So What ARE They Wearing for Gertrude Stein?
San Francisco Chronicle’s Leah Garchik reported in the Datebook the other day a comment overheard at a birthday party: “She doesn’t know Gertrude Stein! What kind of a lesbian is she?” I replied to Leah, “And we have to ask: What was she wearing?” Leah wrote back that she was going to the museum and “do some people watching, to see what they’re wearing for Gertrude!” The obvious thing to do.
I am waiting for Leah’s verdict. But meanwhile, I can report that San Franciscans are fashion literates.
Sorry, Danielle Steel, no Tevas spotted in the exhibitions! The “Summer of Stein” showed unusual heat and still, there was more designer wear than beach wear when I went around with my spy notebook, pretending to look at paintings when in truth…
Of course, beauty strikes the eye, and a young Japanese beauty struck mine, wearing a black halter dress, so low that a thin mauve-colored tank top was added for decency. As Gertrude had it: “A beauty is not suddenly in a circle. It comes with rapture. A great deal of beauty is rapture.” I bet Gertrude was not only talking about paintings. The dress was cotton but had silk pouches on both sides, and I can say they had NO utalitarian purpose. No little copy of Alice B. Toklas’s cookbook stuck in there with hidden hash brownies. Now, what her tote-bag with bamboo handles held I cannot say. Women are so mysterious.
Men, by contrast. I admired the cargo pants of one visitor at SFMOMA, clearly an artist, given his long-hair, and mid-thigh you could see a red and a black pen stick out of one narrow cargo pocket on the left, keys dangling on the right. His torso was clad in a rayon shirt with colors bleeding into each other from a pastel palette that was not to be found among the Fauves. Yes, you could say he stood out. Another man signalled being more modern than the modernists, wearing a striped pop shirt in Andy Warhol pink-green-orange-violet. So daring.
Equally daring was a woman of a certain age in a red-and-green chess-board jacket, a basque beret on her grey curls. She might have come straight over from the latest Royal Wedding to pay her respect to the kings and queens of modernism.
Sexy fashion fit perfectly with the many striking “Nudes” and “Bathers” the Steins collected: I saw a little black minidress with a lace strip on top and a curved seam. Another mini in a black and white pattern was worn with black ruffled tights and a long scarlet-died mane of hair — not to forget the chic sun glasses, evoking my favorite Stein tweet: “Toasted Susie is my icecream.” Nothing better to fit with the weather in San Francisco right now.
Another Asian woman wore a short mauve-grey tull skirt of some amplitude, matched by a tiny Louis Vuitton bag and striped sandals in mauve and grey. Which reminds me: I stopped counting the many “Delphic” sandals and duck shoes walking through the exhibition rooms…
The famously relaxed SF understatement in high fashion was present in a number of coat-dresses, one with a discreetly ruffled collar, irregularly cut jackets with no other fanfare, and one black tailored pants suit, adorned with only a red ribbon in the ponytail, and I have to say, the Guided Tour earphones gave the whole outfit just the post-modernist thrill.
A few very young youngsters were sketching a Cubist Picasso and even though I checked carefully, I did not spot a single SFMOMA giftshop T-shirt in the ample crowd. I am talking about the Stein T-shirt reading “You can either buy clothes or you can buy paintings.” Maybe Gertrude got it wrong for once?