How I Started a Fashion Craze

Blog 26by Lindy Powers

December 29, 2016

This picture was used in an ad that appeared in Queen Magazine. Olga, a Swedish model, and I had pillows shoved up under our peasant dresses to make us look pregnant. It was a cold winter; we were in a train station somewhere north of London and the stove you see in the background was the only source of heat.

The stylist on the shoot was the beautiful, brilliant fashion designer Lulu de la Filaise, who Yves St. Laurent called his "muse." She made the jewelry that accessorized all of his creations.

She was a wild, wonderful, feisty, funny kind of bad girl with tons of vision and style.

At the time of this shoot, I owned an Yves St. Laurent coat that went to mid calf and was very military looking. It had a big collar an enormous cut-on-the-bias skirt. I loved it and wore it every single day of the winter.

I had a fabulous stocking hat. If you didn't roll up the brim, it came all the way down to your shoulders when you put it on your head. The brilliance of it was that it kept your ears really warm. More than a few people said to me, "You're wearing that hat with that coat? Very interesting."

I showed it to Lulu, and she said, "Well, that's a funny hat!" The following season, when Yves premiered his fall line, all of the models were wearing my hat, which I'd bought in a small shop in Northern Vermont. Obviously, Lulu had loved the look. Yves must have had many French ladies knitting those hats in time for his show.

My fascination with this story is that things in life can seem so disconnected and your ideas can spread around the world if you pass them to the right people. Who would have thought my stocking hat would wind up on the runways of Paris? I'm proud of myself for having had the courage to mix up mediums and sticking with my own style even though people would sometimes turn up their noses.

 

 

 

Drink the Champagne, Hug the Van

BLOG 25by Lindy Powers

December 14, 2016

As you can see in this photo, I'm smiling, a little hunched over and hugging myself. It reminds me of one of the most important jobs I'd ever gotten, modeling for Fiat in Milan, Italy. They chose me because of this picture.

They were selling the first minivan for soccer moms. It was a pretty big deal. They wanted their model (me) to look as if I was "over the moon," an expression that means you're on top of the world. They wanted me to portray that I was a mom who'd finally found just the right vehicle for driving my kids and dogs around.

I stood beside the van, trying my best to look ecstatic. It was an all-day booking, and after a few hours, I could tell that the photographer wasn't getting the kind of look that he wanted. There were dozens of people on the set -- assistants, makeup artists, you name it -- and time rushed by as the frustrated photographer struggled to get the right kind of elation from me.

At lunchtime, an assistant brought in four magnums of champagne. "Lindy," said the photographer. "Drink." 

"But I don't drink!" I said.

"Drink the champagne," he insisted. "You have simply got to cheer up." As I sipped, I realized fully that they were hoping to get me drunk so I'd lose my inhibitions. It wasn't the first time a photographer had offered me alcohol! He kept saying, "More laughter! More! More!"

What he should have been doing is giving me specific instructions. "Open up your arms! Put your chin up! Jump in the air! Hug the van!" 

The next thing I knew, one of the assistants came onto the set wearing all of my clothes. At that time, I wore very Charlie Chaplin type baggy corduroys with a really tight sweater vest, and I belted my trousers with an old, polka dot neck tie. I wore three-inch wedges with heavy socks. When I saw the assistant in my clothes, I was absolutely horrified. Everyone laughed hysterically, but I didn't think it was funny. Their plan didn't work.

The point is, it's so important to have a photographer who knows how to give the proper directions in order to get the perfect shot! Communication is everything.

 

 

 

Tis the Season for Getting Engaged

Blog 24by Lindy Powers

December 8, 2016

Between now and New Year's Eve is probably the most popular time to get engaged. It's the holiday season---people are happy, and they've finally decided to "pop the question."

One of the things I've noticed lately is that people are getting engagement pictures taken, with the groom. Good for the guys, right? But here's the most important thing about being a bride---you want to look really, really good in your pictures.

An engagement shoot with a first-rate portraint photographer can teach you how how to pose. You learn your best side, and how to smile with your mouth open or closed. Your photographer learns your look, and you learn your photographer's style. It leads to a beautiful picture. The idea is to learn these things, so that when the photographer gives you a little signal, you know exactly what to do, i.e., tilt your head, lift your chin, straighten your back, smile just a little, big smile, etc.

In the old days, the parents wanted an engagement picture of just their daughter so they could put it in the newspaper and make the engagement announcement. They'd also have pictures taken with the girl wearing the dress, and after the wedding, print another announcement in the paper. It was a big deal!

This photograph was taken in England by one of the most handsome photographers I have ever seen in my life---John Kelly. It's another one of those time-lapse images, when I had to hold perfectly still for a very long time. I'm not holding any flowers in this picture, because we wanted people to look at the dress. Avoid a big flower bouquet, or else everyone will look at the flowers, not your face. Keep those flowers on the smaller side.

If you have any questions about creating the perfect engagement portrait, please contact me. We'll work together to make it beautiful and memorable.

 

 

 

 

 

My Sugar Daddy


Blog 23by Lindy Powers

November 28, 2016

Don't be concerned by the title of this blog. The definition of "sugar daddy" is, "a rich older man who lavishes gifts on a young woman in return for her company." That's all it was---quite innocent!

At the time this photo was taken, I was 17 years old. There was a man in my life, Theo, who was a friend of my grandmother's. I had always known him. He was a dignified, tall man, in his late 70s, an Old World, very formal German gentleman who took me under his wing. His intention, I think, was to sophisticate me by taking me to the ballet, opera, classical music concerts and fine dining establishments.

Our most common routine was going to Carnegie Hall, and then to the Russian Team Room. He introduced me to steak tartare and caviar and things I would otherwise never have acquired a taste for. One day, he surprised me.

"We're going to go see something I know you'll like," he said, whereupon he produced two tickets to the David Bowie concert at Carnegie Hall.

What just blows me away is that all the people who were the coolest people on Earth wanted tickets to that concert and couldn't get them. I learned later that this was one of the most difficult concerts ever to get tickets to. Theo was very rich and well-connected, but still. I think he did it just to make me happy, although he was very broad in his consciousness.

My God! What a performance! We sat in the 10th row and David rocked the house.

After the concert, we went to the Russian Tea Room as usual, expecting David Bowie to make an appearance as most of the performers usually did after a concert. I think Theo must have had his own table, because we always sat at the same table and never had to wait in line. It was customary that, when the star performer arrived at the restaurant, the patrons would jump to their feet, clap their hands and exclaim, "Here, here!" As I recall, David never showed.

Another amazing thing that I will forever love was that Theo introduced me to some great literature, in particular William Makepeace Thackeray's "Vanity Fair," a book that proposes that looking good is everything. There are other things that are useful in life, but really, everything is vanity. There's nothing much left, he said. Thackery was a talented artist who drew the book's funny and satirical illustrations. He was a bon vivant, and it's said he died of an attack of too much hot pepper, food and drink.

Theo liked to decide what I'd wear. At the time, as a teenager, I liked to wear mini-skirts and boots, which wasn't the proper attire for the Four Seasons or many of the other places we went. Every now and then, something would show up at my door. One of the prettiest things I remember receiving was a brown kind of cottony twill dress. It went just to my knees and had a matching jacket. After all, I couldn't show up at the Four Seasons dressed as a hippie, could I?

He gave me the ring in this picture right before I went back to Europe, saying, "This will bring you luck."

 

 

The Origin of the Grapefruit Diet

Blog 22by Lindy Powers

November 8, 2016

This photo looks a little bit like my dear friend and mentor Willie. She was Dutch, and she was---without a doubt---one of the most famous models of all time. Her professional name was Wilhelmina.

Willie had more covers on Vogue than anybody ever did or will, and the cool thing about her is she used to brag that she had a "woman's body." She was busty, bigger on top than on the bottom, and this is one of the things that I most loved about her.

My mom and Willie worked together. Mom said Willie had a girdle for everything---girdles for her hips, her waist and her bust. She could transform her body in a heartbeat. She was a true photographer's favorite model, because she was always prepared: extra wigs, extra eyelashes (with glue) and all kinds of make-up.

One of the things about Willie that was interesting was that she made up her own diet, simply because she loved to eat spaghetti. She called it the "Grapefruit Diet," and back in the day, everyone was trying it. For breakfast and lunch, she ate grapefruit, and for dinner, she ate spaghetti with a teaspoon of butter, a teaspoon of oil, and of course, salt and pepper. If you do that for a week, you'll lose a lot of weight---and probably get sick, too.

When Willie started not to get so much work, her neighbor, Fran Rothchild, suggested the two start their own modeling agency and compete with Eilene Ford. Bruce Cooper, Willie's husband, helped them pull it off. No one had ever thought of trying to compete with Ford, but they definitely did it. She gave Eileen Ford a good run for her money. 

Nobody mentions Fran anymore. Fran ran the business, and she introduced African American models into our culture. She made Naomi Sims, and many others, a household name.

Willie was a great model because she knew herself, and she had a tremendous network of photographers and influencers. Her agency grew very fast. She knew I didn't love modeling. "Lindy," she'd say, "I don't think you love modeling. Why not be a photographer instead?" These simple words changed my life.

She died of smoking when she was 40 years old. She smoked non-stop, I mean, light one from the last one. Of course, she did it, she said, to stay thin. She probably started smoking when she was a kid, because that's what people did back then. 

 

 

 

Nothing Gets in Her Way!

Blog 21by Lindy Powers

November 1, 2016

Norma Kumali is probably one of the greatest living American designers ever. The outfit I'm wearing in this photo isn't her taste at all, but it reminds me of her. She is an incredibly determined woman, and so strong. She reminds me of a great general.

One either loves her, or they don't. She knows her mind. Once, when she was on Madison Avenue, she lent me some garments to photograph. I love her clothes---can't say enough great things about them. I worked with a model and photographed a whole series of images in Central Park. We were very proud of them.

When I took them to Norma, she said, "I don't like these pictures at all. Put these clothes back on your model and shoot them again!" 

The model's eyes glistened with tears, and Norma said, "You don't want to do it? Well, I don't care! Shoot them again!"

Outside Norma's shop, the model wept openly. I said, "I'm so sorry, honey. I don't want to do it again, either." It was an awkward situation.

The International Ladies Garment Workers Union found her difficult to work with, too, and they refused to work with her. Now, you can imagine if all the sewers who are professionals decide not to work for someone, life can be pretty damn difficult, but not for Norma. Norma got what she wanted.

Once, she went to a dinner party with a friend of mine. She loved his work and his apartment so much that, at the dinner table, Norma announced she wanted to buy it "as is." The hostess was stunned, and said she wasn't interested in selling. Norma said, "Well, everybody has a price." 

Norma is a person who doesn't let anything get in her way, and she's so talented that I often think of her as a female Napoleon. (I love history and generals.) He could direct his army with a wave of his hand, because they worshipped the ground he walked on. Norma and Napoleon have a lot in common.

She's 70 now, and in great shape, and her designs will be revered for all time. 

As for this photo, I was very young at the time and these were my street clothes. I walked into a studio and the photographer said, "Oh, my God! I have to photograph you!"

"Well," I said, "how long will it take?" He said it would take five minutes, so we did it. It's very dramatic--I often feel like I look like my Mom here. It was very strong, and very uncrossable, like Norma.

 

 

 

Memories Made on Hampstead Heath

Blog 20by Lindy Powers

October 24, 2016

This picture, circa 1970, was shot for the British Vogue magazine by photographer Elizabeth Novak on Hampstead Heath, a park in the north of London.

 As I leafed through my scrapbook and saw it, I was reminded of two very vivid, colorful memories. One of them is about Annabels, a very famous (some might say the most famous) and elegant members-only nightclub.

It was designed to look like a country house. It had a library, drawing room, restaurant and dance floor. My favorite room was the big, yellow drawing room. It had red couches, red chairs, and big mirrors. The walls were absolutely covered with lovely pictures—nudes, landscapes, portraits—a little bit of everything.

Because it was members-only, you couldn’t just show up. It’s said that only the very rich and famous people were members—Prince Charles, Diana Ross and Mick Jagger were often there. I only got to go when I went with someone who was a member. The music was great, and after dancing, we’d go and sit in the drawing room.

This is the place where the very, very beautiful American model, Caroline Williams, met the 10th Baronet, Sir Richard Glyn. She was part Cherokee Indian and completely magnetic. Sir Richard was engaged to another woman and was getting married in a week, but he married Caroline instead at a registrar’s office. After they married, I was a regular weekend guest at their unbelievably enormous house, Gaunts House. It was a castle, really.

They had two children, Rufus and Lizzie. Richard was very handsome, and Caroline was wonderfully wild and crazy. She was one of the first people to collect vintage clothing, which she displayed in a museum she created in the house.

After about 10 years of marriage, they divorced. If I remember correctly, Richard went back to the woman he was originally supposed to marry. They lived together happily ever after. The sad thing for Caroline was, if you have children with someone of Richard’s status, you sign over your rights to get out of the marriage with your children. She lost her Baroness status, became “just” Caroline Glyn, and went off to live her own life without her children.

I learned recently that the little Rufus I’d known had married. I loved Rufus. Here is a wedding photo of him out in the field in front of Gaunts House. I wrote to the wedding photographer and asked whether Caroline was at the wedding, to no avail. I wish I could find her.

 

 

 

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