Monday, January 29, 2007
A Peek In Her Closet --- A New Couture Exhibit at the Met
“There are no chic women in America. The one exception is Nan Kempner” ---Diana Vreeland.
Though Nan Kempner worked as the fashion editor for Harper’s bazaar, as a contributing editor for French Vogue, and a consultant for Tiffany’s, the role she is most remembered for is “the world’s most famous clotheshorse”. The Nan Kempner: American Chic exhibit at the Costume Institute showcases some of the most daring and exquisite pieces from this Best Dressed Hall of Famer’s closet.
Highlights include a YSL silk faille gold opera coat, a Phillip Treacy hat made from feathers, and a striped evening jacket with intricately-draped sleeves. It is interesting to observe that Kempner definitely had favorite themes, most notably nautical and sea-life. There is a YSL raw silk jacket decorated with nautilus shells, a few dazzling coral and gold necklaces, and (my personal favorite) Judith Leiber purse fashioned from a nautilus and red leather.
While she collected pieces from various couture designers, she was faithful to a fault to Yves St. Laurent, saying that he designed clothes that fit her body perfectly because he designed for people like himself. Other designers Kempner favored included Oscar de la Renta, Michael Kors, Madame Gres, and Valentino. Unlike her contemporaries, she mixed and matched haute couture designer and ready to wear outfits liberally to suit her tastes, earning her the reputation of refined Park Avenue elegance.
Slender, tan, blonde, rich and notable for saying “I loathe fat people”, I dare you to love her anyway, if not for her uber-chic tailored power suits, then for her sweet peach ruffled coming out dress designed by Jean Dessès. This full skirted crinoline-lined dress covered in lace ruffles is the first of many pieces she donated to the museum before she died in 2005 of emphysema. Kempner started smoking at 14 and was known to alternate her breathing mask with a cigarette and champagne; she died at 74 leaving this legacy of haute couture, quite possibly the last great couture collection in the world, spanning 6 decades of American and European fashion.
"I want to be buried naked, I know there's a store where I'm going." ---Nan Kempner