This is the best thing to wear for today, you understand. Because I don’t like women in skirts and the best thing is to wear pantyhose or some pants under a short skirt, I think. Then you have the pants under the skirt and then you can pull the stockings up over the pants underneath the skirt. And you can always take off the skirt and use it as a cape. So I think this is the best costume for today.
- “Little” Edie Beale, Grey Gardens, 1975
My favorite part of the show Hoarders isn’t the family drama or the horrifying-yet-ubiquitous cat skeleton discovery, but the weird in-between moments that expose the eccentricities of some fascinating clutter-bound shut-ins. I find myself wishing the cameras would spend a little more time dwelling with these hermits on the reasons they hold so fast to objects that have no value, but Hoarders usually drives past this opportunity in exchange for a dramatic reveal, or the dramatic revelation that the too-stubborn hoarder is out of hope, and out of options.
The show hardly focuses on the real theme in any hoarders’ existence: loss. Which is why when I finally got around to watching Grey Gardens for the first time last weekend, I found it so intensely satisfying.
If you haven’t seen the film, here’s the rundown: documentary film makers spend a few weeks one summer in the mid-1970s with 80-year-old Edith Beale, aunt to Jackie Kennedy, and her daughter (Jackie’s cousin) “Little” Edie Beale, 58, on their daily routine as they inhabit their condemned mansion-of-lost-dreams in the East Hamptons. Neither ever really leaves the property, and they spend most of their time singing, dancing, eating canned food and bickering over the minute details of family situations long past.
“She had a proposal of marriage from Paul Getty,” Big Edie says of her daughter to the cameras. “Remember Paul, the richest man in the world?”
Little Edie, a faded beauty queen, bald from alopecia and having given up years of her life to take care of her mother in the decrepit house, is making the best of a bad situation, parading around with polyester garments on all the wrong body parts, offering quotable nuggets on how life is best lived, and trying to make sense of what happened to bring her to this point.
“I only cared about three things,” she says. “The Catholic Church, swimming and dancing, and I had to give them up.”
Yet there’s something entirely captivating about her style, so much so that we’re not the only ones tapping her as a fashion icon. Her life is nothing more than a vast collection of “could’ve beens” and yet, on the flip side of that wasteland of opportunity, she emerges with unique wit, style and grace, assuring generations to come that, even if your emotional and living state is in complete ruins, you can still look great wearing a terry cloth hand towel as a head scarf and pinning it in place with a brooch.
Here’s to you, Edie.
1930s turquoise chippy dresser, LittleGoatChic
1960s Vera scarf in red, white and blue, 4birdsvintage
Trifari rhinestone gold brooch, Vintage Gypsies
Vintage red 1930s swimsuit, Aquanetta
The Marble Faun 1913 printing, Lost Bear Studio
1930s white peep toe shoes, LunaJunction
Telephone-themed ladies head scarf, I Love Vintage Stuff