Last night I attended a book signing for “Bonnie Cashin: Chic Is Where You Find It”, by Stephanie Lake, Rizzoli New York (the forward is written by Jonathan Adler). It was held at Rizzoli, 1133 Broadway, from 6 to 8, and in celebration, the window featured 3 mannequins dressed in Bonnie Cashin ensembles from Dr. Lake’s personal archives.
In addition to three candy colored leather coats designed for Sills that are featured ln the book, included was a one of a kind Cashin leather-trimmed, dog leash clasped lap robe, a rag doll that she would place out to instruct guests at cocktail parties (“be an angel, help yourself, it reads in her hand,”) which can be interpreted on many levels (as Dr. Lake noted), as well as some throw pillows in “Bonnie” acid brights that were in her living room. The floor covering read “CASHIN NOT FASHION,” taken from one of the memos from her archive that is reproduced in the book.
|Yeohlee and Jeffrey Banks|
Among the many Cashin fans who turned out, were Yeohlee and Jeffrey Banks, who told me he is working on a book on Norman Norell. Unsurprisingly, there were several women (including Kim Jenkins, a Visiting Assistant Professor of Fashion at Pratt Institute) who like myself, were dressed in vintage Cashin. My apple green canvas coat looked almost identical to the one in the window and Dr. Lake opted for a long black jersey dress with a signature black leather Bonnie Cashin turnlock closure belt, and the designer’s black and brown plaid mohair cape, which is included in the book.
|Bonnie Cashin clad Kim Jenkins with Dr. Stephanie Lake|
Although I reviewed the book upon receiving it several weeks ago, I would be the first to admit that my first read through did not even scratch the surface. Suffice it to say it is an absolute ‘must read’. What struck me is how similar Bonnie’s entire aesthetic is to mine: I prize form and function and comfort is key. Our creative and fashionable mothers loved to dress us up in ensembles of their own design. While I am not a painter myself, and never studied fine art like Bonnie, I approach fashion with an artists’ eye. We both embrace clutter (we are the polar opposites of Marie Kondo, who would obviously disapprove lol!).
|Dr. Lake & Marilyn Kirschner wearing Bonnie Cashin|
Quite frankly, there are so many similarities; instead of explaining my philosophy with regards to fashion, design, style, and life, I would simply say, read this book. I found myself smiling and nodding my head in silent agreement as I read her inspiring quotes which according to Dr. Lake, were “everywhere”. “She wrote them in her private journal and on scraps of paper; on the walls were quotes from others”. They were all meticulously preserved by Dr. Lake, who shared them in her book.
These are some of my favorites (in some cases they are dated):
“Fashion should be pure enjoyment. Our closets are shockingly overstuffed. One does not need clothing for practical reasons. One only needs new clothing to feel wonderful in.”
“When you enjoy things, clutter becomes interesting”. 1969
“The essence of chic is quite difficult to define in words. It has little to do with how much you pay for your clothes, or how pretty you are”. 1969
“It’s more fun to be ahead of the crowd than lost in it”. 1950
“It is practical if you are comfortable in it”. 1959
“I never want to be a finished product”.
“Important- a balance between sense & nonsense- sense of play”. 1964
“By the way- don’t buy a coat that “goes over everything”. Buy a coat you’re just mad for. That does something for you”.
“Throw out of your wardrobe everything single item you don’t really enjoy wearing. Why, you may be wearing some dull spiritless thing at the very moment that opportunity (any kind) knocks, and you may very well not be able to rise to the occasion.”
“The whole body is a composition. Dressing every morning should be a creative part of a woman’s day. If clothes are more fun, they’re more meaningful.”
“To function in a complicated world calls for uncomplicated clothes”, 1968
“Every length is good or bad depending on the body and the occasion”. 1971
“A good modern wardrobe should be 80% timeless and 20% frosting (that 20% comprises the ginger in your wardrobe- the gay belt- the mad hat- the odd chunks of jewelry). I don’t believe that staple clothes are necessarily the timeless ones- they’re the safe things. But the beautifully made, individually styled thing which you probably thought was a great luxury to buy is apt to be the one constant friend in your wardrobe year after year.”
“Clothes are our first environment. Our home is the second environment, and you can of course, tell a lot about a person by his or her home”. 1979
“All the things that are ‘in’ and ‘out’ are ridiculous. They’re ‘in’ if YOU like them. To be true to yourself, to live above fashion, is the important thing”. 1968
“Learn to edit, to make choices, and never live near Seventh Avenue”. 1970
“I just do what I need to do. The bird must fly. The snake must crawl”.
“There is an attitude in wearing clothes. They are only good if they are worn right”. 1968
“If it makes you feel like a million, you should own it.”
“God bless the martini- the great leveler”.
They only re-affirmed my contention that blindly following fashion and buying into the trends du jour is highly overrated. Those who look the best and exhibit great style think out of the box, break the rules, know themselves, know how they want to look, and have an innate knack for going into their closets and moving their favorite pieces around to create different looks to suit their needs and desires. Is it any wonder I’ve had a sudden urge to break out in pops of exuberant color, and have found a newfound appreciation for my well curated vintage pieces (not the least of which are my Cashin coats)?