A thousand years ago, people thought the world was going to end with a new millennium. They dressed accordingly. A thousand years later, you will find such fears in New York–if they even exist–denied through the filter of fashion. Consider the week of May 31. Movie stars wore pastels to memorial services and formidable fashion editors and designers in heavy makeup read cue cards at a televised awards ceremony.
Liz Tilberis, the beloved, late editor of Harper’s Bazaar , would have been interested in what people wore to her memorial service on June 1 at Avery Fisher Hall. As one might expect, some percentage dressed in dark-colored clothing. Others obliged the fashion world’s recent edict banning black and wore neutral colors, such as beige and gray. Then there were ladies, and some gentlemen, too, in bright yellows and pinks and whites and assorted, expensively bohemian pastiches. The grandest display?
After the service, the late afternoon sun glistened on about a thousand glasses of champagne served to guests in the lobby at Avery Fisher Hall. What a bright bolt of blondness Gwyneth Paltrow added as she launched into the lobby light from the darkened auditorium. Then, zip, out the doors she blew with fashion designer Stella McCartney at her side, parting the sea of paparazzi waiting for her in the Lincoln Center plaza. Venus with midriff: pastel top and a pencil-tight skirt.
Fueled by an abundance of celebrity, prosperity and technology, optimism rules fashion as it dominates most everything else today. The prospect of finality, to paraphrase Dr. Johnson–the essayist, not the cosmetic surgeon–should concentrate the mind. But that could depress elevated moods. Nowadays there is no focus, only poses. In fashion, that translates as pastiche. We move on, and you’d better, too.
“I think the Zeitgeist is millennium-positive,” trend observer Faith Popcorn said in a recent interview. “We like the millennium. We still believe in technology.”
With a certain understatement, Terry McDonnell, editor of Men’s Journal and a friend of Liz Tilberis, said at the memorial service, “We don’t make much room for death in our culture.”
Valerie Steele, chief curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, calls this the “moving-on” culture. “Americans, mostly, see no distinction when they dress for occasions anymore,” said Ms. Steele. “It represents the extent to which we disrespect boundaries. You don’t have to fetishize black, but the idea is to show a sign of mourning.
“I remember hearing that when Gianni Versace died Donatella put black clothes at the disposal of the guests who came to the funeral service in Milan. At the time, I thought it seemed controlling. Now I think she probably knew they’d all turn up in pink otherwise.”
The very next night, the American Fashion Awards, formerly known as the Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards, ran unfashionably long. It started at 6 P.M. on June 2 and ended with an homage to Yves Saint Laurent after midnight. (The ceremony will be broadcast on E! Entertainment Television on June 13 at 9 P.M.)
Laboring overheated in an audience watching editors and designers read corny remarks from a teleprompter has become the quintessential postmodern fashion moment. At least the Academy Awards features film people honoring film people. Television viewers at home get to be voyeurs at an insiders’ event. Is the C.F.D.A. sure it wants to dump the supermodel and socialite special guests for the vainglorious inarticulations of the likes of Busta Rhymes?
The fashion industry wants to get into bed with Hollywood, and their prayers were answered. As a result, no one should be surprised when a security guard impedes Yves Saint Laurent so Susan Lucci can sparkle at a television happening star-studded with Tiffani Amber-Thiessen and Julianna Margulies.
It’s just a rumor: Negotiations have begun for Alex Trebek to host next year’s telecast.
Surely New York society will prevail with style on June 9 at the 13th–and perhaps final–Fête de Famille fund-raiser for the AIDS Care Center at New York Weill Cornell Center of New York Presbyterian Hospital. Though he did not want a memorial, the evening will be held in honor of Glenn Bernbaum, who died in September at the age of 76 in his apartment above Mortimer’s, the restaurant he owned.
On June 11, Sotheby’s New York will auction contents from Bernbaum’s estate: European furniture, decorations, porcelain, and drawings by Ludwig Bemelmans and Joe Eula. The sole beneficiary of the sale, and Bernbaum’s estate, is the AIDS Care Center. That estate includes Mortimer’s. Most recently, La Goulue’s Jean de Noyer is reported to have offered $5 million to Mr. Bernbaum’s executors at the Chase Manhattan Bank for the building.
Also for sale, at the Madison Avenue Bookshop and at Saks Fifth Avenue, is Our Years at Mortimer’s With Glenn Bernbaum ($35), a privately published cookbook of the restaurant’s recipes, compiled by former Saks Fifth Avenue executive Helen O’Hagan. Dominick Dunne wrote the foreword to the book, which came from an idea suggested by Fête co-chairman Ann Siegel. Proceeds go to the AIDS Care Center.
Ms. O’Hagan said it took a lot of persuading to get Chase to agree to the project and allow her to go to Bernbaum’s apartment one afternoon to look for the photographs and recipes she wanted. With the help of Jonathan Jacobs, head of the AIDS Care Center, she prevailed. Escorted by a banker from Chase, Ms. O’Hagan found some of the boxes she sought stored in the oven.
It still took some doing to locate some of the other recipes, but Ms. O’Hagan got lucky downstairs in Mortimer’s kitchen. Spying the recipe for the popular chopped salad taped to the wall, she pinched it when the banker wasn’t looking.
Billy’s List: Quiz time!
1. Who is Jane Rosenal?
a. Karl Lagerfeld’s niece who runs the serene Siddhartha Yoga Center in Chelsea.
b. The main character in Melissa Bank’s
delightful The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing .
c. The interior decorator whose celebrity clients include Robert De Niro.
2. In Arabia, We’d All Be Kings is:
a. the theme for the Collegiate School’s senior dance.
b. according to Newsweek , something Bill Gates reportedly told Bill Clinton after he slept in the Lincoln Bedroom in May.
c. a new play premiering later this month at Center Stage NY, on West 21st Street.
3. Misdemeanor Lipstick is:
a. the lesbian guerrilla art protest group that recently blocked Ross Bleckner’s entrance into the Odeon.
b. Candace Bushnell’s first play, premiering in July at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, Conn.
c. a lipstick created by Iman and performer Missy Elliott to benefit Break the Cycle, whose mission is ending domestic violence.
Answers: (1) b; (2) c; (3) c.
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