One fine day in the spring of 1995, finding myself at a loss for what do to between appointments with various friends and wanna be lovers, I betook myself shopping to my favorite department store, Henri Bendel. Oh, to be me at seventeen years old! Footloose and free in New York City, parental credit card in hand.
Bendel’s, smack dab on 5th avenue, with its wrought iron doors, soaring glass windows, and witty brown and white stripes, was an alluring jewel box of a shop. Not as big and imposing as Saks, as obnoxious as Bloomingdales, nor as intimidatingly fashionable as Barney’s and Bergdorf’s, it was the manageable Goldilocks of department stores- just right. I loved making my way through the bustling ground floor beauty department, up the stairs past the flamboyant hats and accessories, to the hushed second and third floors where the clothes lived. Each small room had its own selection and personality, from the girl on the go in one area, to weekends in the Hamptons in another, to gowns fit for a princess up the stairs where I never ventured. It was a happy place, where I discovered Cynthia Rowley (a dress of whose I wore to my high school graduation), Kate Spade and so many others.
I can’t recall exactly what was on the agenda that day, but I do still have the spoils of that trip. This black satin Jill Stuart jacket, sized petite. It came with a skinny belt too, which has been lost somewhere in the intervening zillion years. There was a craze for skinny belts at the time, and I repurposed with many, many other outfits. The jacket, however, is in nearly pristine condition.
Where in god’s name did I think I was going to wear this chic little number?
Well… in my mind… I was going places. And I was! But Wisconsin, where I was actually going in the fall, was not really a place to wear the 90s version of a power blazer. I remember thinking at the time, that if I ever had any money, I would surely spend it all on the most beautiful clothes I could find, a philosophy that over the years has flown off the rails by the realities of earning my own living and also children. It wasn’t a wrong thought though. I’d probably still have a lot more clothes if I’d stuck to it. Fewer better things as they say. But then again, I do like muchness.
In any case, what were these places I dreamt of going? Well, obviously I was going to be a famous writer, and magazine editor, and win an Oscar. And then I’d turn thirty. I’d live in a large loft in the Village, and it would have a walk in closet with beautiful cedar drawers, in which I would keep my accessories and jewels (this despite the fact that I never wear much jewelry.) It would also have a vanity, upon which would be arranged an array of beautiful make up, neatly organized in trays, and various pretty bottles and atomizers (the kind with the gold cushion thingy you squeeze) of fragrance.
In the mornings, in my imaginary apartment, I would step dewdrop damp out of the shower onto a thick white mat, to anoint myself with my various unguents and dress myself with all due care in a variety of choice pieces by the best and most interesting designers. Then, into the town car and off to my office, where I would spend the day marching purposefully though the halls on my way to meetings, having fancy lunches, and giving orders to underlings from behind my large desk. In the evenings, there would be a whirl of dinners, drinks and lively conversation at a variety of glistening apartments, salons, and hot spot restaurants all over town. I’d be a weekly fixture in the society pages, The Observer, Page Six, and in New York Magazine. Sometimes I’d live in London. This jacket would be just the thing in any of these situations, would it not?
And I mean, any of these things are still basically possible, except turning thirty (that day has come and gone), and appearing in the Observer (RIP). But the years take a toll on expectation, don’t they? And what one desires.
First of all, this jacket was not a thing to wear to, say, a frat party at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Nor was it right to wear to work that sweaty summer, as a counselor for rising kindergarteners at Camp Mohawk. Where else may I have gone? To a damp summer house party? I think I wore it once, out to Cafe Fez, the bar in the back of Time Cafe on Lafayette Street, which was where we (me and my two friends) liked to hang out back then. We found it, I think, because I’d read about it in the Talk of the Town section of The New Yorker. (Consistency, c’est moi!)
I am pretty sure I also wore it to an interview for an internship at some point, but by the time I graduated, in 1999, I think I thought it was woefully out of date. Someone at the time told me I had to wear suits to interview, which was advice I mostly ignored. This jacket would have done, though. Instead, the charmer stayed peacefully in the closet of my parent’s house, remaining there until last week, when I took her out and home again. I can just get it buttoned- a pleasant surprise to be sure.
So now what? At this wistful moment in time? When the world has come to a strange and screeching halt? When I have a small bit of room to evaluate what I have accomplished? And where I might be going, and what I might like to see there? Well, I do have a nice bathroom and some pretty bottles on the counter, though hardly the grandiose picture I held in my head and certainly not the servants to clean it! At seventeen, children were not first and foremost on my mind, but I think I’ll keep the ones I’ve acquired, and the husband too. It’s true, my life is not as glamorous was the one I dreamt of all those long years ago, but then again, I didn’t yet know then how boring it would be to flit and flit and flit. How unfullfilling it would be and unsuited I was to it. But those are tales for a different day. Some of the essential dreams are the same, and all I can do is keep trying to get there! The writing part sounds pretty good (don’t hold back if you agree! If not, well, perhaps, don’t hold back either.) And look for my acceptance speech at the Oscars in 2060, when I am in my eighties. I will wear this jacket then.