Mark your calendar: May 10th, the wait is over: The MET (as I like to call it) opens it's doors to a highly expected exhibition "Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversation". Many of you will most likely go see it before me, because I have this bizarre habit of waiting, and reading, absorbing and building up expectation before I go to see it, so I could allow myself, once there, to see how I feel about it. Almost like collecting information data, for a math or science project problem, and then based on it, calculating, computing, analyzing and drawing a solution, in my case, a judgment. I learned that we all function in a different rhythmic process, and I finally came to term that if I stay with my organic one, rather than rushing in, and trying to deliver something instantly, or be like the next person next to me, I will only compromise my thinking process. While if I want to elaborate my own theory and tune deep inside for ideas, I ought to respect my natural rhythm, which sometimes means seeing an expo after much have been written about it, almost to exhaustion of the subject. Than, and only then, I am best of detaching myself from other's opinions and have one which I could own. There is a saying that the hindsight view is 20/20 and I find that when I am well prepared I usually produce a conclusion which has a better chance to stay unaltered and solid for longer time, if not forever. Must be a Romanian thing, I do not know. I remember watching the Romanian gymnasts performing at the last Olympics, and the sport commentator said literally: "when the Romanians will come, you can be sure that they will be prepared and consistent". Extrapolating it to my way of "taking in" exhibition (within other thins, as well) I think the guy just hit the nail right in the head.
However I make my duty of announcing that the exhibition opens it's doors in couple of days, always marked by the glamorous Met Gala (which I would love to attend one day...).
Bellow it's a fascinating article (at least to me) that I found it on New York Times, and which was timely printed right before the "Impossible Conversations" opens at the MET. As a vintage lover and a smaller scale collector, as well, I found it very inspiring. It also demonstrates that collecting vintage, just like any hobby done in a serious manner and with passion, is not a mere inexpensive pass time. I do not know anyone who has a serious hobby who would say that it is not time consuming nor expensive. A hobby is the ultimate investment. And like any investment pays off in the long run.
The Met Raids Her Closet
A version of this article appeared in print on May 6, 2012, on page ST8 of the New York edition with the headline: The Met Raids Her Closet. (see permalink at the end of the article)
Photography: Ara Howrani for The New York Times
Published: May 4, 2012
Permalink: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/06/fashion/michigan-womans-couture-collection-is-treasured-by-many.html?smid=pl-shareSANDY SCHREIER would seem to be among those voracious fashion hounds who relish brand-name couture and enjoy flaunting it at benefits, teas and dinner parties.After all, Ms. Schreier, who is in her 70s, has been collecting since she was a teenager and now has an estimated 15,000 items, including gowns, bags and shoes, muffs, lingerie and even designer sketches.But there is a crucial difference between Ms. Schreier and other clotheshorses: She never wears her treasures, but keeps them in a warehouse near her house here in a suburb of Detroit, bringing them out only to lend to museums or to show designers. (She used to stuff some pieces into her young sons’ closets, but when their friends made fun, she decided it was time for storage).Among those who have made the pilgrimage to view her holdings are Zandra Rhodes, Isaac Mizrahi and Harold Koda, the curator in charge at the Metropolitan MuseumCostume Institute who is preparing for the upcoming exhibition “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations.”“I feel like I am the fashion savior,” Ms. Schreier said recently at her house, where the bathroom wallpaper was designed by Karl Lagerfeld and there is a Yves Saint Laurent lithograph on one wall. “Without me, the objects in my collection would have been thrown out.” Dressed in a Rick Owens black and white knit, a Miu Miu sweater, Jil Sander boots and a Lanvin necklace, she exuded urban chic as she unwrapped a Poiret dress that she had pulled from storage. “Without me these objects would be thrown out, but I feel they are an art form that should be saved for future generations,” she said.Ms. Schreier’s passion for fashion is palpable and sometimes exhausting, with every item that she shows off accompanied by a breathless yarn about its owner, its history and the wonder of its workmanship. Her library of fashion books covers two walls. But obsession has its payoffs. Ms. Schreier has lent to every museum from here to Leningrad, most recently a white panne velvet evening gown to the Met. It is one of over 100 Schiaparelli items she owns.That collection includes a famous green silk pleated “parachute” cape, a gold lamé bathing suit, pairs of her stockings embroidered with flowers and a plastic form of a maid holding a tray that held the stockings used as a store display in the 1940s and 1950s. There is also a muff covered in violet flowers once owned by Princess Nina Mdivani, the last of the Georgian royalty who married the second son of Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of “Sherlock Holmes,” and a bottle of Zut, the controversial perfume sold in a bottle shaped like the bottom half of a woman in striped panties with tassels. “That dress was another instance of Schiaparelli’s unusual and humorous taste, because at the time it was rare to wear velvet in the summer,” she said.Mr. Koda, who also borrowed an Adrian, Patou, Chanel and a Madame Paquin from Ms. Schreier for the Costume Institute’s 2002 show “Blithe Spirit,” said in a phone interview: “She is a go-to person when one is putting together a couture show. She loves the clothes and the craft and how the clothes were made.” He added: “Sandy is drawn to Hollywood designers. She likes iconic pieces and a bit of razzle-dazzle.”The razzle-dazzle is kept encased in acid-free tissue; a visitor who accidentally touches a garment is quickly reprimanded. “At the opening of the Fortuny show in New York, I wore an Oscar de la Renta,” Ms. Schreier said, pulling out more gowns. “Gloria Vanderbilt wore a Fortuny that night. When the show moved to Chicago, I wore a Fortuny I owned. I didn’t eat or breathe. I was terrified that I would jeopardize the art form. I never did it again.” Among her trove are not only pieces by Fortuny and Poiret (a favorite), Charles Frederick Worth, Balenciaga, Dior and Saint Laurent but the Jean Louis dress that Rita Hayworth wore in “Gilda.” “She had just given birth to Rebecca, her daughter with Orson Welles,” Ms. Schreier said. “She still had a bit of a stomach and he spent hours explaining to me in an interview how he had covered it up.”Then there are the purple silk pants and blouse that Claudia Cardinale wore in “The Pink Panther.”“See, here is the actual design that Saint Laurent did for the beading on the collar made by House of Lesage made,” Ms. Schreier said, eagerly handing a visitor the sketch. (She once designed for Saint Laurent, as well as costumes for the Supremes.)Ms. Schreier’s obsession with clothes began young, at the movies, where she was mesmerized by the stars’ wardrobes. (She copied a dress that Elizabeth Taylor wore in “A Place in the Sun” for her high school graduation, and went on to write two books about Hollywood style). Her father, Edward Miller, was a furrier who worked for Russeks, a fashionable store in 1930s New York. “He was good looking, so they sent him to Detroit when they opened a store there,” she said.Ms. Schreier’s mother, Molly, was not particularly interested in fashion, and on Saturdays, when Mr. Miller had to go to the store, he took his curly haired daughter along with him. “I became completely obsessed with the clothes,” she said. “For me, reading Harper’s Bazaar was like reading Mother Goose.”Detroit of that era was the ideal domain for a blossoming clotheshorse. The wives of auto magnates had enormous wardrobes, often acquired during trips to Paris. For example, Elizabeth Parke Firestone, the wife of Harvey Firestone Jr., owned thousands of pairs of shoes, evening gloves that she bought by the gross and hundreds of gowns. Among them was a pale blue peau de soie ball gown, its skirt decorated in bows.When Ms. Schreier was asked to appraise the couture collection, Mrs. Firestone’s late personal maid told her that Christian Dior had designed the gown in a blue that matched Mrs. Firestone’s eyes, even though pale blue was never a favorite of couture houses. Ms. Schreier built up much of her collection before vintage-clothing stores became popular. “After the war, it was no longer fashionable to wear French clothes,” she said. “American designers like Norell became famous, and that is when those ladies started giving away their unworn or seldom-worn couture.”She got a lounging ensemble in crème satin with a heart embroidered on each piece that says, “To Matilda from her husband,” from the estate of Matilda Dodge Wilson, who was first married to John Dodge and then to the lumber magnate Alfred Wilson. “I was told that Mr. Dodge enjoyed giving his wife monogrammed lingerie for special occasions,” Ms. Schreier said.That lingerie, as well as a dress that Madeline and Madeline created as part of a craze for things Egyptian following the 1922 discovery of King Tut’s tomb, was informally acquired from Mrs. Wilson’s estate after her death in 1967. The silver lamé gown has faux scarabs and a pattern of hieroglyphics.Ms. Schreier is also always alert for unconventional sources.“We were walking down the street in Notting Hill one night,” she said. “Under a pile of things in a junk store I saw a bag with Marilyn Monroe’s picture on it. It was a Saturday night. The store was closed until Tuesday, when we were leaving. But I wanted it. So I asked a friend to get it for me first thing Tuesday.” The bag, which cost $200, turned out to be a famous Versace, also with James Dean’s picture. She is keen to tell a visitor that her status as a collector is such that some people simply offer her clothes. “A woman who had seen me on TV once called to say she had something for me,” said Ms. Schreier, who lectures on fashion and makes occasional media appearances to discuss its history. “As it turned out, it was a Fortuny cape that she had in her attic.”Though she could probably sell many of her things at a huge profit, “I will stop collecting when I am dead,” she said. “Queen Isabella built a huge sarcophagus and had her furniture and clothes buried with her. When I die I am going to take it all with me.” Whether or not she means it, one gets the point. Hinting at a bequest, Ms. Schreier added: “Of course, there are people at museums who have been very supportive.”But that doesn’t mean those who borrow her pieces, like Mr. Koda, aren’t strictly vetted. “I have four children, seven grandchildren and 15,000 fashion things,” Ms. Schreier said. “If they go to camp, I want to be sure they will all be looked after by good counselors.”