Lauren Bacall is being honored by the fashion industry, the industry that gave Bacall her first break into the big time.
Bacall, who passed away this week at the age of 89, began her career as a fashion model when she was 16, reports Boston.com. She collected many garments which Bacall recently donated to the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, roughly 700 in all. Valerie Steele, director of the FIT Museum, asked Bacall if FIT could use her donated garments to create an exhibit focusing on Bacall’s sense of style.
”She said, ‘Yes, it’s fine, as long as it’s high-quality — Diana Vreeland style,”’ recalled Steele.
Next spring, Steele’s museum — with the help of FIT graduate students learning how to curate — will fulfill its promise in a show focused on five designers who helped define Bacall’s subtle seductiveness, her sophisticated mix of classic femininity and raw masculine authority in fashion.
Bacall’s fashion career was one that highlighted Bacall’s quiet confidence and underlying sensuality. The long, flowing blond locks, the lean silhouette, piercing, smoky, gorgeous eyes. Bacall was one of the few models that wore the clothes, the clothes did not wear her.
”She really epitomized this idea of effortlessness. It’s like she never was trying too hard and I think that sometimes is the most difficult thing to achieve,” said designer Peter Som. ”That gaze, the voice, the hair. It was just that confidence. That was something that I think men and women alike could relate to.
At the age of 19, Bacall was spotted on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar fashion magazine by Nancy Hawks, wife of Hollywood director Howard Hawks. He sent her a ticket to come to Hollywood for an audition, and the rest, as they say, is history. It was Nancy Hawks that gave Lauren Bacall her nickname, Slim.
Steele is set to include in the upcoming Bacall exhibit a Norell dress done up entirely in hand-sewn gold sequins with a matching camel-color cashmere coat that’s plain on the outside, but lined with matching sequins on the inside.
“Once you take the coat off, it’s va-va-va voom,” she said, “but covered up with the coat and you can wear it on the subway as just a simple little thing.”
The exhibit on FIT’s Manhattan campus will focus mostly on Bacall’s looks from the 1950s and ’60s. Some of her clothes by Norell will be joined by other designs Bacall donated from Marc Bohan for Christian Dior, Pierre Cardin, Yves Saint Laurent and Ungaro.
There were few who so successfully managed such a sexy, masculine edge while also being capable of full-on glam, Steele said.
“Some of what she wore didn’t look prim but it might have on others. Sometimes it was conservative-looking, but she wore it with such panache. It was a combination of Hollywood feminine glamour and masculine, androgynous insouciance and power. The only other person I can think of who could do that was (Marlene) Dietrich.”
High praise, indeed.
[Images Via Elle]