“Growing up, I never considered a career in fashion. I didn’t start thinking about any sort of career until much later in life. I was 18 when I moved from my home city of New York to Italy – I followed a boyfriend – and it was there that I started modeling. Two years later, I moved back to New York, went to college and then decided I wanted to be a fashion photographer.
“I was a huge fan of [Swedish photographer] Gösta Peterson’s work, so I looked him up in the phone book, found his address, stopped by his studio and ended up working with him – that’s how you did things in the 1970s! Eventually, I started doing my own photo shoots, too. The models were usually friends of friends and the clothes were all my own. It was actually my sister who said to me one day, ‘You don’t take great photographs, but you do put together really cool outfits – maybe that’s a job?’ It was cruel but true. I just laughed, thinking, ‘What kind of job is that?’ I’d never even heard the word ‘stylist’. Then one thing led to another, and here we are. I worked with Gösta for a few more years, then his wife, Patricia Peterson, who was the fashion editor at the New York Times, introduced me to some people and I wound up getting a job as the fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar. I didn’t even have a resumé; I didn’t need one. It was easier in those days; everything was so organic. After that, I went freelance and continued to style for the next 35 years.
“I’ve never dressed in a ‘trendy’ way; I’m more concerned with finding pieces that actually look good on me. Back in the day, we didn’t have money for clothes; we had to be much more creative with the pieces in our closets – that makes me sound 100 years old, but it’s true. I can’t pinpoint the moment that I found my ‘look’; it’s always evolving. My style can be quite irreverent; if I think I look good in a piece and I feel comfortable, I’ll wear it no matter what. However, that doesn’t mean I’m provocative or outrageous – I never set out to draw attention to myself with what I wear. I prefer simple pieces and outfits that balance masculine and feminine elements. I have been wearing blue jeans since I was five years old; I build most of my outfits around them. Dresses, skirts and ruffles aren’t really my thing – I don’t like to look too girly. Feeling comfortable in my clothes is the most important thing to me. I think I’ve worn super-high heels maybe twice in my life – and both occasions were in the early 1980s! I know what suits me; I can tell just from looking at a piece on a hanger if it will work – I’m very intuitive. My mother, aunts and grandmother all had impeccable style, and so I was aware of fashion from a very young age. It wasn’t forced on me; I just learned by osmosis.
I know what suits me; I can tell just from looking at a piece on a hanger if it will work – I’m very intuitive”
“I feel so grateful to have become a sort-of celebrity later in life. I mean, I’m 72 – it’s wild! It’s wonderful to be embraced by everyone from 20-year-olds to 80-year-olds. I think young women can’t believe I’m older than their mothers, and yet they still want what I’m wearing. And for older women, I think there’s a sense of, ‘Well, if she can dress like that, then so can I!’ I love Instagram but I barely follow anyone; I prefer to look at pictures of English gardens, Paris in the 1950s or London streets in the 1890s – and also dogs, any dog! I can’t quite believe how many followers I have, but nowadays there are a lot of older women getting the spotlight. I see them and think, ‘Wow, here we are.’ I’m glad to be a part of the movement.
“The term ‘age gracefully’ makes me laugh – there’s nothing graceful about it! I hate my wrinkles, but the alternative is just too scary to me. I couldn’t get a facelift – my dermatologist basically told me it’s too late anyway. Ten or so years ago I got fillers in my face – they were subtle, nobody even knew they were there – but I just thought I looked weird. I think it’s important for people to realize that the pictures they see in magazines and on Instagram have been retouched – we’ve all become desensitized to it, but that’s just the world we live in.
“With everything that’s going on now, I feel like I’ve aged 10 years in the past five months. I’m not the most social person at the best of times, but not being around people, and being stuck on my couch for the past 130 days, has taken its toll. If I’m being honest, lockdown has been liberating but also depressing. I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world; I have a roof over my head and food in the fridge. I feel very blessed and fortunate every day, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling sorry for myself, too. I miss restaurants – although I have learned to make my own sushi. It feels like I have been wearing the same black stretch pants and T-shirt for the past five months. Sometimes, I go into my closet and just look at all the beautiful clothes I have in there – I have such an eclectic mix, but I love each and every piece – and I think about getting all dressed up again one day and remember that this too shall pass.”