Hedy Weiss’ “power Edwardian” wardrobe boasts a cinched-waisted velvet jacket (from left), elegant wool crepe, elaborately sleeved deep blue dress and blue-and-white pinstriped blouse with leg-o-mutton sleeves. | Rich Hein ~ Sun-Times
Updated: June 26, 2012 10:47PM
Dresses were my choice from the very start, even though I came of age at a time when women made pants something of a political statement. I have never owned a pair of jeans, and the few pairs of pants I have bought over the years remain hanging in my closet, more or less untouched.
The earliest dresses came in cardboard boxes — “gently used” castoffs from a wealthy cousin with garment industry connections. I disliked being secondhand Rose (though I love vintage). Buying a new dress of my own choosing, especially for the first day of school, was a much-cherished event.
And then there was the shoe issue. My practical mother, who was on her feet all day as a teacher, invariably opted for “sensible oxfords” (for both of us), when all I craved were the chic ballet flats made by Capezio — streetwear extensions of the slippers I wore in ballet class. I lost the shoe battle for years, shedding many tears along the way, so shoes became an obsession for life.
If you grew up in New York, as I did, you were surrounded at every turn by thousands of women far more fashionable than you could ever dream of being, especially if you had no money. But some of the fiercest competition came from my friend, Roseanne, who made her first trip to London in the late 1960s, when Carnaby Street was all the rage.
I had already spent months on a long, secretive, fruitless search for a chemise-like slip like the one worn by Julie Christie in the movie “Darling.” But now Roseanne came home with a suitcase full of authentic Mod-style dresses and shoes I coveted beyond all imagining. The dresses came with labels bearing the name of Ossie Clark and others — romantic, fluid, bohemian, upscale hippie frocks like the Beatles’ “birds” might have worn. They had peplums and elaborate sleeves, full of detailed tailoring from another era. I was bereft.
It would be a good many years before I finally got to London myself. But by the time I did, I had already devised a style a male friend of mine would later describe as “Power Victorian” (though “Power Edwardian” would be more accurate). That meant dresses with long, flowing skirts, cinched-waisted jackets, lots of velvet and Liberty prints; granny boots. I still wear a few dresses from a shop called Droopy & Brown’s.
Of course, I’ve evolved. Simple black dresses are easier, with the daily question being: What will I slip over it? If I need a bohemian chic fix, I invariably head to Anthropologie for inspiration and then quickly head home to “shop in my closet.”