Joan Rivers-Respect for Clothing-Not Always the People In Them-I’m OK with That: Chanel Edition
September 4, 2014
“I want to look gorgeous, better dead than I do alive. I want to be buried in a Valentino gown and I want Harry Winston to make me a toe tag.”
Probably not unlike many, I was saddened to hear of Joan Rivers passing today. It’s not like I knew her; but, I could relate to her love of clothing. And while she may not have also been kind she was usually right. I respected that she loved clothing the way once did in my life.
I can’t remember when my the obsession began or how it began-my mother always dressed well and dressed us well-but we weren’t Designer Sportswear or Ready-to- Wear people, we were middle class. Actually that’s not true, I remember when it began,my love of fashion began on my first day of kindergarten (but that’s another story).
I’ve often said I’ll never understand when men play Fantasy Football but if there was a Fantasy Fashion League sign me up. Little boys had baseball trading cards and my generation of women had fashion magazines filled with super models not actors like today.
I never wanted to be a model (good thing, I’m only 5’2”) but I wanted to own what was on those pages and in part that lifestyle. In high school at the height of insecurity I became obsessed with Chanel. If you’re a frequent reader you’ll know I received my first Gucci purse when I was in middle school (I know obnoxious).
Fashion became like a fantasy buck list of things I wanted one day to own. But similar to any type of addict the high for the latest item never lasted as long as it needed. It was never about making others feel inadequate it was genuinely a love for the design, details, quality and uniqueness of the pieces. Some people collect art, and for many years I collected fashion, which was art to me.
In turn if I owned something unique it made me stand out and started to shape my sense of style but also acted as form of armor to protect against wearing glasses since second grade (contacts thankfully later) a chest that never developed, being placed at a lower scholastic level than my clique of friends (odd woman out syndrome).
When I moved out west to attend ASU, I purchased my first Chanel purse. I was working at Saks Fifth Avenue and was later promoted to Chanel Ready-to-Wear Specialist (at the time the youngest in the company to hold that title). Not a bad gig for a kid who was working her way through college. Except the expectation was to wear the clothing from the department (there was no wardrobe or expense account in the 90’s). I did not make enough to own a $3,800 suit (and didn’t make enough until I was in my mid-thirties). However that didn’t stop me from going in debt (which my dad pointed out is the opposite of a job) and eating mac n’cheese for months to pay for my habit.
When we’d have the Trunk Shows (clothing for the upcoming season to be pre-ordered shown in sample sizes-think size 0 with more leg than torso) it was like Christmas morning for me. I would get there early and try every single piece in the Chanel Collection on; and, to this day I still cannot understand how the pieces “fit” me. Friends throughout the ages will recount stories of me dancing around every time I try clothing on-it’s a weird Pavlovian response.
I hadn’t realized that Mike the security guard at Saks had watched me parade around (dressed piglets-as least I think-this was pre-NSA so fingers crossed) like a loon with a permanent smile on my face until he came up to during one of the trunk shows and said he’d never seen a woman more excited to feel the fabrics or seen a woman carefully select which piece was next to try like I was playing chess.
Models showed up later in the day to show clients what it the garment looked like on, and it would be ordered in their size and arrive anywhere from three-four months later (depending where your store was on the Trunk Show cycle and how close it was to cut and ship date).
I’ve been more privileged in my life than I could ever fully express; and, to have owned even a little piece of Chanel history and pass it along when I consigned my wardrobe with hopes another could appreciate the quality and craftsmanship as much as I did, in some weird twisted way feels right.
“And I want a wind machine so that even in the casket my hair is blowing just like Beyoncé’s.”
So I’m hopeful that Joan Rivers is at the Pearly Gates and giving St. Peter a once over with a, “Oh honey, No! You need a ball bra, those things have road rash from hanging so low below your toga.” Rivers also planned her own funeral where she wanted Meryl Streep crying in five different languages. That’s a woman who knew her audience.
If you love the history of Chanel, love fashion photography or followed supermodels during the 1990’s my next post will highlight all the hard cover Look Books, photographed by Karl Lagerfeld during the time I was Chanel Ready –to-Wear Specialist at Saks. I’ll also be passing this collection on for others to appreciate.