You know her. You do. If only by her strands of pearls. If only by the look on her face. Who knows what she really feels, what she might suffer, what she fears. We know her by her furs, her shoes, her bags. And the haircut.
The Grande Dame. There are those oblivious to her power. I know that. She strikes fear, and sometimes envy, into the rest of our hearts. Oh, sure, we’re evolved. We have confidence now. We have great jobs, loving families, a history and a life we chose. But probably something we are wearing is make do. The Grande Dame Does. Not. Make. Do.
At night, she attends the charity event of choice. She does good in the world. She believes in doing good. But wouldn’t miss Opening Night at the Opera. That would be a statement of failings she does not care to share with the world. She understands she needs to provide drama, but she will not be vulgar. She abhors vulgarity, all the while not minding furs. At all. Her grandmother wore furs, after all, what could be wrong?
By day, she’s at a museum. Probably. Certainly she’s on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Or in Pacific Heights, in San Francisco. She might have a job, or not. She doesn’t need one. Her Belgian loafers are practical, but stylish, and she buys them in as many colors as she feels she needs this year. Speaking of color, she has nothing against it. She has color impunity. She owns purple, if she wants to. The rest of her High WASP family quails in the face of purple.
In real life, does the High WASP Grande Dame exist any more? Under the age of 65, that is? Family fortunes, made in the late 19th century, have dispersed through the generations. The Ivy Leagues are, thank heavens, attended by Chinese students, and Indian, and Latin American, and African-American, and Catholic, and Jewish students. By people with more money than us. By people who made money only last year. By people with no money. But I know what she would look like if she were 30-ish, that Grande Dame.
This is Julie Macklowe. Her clothes? Exactly what the Grande Dame would wear. For a special occasion. Unashamedly speaking to pomp and circumstance. No particular nod to fashion beyond the color of the bag.
Except Julie Macklowe went to the University of Virginia. I might be guessing, but since a rabbi officiated at her wedding, I’m going to imagine she’s Jewish. That the Grande Dame archetype has passed from the halls of High WASPdom and is out there, available, as a style, for anyone with the resources and desire. Thank heavens. That’s how it should be. The American way.
Should I attend the Opening of the Opera, I might dress like this too. In case you wondered.