Sunday, October 21, 2007

Laundry Art

For roughly the past 10 years in the building where I live, an anonymous donor has contributed to the Laundry Room Art Gallery, covertly supplying shrink-wrapped vintage magazine advertisements and images to the collection of tenant-crafted paintings, charcoal drawings and (framed!) dryer-lint collages.

The magazine images are smartly chosen, cheeky and ironic. Mid-20th century movie stars hawk cigarettes, booze or Jantzen bathing suits and politically incorrect ads depict housewives as airheads and white men as strapping breadwinners. Every month or so, five or six new images mysteriously replace the old, creating rotating, in-house gallery shows.

This morning, this Life magazine page (above) celebrating Edie Sedgwick and her famous black tights accompanied the usual fray. I've seen this page before—everyone has—but what struck me is how timeless her style is. I adored these pictures when I discovered Edie as a pre-teen (I can't bring myself to use "tween") in the early 80s and love looking at them just as much now.

Why is her style so timeless? I think, hands down, it’s the DIY factor she employs from head to toe. She didn't invent the micro-miniskirt, the blonde cropped pixie-cut or opaque tights, but she restyled them to match her impish personality. It's a self-crafted look akin to those in “Grey Gardens" and "Times Square."

The bottom line is that is will always be cooler to make a dress from the parlor drapes, à la Scarlett O'Hara. But the DIY m.o. is missing with today's celebrities, and in most streetwear. Even today’s teenagers are label-obsessed. And if the young ("youthquakers," in Edie's day) can’t introduce a return to inventive, homemade dressing, who will?

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