you might know the idiosyncratic fashionistas from their blog, where they champion, "growing old with verve". at beacon's manhattan store, we know them also as some of our most recognizable regulars, in their signature polka dots, platform shoes and offbeat hats that express not only their fabulous style but their joie de vivre.
so it was only a matter of time until we just had to ask them to apply their idiosyncratic flair to a beacon's collaboration. “we love thrifting, recycling and repurposing, so this would be a way for us to demonstrate the value and fun of re-everything-ing," they responded. read up on their love of all things vintage and enjoy their beacon's creations below.
all clothing from beacon's unless otherwise noted.
(valerie) vintage 60s embroidered coat - vintage hat and gloves - coconuts heels, (jean) paul gaultier femme coat - vintage hat - her own jewelry
can you tell us the story of how a hat brought you together?
(valerie) metropolitan vintage show. we were both there to visit a mutual friend but i was also there to hand out invitations to people who looked like they would come to my opening. she was with a now - mutual friend of ours and i looked at them and said, “oh these look like people that would come to my opening, that would be interested in babies textiles” - we have a soft spot in our heart for babies textiles. so i went over to them and and gave them the invitations. they did both show up and the opening was a success and i said, “let’s go accross the street for some champagne!”
(jean) the magic word!
(valerie) we were kind of circling each other but had not met.
(jean) i was wearing a hat and valerie’s approach was, “anyone wearing a hat, i can communicate with.”
(valerie) and that remains true. it’s almost like when republicans get together, they can talk about obama or something. people who are wearing hats are already kind of out of the circle. it doesn’t matter if you’re a texan wearing a stetson or a local guy wearing a kangol cap. anybody who wears a hat is already saying, “this is part of the outfit and i’m not afraid of it.” people are afraid of hats. is there a word for that? yes, cocklaphobia.
(jean) hats are interesting because we get a lot of reaction on the the street. if i’m by myself, it’s like, “oh she’s eccentric.” if we’re together, we’re somehow much more approachable.
(valerie) that’s when people say, “where’s the party?”
do you influence each others’ style?
(jean) i wear a lot more color than i ever did and stranger fabrics than i would’ve normally done. i tend to be straight goth. now i see accessories, i see color...she’ll wear these strange combinations of colors and textures, puckered and shiboried, and different things i hadn’t been exposed to at all. i know a plaid and a tartan and linen from silk but she has this whole world of textile curating that i hadn’t known about. and you (to valerie) wear a lot more black than you did when i met you.
(valerie) 90s maxi dress with cutout shoulders - celeste paneled jacket - won hundred platform shoes - vintage hat - her own jewelry, (jean) vintage ysl shoes - vintage hat - alexander wang bag - prada jacket - rené lezard for bergdorf goodman wrap skirt - domino bracelet by unknown - other jewelry her own
valerie, you lived in japan for 10 years. did that influence your style?
oh yeah, that was like a hit-me-over-the-head-with-a-hammer kind of influence. you couldn’t not see it. i could buy issey miyake during the 80s. it was a whole different color palate, it’s almost like sharps and flats. in the united states, all the colors are very flowery and pretty but the same color in japan would be an off-red or an off-yellow or a mustard yellow instead of a sunny yellow. the entire color palette was different. i miss that influence, although it’s fair to say it’s come here to a certain extent.
(jean) i think fashion has globalized much more in the past decade than the past 40 years before that. it’s fascinating to me that the same stuff you can buy here, you can buy in paris. i’m not just talking about h&m or other chains but a kind of look - the hippie look, the punk look...we went through grunge, now it’s kind of either very sporty, very goth or very japanese.
(valerie) i think the germans are doing interesting things that we don’t even know about probably because the exchange rate makes them impossible to bring over.
(jean) and the belgians.
(valerie) and the french are doing interesting things. i think people who regularly go to paris are bringing back interesting stuff that you find in the thrift shops.
(jean) we’re talking thrift shops though, not commercial shops.
(valerie) i’m talking about a woman who goes to paris and and sees a suit in the window and buys it. a couple years later she gets rid of it and (when you find it in a thrift shop) you can tell that it’s different. it will have more tailoring or it has better buttons or something about it will stand out.
jean, you lived in ny in the 70s...
i moved here in ‘75, right as punk was hitting. i moved downtown in ‘77 to soho and that changed my life. i used to live on the upper east side and i came from dc. and so coming to new york was just fabulous. i lived in soho when you didn’t have drycleaners and grocery stores and all the amenities. i lived on varick street, by the holland tunnel - it was no-mans land at night. except for the bars! the ear inn on spring street, also spring street bar. you could go to have lunch and larry rivers would be at the next table. soho was literally the great equalizer. you could see jean michel basquiat, warhol.
(to jean) so if we saw you, what would you have been wearing?
i went through a phase of purple hair, pink hair, jet-black hair, shaved on the sides, straight up, and when i got married i did streaks and a little of a perm so i was looking like the bride of frankenstein. that’s what i was going for. it was not real popular with my mother and her bridge club. i had this norma kamali greco-roman gown that was ruched. big shoulder pads, big v, midi-length. i had betsey johnson, opera-length stretchy gloves that were lace. my mother went over to one of the floral arrangements, snipped it off and stuck the flower right at the “v” of my décolletage, just to draw the eye away from the boob vision. it was the only thing she could think of to do.
(valerie) two-tone vintage betsey johnson dress - armani velvet coat - vintage hat - hand made bag, (jean) herve bernard jacket - prada bag - prada platform boots - vintage 90s polka dot pants - vintage hat - her own jewelry
(valerie) i was never pollyanna.
(jean) oh, i think i snapped. i went to catholic school so i wore a uniform during the week and weekends was when you could branch out and buy clothes. and you only had to buy clothes for the weekend so you could really stretch your babysitting budget. i was also a classically-trained ballerina. i was so into the costumes, the fantasy, the whole drama. schoolgirl-by-day/ballerina-by-night. when i moved to new york, it was like - the nightlife! i had a really straight day job. you could come in as early as 7:00 and leave at like 3:30. i would rush home to my apartment in soho where there was a church right across my courtyard. the church bells would ring at 4:00 and if i was in bed by then, this was great. I would sleep from like 4:00 to 10:00 and then get up and get dressed. we’d go to limelight, danceteria, area, the ritz or mud club, depending which club was in at the time. we’d go out to empire diner for breakfast and then i’d run home and sleep from like 5:00 - 6:00 and be at work by 7:00. it was like this vampire lifestyle where i could sleep in chunks. if you added it all up, it was like a normal sleep. i had so many friends that did the same thing. during the day you looked totally normal and at night you were just transformed because you were going places that were really magical. area would have live a shark in the tank on the dance floor. and you’d just see people. you could see calvin klein, donna karan, bianca jagger, mick jagger. every night was an adventure.
and it was cheap! you didn’t go broke doing stuff like that. when people got to know you at clubs, you’d get in for free. i remember i was walking down the steps at limelight and i was wearing this black leather bustier, a betsey johnson black fishtail skirt, a big necklace and my hair was all puffed up when this guy in a suit was just watching me. then he walked up to me, pulled out this black card, hands it to me and says, “this will get you into this club for free - for life.” i went “ooooh” and stuck it in my bustier. a guy behind me said, “can i get one of those?” he looked him up and down and goes, “no.”
(valerie) my mother controlled what i wore ‘til i was 14. she was very controlling. she had good taste but it wasn’t like, “valerie, what do you think of this?” it was “valerie, you will wear this!” i was living in brooklyn, and when i was 14, i was deemed old enough to go to manhattan by myself. my father had taken me around greenwich village when i was 12 and i was kind of like, “I don’t know why but i like this!” and when i was able to go by myself with my babysitting money-
(jean) babysitting money fueled more fantasies…
(valerie) that was when i started. when i went to school, we didn’t wear uniforms but the boys wore pants and the girls wore skirts and dresses and petticoats underneath. it would be 30 degrees out but you’d be wearing your little dress and your little white socks. it was awful. it’s all a matter of, “if you’re a boy, you wear this and if you’re a girl, you’re meant for a life of suffering".
finally, when i was in 10th grade they changed the rules and said we don’t have to do this anymore. if you want to wear jeans to school, we don’t care. so for us that was a liberation. it was more than a liberation because back then they had what they were calling “hot pants.” it’s such a stupid name - they’re short shorts. so i started wearing short shorts - to school! as i look back, i think that’s so thoughtless and inconsiderate because the teachers are looking at the young women just like everybody else is. it’s just entirely unfair but i wasn’t thinking about that, i was thinking, “finally, i’ve been liberated.” for my 18th birthday i went to mcsorley's tavern. i thought “i’m going to a man’s place, to hell with them.” so there was this whole you-have-something-to-prove kind of atmosphere at the time. and that went into clothing as well.
(jean) well, the 70s were punk. the 80s - i absolutely love the 80s look, with the big shoulder pads and the nipped-in waist. kathy hardwick, betsy johnson, who started in the 70s with alley cat and then started coming into her own with her own label. some of those labels started then and have kept going.
(valerie) norma kamali started in a little shop on 53rd street.
(jean) oh god, that was fabulous! we both bought their things all the way through and they’re still making them.
(valerie) and bloomingdales used to be...
(jean) oh, bloomingdales on a saturday, you would just run through the store and look at everything.
(valerie) “i want this, and this and this!” frankly i can’t think of a store that has taken bloomingdales' place.
(jean) barneys, i think. jeffrey, dover street market.
(valerie) no because bloomingdales catered to all budgets. and barneys definitely doesn’t.
(jean) i always thought bloomingdales appealed to the higher budget.
(valerie) yeah but you could go from low to high and then they’d have these wonderful sales.
(jean) well, sales are wonderful. i live for sales. that and vintage.
(valerie) and thrift shops. that’s more fun for me now. i get very tired going through department stores because it’s racks and racks of this designer, racks and racks of that designer. so what’s nice is to come here to beacon’s and basically in an hour, you either have it or you don’t have it. there’s nothing i need. it’s not like you come here looking for a white shirt. if you’re looking for something specific, don’t come here. you might find it anyway but don’t make a beeline. if you’re going to a wedding the next day, don’t come here. but if you’re like, “where was that wonderful leather thing that i saw 20 minutes ago, that bustier kind of thing.” at this stage in our lives, we’re looking for something unusual. we already have everything that we need. you come here to find the stuff that you don’t need but…
(jean)...makes your heart go flutter. makes the pupils dilate and the blood pressure rise.
and you say “this is the thing that’s not in my wardrobe!” even if it’s something that’s not my size, you look at it and just go “yeah, that’s fabulous.”
(valerie) “thank you for making that.”
(valerie) hand-made gown of silver paillettes - vintage jacket - h&m eared hat, (jean) tsimori chisato top - her own jewelry
do you guys have big closets?
(valerie, to jean) tell them what your new years resolution is.
(jean) i forgot already! i’m supposed to downsize. get organized so i know what’s in the vault. i have things that i own that i can’t find!
check out more of the idiosyncratic fashionistas at: