Sunday, February 13, 2011

Time Out NY - Our 15 Minutes of Fame

Jean says: Oooh la la! Take it from me, dahlings -- Being in Time Out New York magazine as two of the 32 Most Stylish New Yorkers IS better than chocolate! Now I have an inkling of what it must be like being nominated for an Academy Award and having to wait for Oscar night. On January 13th, exactly one month ago, Valerie and I had our own three hour photo shoot. (Longest month of my life!)

Jean says: Zenith Richards, our photographer, immediately put us at ease. He shot us together and individually in each of three outfits. He gave us minimal stage direction for the action shots - asking us to feign jumping across a puddle and (shades of Richards Nixon and Avedon) to hop straight up in the air. Here I am in the midst of my own take on "White Boys Can't Jump" -- check out the vertical leap on granny! If the Knicks call for a back-up guard, tell them I won't consider it until they get more figure-flattering uniforms. I'm sporting my "A Clockwork Orange" meets "Cabaret" uniform (Malcolm McDowell's little bit of the old Ludwig von and ultraviolence meet Liza Minelli's pre-war Berlin Weimar Republic).

Warning! (Un)trained professionals at work. Do not attempt this at home. Who knew jumping when fully accessorized was so fraught with peril? When I landed after my leap, my fabulous Icey-Dice necklace by Kirsten Hawthorne slapped me right in the teeth!

Jean says: As you will see while you scroll through today's posting, when left to our own devices, Valerie and I vogued shamelessly. In the name of art, we channeled our inner Verushka, Penelope Tree, Twiggy, Lauren Hutton and just about every drag queen on the planet. We put it all out there for the camera! Speaking of drag queens, when we arrived at TONY's offices, we came face to face with three of the most outrageously attired transgender 7 foot tall (not counting the height of the wigs) Glamazons ever. They couldn't have been more wonderful. Greeting each other like birds of a feather, we spent several minutes inspecting and cooing over each other's outfits, complimenting one another's fashion choices. I was SO relieved to learn they weren't our competition and had just finished a shoot for Ru Paul's new show "Drag Race". I could kick myself for not whipping out my camera. For a glimpse of MIMI IMFURST, one of the "ladies" in question, click here (Zenith Richards' website). Valerie says: Jean speaks for herself here. Like a good school child, I stood deferentially by the entrance, awaiting instructions from TONY staffers yet to appear. Jean, on the other hand, ran over to the drag queens in the center of the large room the way a kid runs to the Good Humor Man on a hot day. It took a while for me to vogue shamelessly. I wasn't sure what was expected of us, and I think I really expected someone to say "OK, ladies, we want you to vogue - shamelessly!" Now I think I understand that the photography process works best not so much when you follow instructions as when you just put yourself out there and see what happens.

Valerie says: Picking the three outfits was an interesting exercise in weighing pros and cons. We were told to wear winter clothes ("no tank tops, shorts, flip flops or other obviously summery clothing", we were admonished). So I submitted a photo of the white straw Guggenheim hat to see if it could get special dispensation, and was delighted when it was greenlighted by the TONY editors. I wish there'd been a mirror at the shoot. This hat should be worn a bit lower in front. (This photo, and the identical opening photo, courtesy of Zenith Richards. All other photos in this posting by Valerie and Jean.)

(Jean says: And while we're giving credit where credit is due, here's a shout out to Ari Seth Cohen of Advanced Style who nominated us along with Tziporah Salamon and Fritz Karch!)

Jean says: Valerie's attention to detail is nothing less than amazing. As you can see from this shot, she looked fabulous coming AND going. (Valerie says: Awww... gawrsh!) Likewise, her approach to fashion is quite different from my own: While I have fashion A-D-D and am distracted by any bright and shiny object, Valerie takes the galactic approach. It would never even occur to me to commission a hat, let alone one in the shape of the Guggenheim Museum! You heard it here first, kids. I'm starting a rumor that Valerie has an Edifice Complex!

Shown here are the originators of the Edifice Complex.

Jean says: Getting into the mood (and perhaps to make up for the fact that I'm not a 7-footer), I tried in my own way to "own" the set. In my head, I became Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard. Mr. DeMille, where's my chimp? Where's my William Holden? (My Willem DaFoe? My

Jean continues: Halfway through the shoot, things really began to heat up. As you'll see from the progression of shots, we moved from vertical to horizontal. Although it's hard to tell from the photo, I was wearing my Norma Kamali leopard print peplum jacket and my customized Dansko saw tooth clogs.

Perhaps this is the point where I interrupt this love fest to confess. The photo shoot happened on Thursday evening, January 13. Valerie fell and broke her wrist on Saturday, January 15. While we were in the ER waiting for her x rays, I admit I said something really comforting and supportive like: "Thank goodness you did this after the TONY photo shoot. If this had happened LAST Saturday, I probably would have broken your other wrist." After all, what are friends for? (Valerie weighs in: I also thanked my lucky stars for that - um - break [pun intended]. For the record, Jean did not verbalize the violent half of her above graphic remark. In her place, however, my thoughts would have been equally graphic.)

Organizing all the details for this shoot took days of formal and informal planning. We both made lists. I brought no clothing that would show wrinkles; the two items I ironed were packed first into a rigid clothing bag to maintain their pristine shape, and then a dry cleaning bag to protect against accidental water or other damage.

All jewelry for each outfit went into its own toiletry bag, each pair of shoes into its own plastic bag. Each article of clothing had its own dry cleaning bag. Then all the components of a single outfit went into their own separate shopping bag. Then all three shopping bags went into a single huge Container Store bag. I wanted to be able to do the whole thing on auto-pilot, since we had no idea how much time we'd have, or space, or assistance. The Guggenheim hat had to go into an empty covered cardboard Staples box that had previously held reams of paper. (Jean says: See. I wasn't exaggerating about her attention to detail.)

The day of our shoot was just after one of New York's multiple huge snow storm. We arrived dressed like Eskimos, adding significantly to the bulk of what we had to carry. What a girl has to do for her art! I was hoping TONY would take one look at our winter coats and insist on photographing those, too. (Now, Valerie, don't be greedy! Now, Better Angel, why don't you shut up just once?) And special mention to Jean's husband, whose kind offer to drive us to TONY relieved us of so much angst and logistical planning.

Jean says: Zenith Richards was absolutely wonderful to work with. He moved so silently and gracefully around the set trying to get the most flattering angles that it didn't surprise me to learn he is an ex-dancer. And such a gentleman. At one point, I was carrying one of the white plaster mannequin's hands, using it to hold my small handbag, until he so cheerfully but subtly advised: "Lose the hand"!

Jean blurts: Conscious of the fact that all-black doesn't photograph well, I really made an effort to introduce contast into my outfits with accessories. In this case, I chose a lot of black and white topped off by a vintage hat with pink-red anemone trim and carried a fan. (Doesn't everyone?)

Jean gushes: I love how this picture came out because it really shows what I am wearing, especially my Trippen boots (from A Uno). For more information on what we're wearing, go to TONY's online coverage. Do yourself a favor. Please check it out!

Valerie says: As Jean noted, for each of our outfits, Zenith had us do standing poses, then 'puddle jumping', which gives more fluidity to the garments, then jumping straight up (which probably forces us to let our guard down), then floor poses. I wish some of the floor poses had been published online. They were fun!

Valerie ponders: This must have been a jumping pose. Harder than it seems! I was thinking: Will my hat fall off? Will my hair get in my mouth? Am I facing the camera? Does this angle hide my accessories? Is this a good smile or a ludicrous Cheshire cat grin? How can I puddle jump in a dress with a 20 inch hem? Will I come down on an angle and topple over backward - THE ONE THING ZENITH WARNED US NOT TO DO? (ok to fall forward; not ok to fall backward and put a hole in the seamless backdrop). Jean and I took a number of pictures of one another in motion. All hilarious, but this shoot is all about details, and motion blurs all the details. (Maybe not with a Hasselblad. Anyone care to send us a Hasselblad to test our theory?)

Valerie muses: See? They should have photographed this outfit, too! Took forever to flag down a cab in the dark and cold at 6pm. Jean guarded all the stuff in front of TONY while I staked out a corner to try to raise our odds and lower our waiting time.

Here we are, all packed up, in the cab heading home, more than three hours after we'd arrived at TONY. We were exhausted and starving. We dropped everything at Valerie's and went out to eat and to celebrate at a little French bistro with our usual hot soup and a little bubbly.

We're leaving you with this action shot from the photo shoot. We have a new appreciation for fashion models. It's not all lounging and batting eyelashes. Surprisingly, it takes a lot of nervous energy to change outfits quickly and emote for the camera, especially while hopping and jumping and trying to come up with new poses. Add to that the pressure of schlepping and easily retrieving and matching up the outfits and all of the different accessories for each (three hats, three pairs of shoes/boots, glasses, rings, bracelets, earrings, necklaces, pins, fans, hand bags) and of doing your own hair and makeup and styling.



Jean's first outfit (her Clockwork Orange look):
A Comme des Garcons wool zip up jacket; drop crotch wool harm pants by Zara from last season; black patent Doc Marten laceup boots; lucite bracelets from a Metropolitan Pavilion's Antique Show two years ago; icey dice necklace by Kirsten Hawthorne of lucite crystals, oxidized silver and plastic dice; lucite cube ring (twin to my black bakelite cube) lucite cube with black bakelite cameo (from Portobello Road 2000); black Stetson bowler; vintage 1980s Mod Oath prescription eyeglass frames by REVUE (from Fabulous Fanny's); black bakelite dice earrings.

Jean's second outfit (Goth meets Sunset Boulevard):
Vintage Norma Kamali faux leopard peplum jacket ("Another Man's Treasure" Jersey City vendor who shows at the Metropolitan Pavilion, and Antiques Alley at the Stella Pier Show); vintage 1940s felt "Minnie Mouse" hat (Fashion Alley at the Stella Pier Antiques Show); customized black patent Dansko clogs (saw-tooth platform by East Village shoe repair guy who used to make the giant punk rocker platform boots); long sleeved Rick Owen tee shirt (Century 21); harem pants by Brigitte (in the Ansonia on the Upper West Side). Rings include various vintage red bakelite rings collected over the past twenty-five years and red resin skull ring by Made Her Think (Meredith Katz); square carved red vintage bakelite earrings (Metropolitan Pavilion show); vintage red bakelite and white plastic bracelets (collected over decades at flea markets, antique shops); vintage 1960s red wooden gumball necklace (Columbus Ave.flea market; glasses same as above.

Jean's third outfit (East meets West):
Louis Feraud wool blazer with black enamel buttons (thrift shop find/gift from Kirsten Hawthorne); Express "Sexy Crew" black and white striped long sleeved tee shirt; long black with white polka dot skirt (by Israeli designer Kedem Sasson from Rosebud @ 131 Thompson St in Soho); plastic fan with black and white art nouveau design. (Brooklyn Museum Store -- purchased last summer on our field trip to see the Warhol show and to celebrate Valerie's birthday. She got a Warhol Campbell's tomato soup can nylon shopping bag.) Rings include several by Kirsten Hawthorne (brass and gold pinky ring; pink hammered gold ring with apricot diamond chip; yellow gold band; 18k yellow gold September 11 commemorative ring); vintage Bakelite cube ring (flea market twenty years ago); black and white resin skull rings (Meredith Katz for Made Her Think); assorted vintage 1930s and 1940s bakelite and 1950s plastic bangle bracelets; black felt purse with white skull (Habla); vintage 1940s felt hat with reddish-pink sea anemone flower (Fashion Alley at the Stella Pier Antique Show); "The Scimitar" eyeglass frames (East Village designer Moss Lipow); black and white hand painted globe earrings (by Japanese designer Aiaka Nishi from Red in the East Village); adjustable 1950s vintage black and white plastic bead necklace on a metal chain (flea market); German made black leather platform boots (by Trippen from A Uno in Tribeca). I call them my Lady Gaga for grannies boots! They are deceptively comfortable. The rubber soles resemble Japanese geta and have the Chinese symbol for good fortune engraved on the sole of one shoe (and an as yet undeciphered word on the other).

Valerie's wearing:

First outfit:
Hat by Ignatius Hats; sunglasses from a vendor on St. Mark's Place; earrings from flea market; layered felt hair pin by Danielle Gori-Montanelli; necklace by ceramic artist Peter Lane; belt by Issey Miyake, suit by Calvin Klein; checkerboard silver ring from Pastec; black metal cuffs from Matsuya Ginza; shoes by Arche.

Second outfit:
Vintage hat from the Metropolitan Pavilion Antique Show; earrings from Pippin Vintage Jewelry; necklace from a street vendor in Tokyo; jacket by Missoni; shirt by Juansilk; gloves from flea market; polka dot bracelet/chew toy from Furry Paws; red wood bangle from Tokyo; unlabeled red suede harem pants from a consignment shop; ankle boots from Ripe, by Nicole; tabi socks from Sock Man.

Third outfit:
Velvet open topped volcano hat by Eddi, purchased on Ebay; black and yellow wooden earrings purchased in Tokyo; striped dress by Yoshiki Hishinuma, from a sample sale; wood and lacquer bud vase necklace from Sara; knitted yellow bracelet from the Columbus Avenue flea market; multicolored wood bracelet from a thrift shop; red plastic ring from El Museo del Barrio; black boots by Arche.

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Little Valentine's Day Thought

Valerie says:

When I was 13, I awoke on Valentine's Day thinking it would be a nice day for my parents, since I viewed them as sweethearts, but a day like any other for me, since I was too young to have a sweetheart myself. When I got to the table for breakfast, however, I saw, much to my surprise and delight, that my mother had put a little gift by everyone's plate, as we were all her sweethearts. I only remember my own gift - a pair of white fishnet stockings. ALL the girls had them and like all teenagers I wanted to have them too. My mother was very strict about the whole feminine undergarments thing, and at what age they were appropriate. So when I saw the stockings, I had not just gotten fishnets, I had gotten approval to take the next step into adulthood, even if my mother had some misgivings about what I chose to wear in taking that step. They remain my favorite Valentine's Day gift.

Jean says: My brother John's birthday is on St. Valentine's Day. I was born on Thanksgiving. My younger brother was born on the day before Flag Day. (I know that one's a stretch!) My mom always made each of us a fabulous 3-layer chocolate heart-shaped birthday cake with butterscotch icing. We always got to share each other's cake, so I always associate all three holidays with chocolate cake. How's that for symmetry? This post starts and ends with talk about chocolate!



  1. Great post! Would love to know more about Valerie's beautiful black & white wool felt coat (and also the marvelous hat) shown after the photo shoot in the cab.

  2. Dawn - no wonder you ask about the coat - I see you are a felt maker. The coat was made by Finnish felt artist Tiiti Tolonen, who for many years had an atelier in Brooklyn. I think she's returned to Finland now. I miss her work! The hat is Persian (?) lamb from the late great Chelsea flea market. The gray knitted gloves (with wide heathered gray cuffs) are from The Garage, one of the last surviving vestiges of the Chelsea flea market. Originally, the dealer told me, they came with a matching circle skirt, but that got sold before my arrival. The dealer said she was sad to separate them, but it worked for me - I bet I couldn't have gotten into the skirt!
    - Valerie

  3. How absolutely exciting! On so many levels...and I have tried to jump for my posts, and IT IS HARDER THAN IT LOOKS! so I can relate there. Love all of your outfits--and kudos to you both. Love to see the over 50 set making a mark! Paula

  4. You two are marvellous models--I'd love to see the both of you in a runway show! Thanks for continuing to create one of the most entertaining blogs around. The next time I come to New York, can I play in your closets?

  5. Congratulations! Loved your outfits, the photos, and your delightful post.

  6. Love these pictures, the outfits are amazing, so rock !

  7. I admire what you've got accomplished here. I such as the portion in which you say you might be carrying out this to give back but I would assume by all of the comments that this can be working for you personally at the same time.

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