Magazine article The New Yorker

Waxworks

Magazine article The New Yorker

Waxworks

Article excerpt

A current exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, "Notorious and Notable: 20th Century Women of Style," illuminates the radical ways in which getting dressed up has changed over the years: the gowns range from a high-necked, floor-length black silk work of engineering, made by Worth for Mrs. J. P. Morgan, Jr., in 1900, to something Halston rustled up seventy-odd years later, featuring a neckline so plunging that it's practically a navel-line. But, as was evidenced by a panel discussion held at the museum recently, there's one thing that never goes out of style, and that's baffled older people shaking their heads at the incomprehensible ways of kids today.

The panel mostly comprised boldfaced names from the long-ago nineteen-eighties: among them was the moderator, Judith Price, who is the president of the National Jewelry Institute. Price, who wore a Chanel jacket, dark glasses, and an uncomfortable-looking necklace made from massive green crystals, invited cantankerousness with her first question: What turns heads today, as compared with fifty years ago? "Oh, God," said David Patrick Columbia, the editor of New York Social Diary, who was wearing a blue blazer and khakis. "Today, you see a lot more flesh. A hundred years ago, you barely saw an ankle. Fifty years ago, you didn't see a knee." Enid Nemy, a former columnist for the Times, who was wearing a chic black cardigan and black pants, grumbled, "Today, there are a lot of well-dressed people, but today there are stylists--movie stars don't choose their own clothes."

"Today, so many heads can't turn, because of plastic surgery!" Kenneth Jay Lane, the septuagenarian jewelry designer, quipped.

"Fifty years ago, we lived in a more quote, unquote, polite society," Columbia said. "I recently saw a woman in her fifties or sixties who had the most astonishing red hair. She wasn't born with it, and I don't know what bottle it came from. …

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