern of ballet slippers and violins, and the top is solid nut brown. The collar and short puff sleeves are piped in the patterned turquoise. There is a thin sash that (still) is (partially) sewn into the side seams that hold a bias self-belt. On the belt is an appliqued violin and ballet slippers, and they used to have several rhinestones. I believe one still exists.
I looked for the dress in both of the old chests I have where some of the other important fashions of my life are kept: My wedding suit–light seafoam green, Carmelo Pomodoro silk, my dress of many colors that my mother made for me to graduate college–I was her only college grad. It was so colorful and short as Mary Quant’s. I wore it to New York City in 1973 to be a Guest Editor for Mademoiselle. I also found things kept from college—the black antique beaded and fitted jacket I wore with ripped and embroidered jeans (Can you guess I was a hippie?).
Hidden almost under everything is my mother’s soft denim trousers she wore to garden in. While at Vogue, I found them on a forage home. She hadn’t worn them for years; they were worn and unlike any jeans of those early 1970s–telling of what was to be. I patched their frailty and wore them one day to Vogue. It was bold; it caught Grace Mirabella’s eye as she saw me walking up from the back elevators with stats in my hands. I saw her turn her head and watch me.
So when I ended up at Vogue and illustrating for Mlle, and then at Bendel’s and Rags, and opening a studio for fashion clients like Tahari and Perry and Carmelo and Willi Smith, it wasn’t that I didn’t have it in my background.
I sewed my own clothes to make them special. It was within my budget to do that. I used my babysitting money on a light sky colored trench coat that I also brought to NYC back then and hardly wore, and shoes, and stuff I couldn’t construct. In college I got a job designing and making costumes one summer, and then the producers hired me for the main stage show, Cabaret, at Boston Conservatory after I switched to Mass Art.
My daughter likes clothes too. She has a mini dress form and pins things together on it. She likes clothes and puts them together fabulously. So maybe it’s in the blood