The Substance of Style - Aging Gracefully

The Substance of Style: Aging Gracefully

Roslyn Aging Gracefully Style

When you think of fashion you probably think of the beautiful young models who are splashed across magazine covers. Their captivating images portray fashion as the pursuit of the unattainable. But recently there has been a movement towards more diversity in imagery, a more inclusive and realistic view.  We view this as a healthy shift from a focus on fashion to focus on style.  While fashion is externally focused on the clothes, style is focused on the person. Style emphasizes individuality: utilizing the best of what you have, and reflecting your identity through what you wear and how you carry yourself.

The attainment of style requires something more than just physical beauty; it requires experience, self-awareness and a cultivated view. The designers, fashionistas and editors of the industry possess these attributes; they are true role models who embody style and do the hard work to create fashion. The mature women highlighted below: Patricia Field, Vera Wang and Vivienne Westwood, are among these icons of fashion and style.


Patricia Field Redefined Style in the City

 

“My style tends to be exaggerated, but not too much because the audience has to believe in it. But, in the end,  I like to make people happy.                 I like to see smiling faces. My style and costuming choices are about that.” – Patricia Field, Refinery29, March 2015

patricia-field-photograph-Dylan-Coulter-Independent

Photograph: Dylan Coulter, Independent

As the Emmy Award winning costume designer of “Sex and the City”, Patricia Field most certainly put smiles on our faces and put her stamp on almost everything modern New York women wear today. Remember Carrie’s pink tank top and tutu in the opening of “Sex and the City”? Patricia Field knew that outfit would stand the test of time and it has.  You can still shop online for Carrie’s nameplate necklace, one of Field’s numerous signature styles. Carrie and ‘the girls’ outfits were an assemblage of ideas and clothing that reflected the cultural cross-sections of NYC and the points of view of each character. Women identified with these characters and it impacted the way they felt and dressed; it empowered them to explore fashion as fantasy and express themselves.

Ms. Field maintained that,”when you dress someone you have to know who they are”, and she honed her skill for zeroing in on people’s personalities on her own shop floor.  She opened her namesake boutique in Greenwich Village in 1966 and it became an internationally known fashion landmark for nearly fifty years. This cultural firmament and defining factor in urban style’s  nightlife is closing its doors this spring but as one door closes, many remain open for Ms. Field.

At age 75, Patricia is is currently channeling her passion for fashion and self expression solely into costume design for a new television series, “Younger“.  Her spirit and verve can still be felt in the streets of New York, inspiring us to put our authentic high heeled foot forward and reminding us that “…. fashion is an opportunity to be creative. How you dress yourself must express who you are.”


Vera Wang Dresses the Modern Woman with Grace

 

“There’s an old skater’s saying: Don’t be afraid of falling. It’s 90 percent falling – otherwise, you don’t master anything.”
– As Told to Jennifer Vineyard, The Cut, June 2015

Vera-Wang-Andrew-Harper-New York Business Journal

Photograph: Andrew Harper, New York Business Journal

Looking back at Vera Wang’s childhood, we can trace the characteristics that enabled her meteoric rise in the fashion world. Born to affluent Chinese parents and the recipient of an outstanding elite education, Vera’s first love was skating.  She quickly became hooked on the sport and from age 7 was rising at dawn to practice before going off to school. As a young competitive skater, Ms. Wang developed discipline, drive and self motivation as well as an eye for graceful lines and shape.  Fearless, and seemingly unstoppable, Ms. Wang became one of the top 20 skaters in the US. but never quite managed to crack into the very top ranks.  When she realized that the Olympics were out of reach, Vera, disappointed but characteristically unbowed and un-complaining, moved on.  She set her sights on fashion and began working at Vogue magazine.

Within a year, at age 23, she was promoted to senior fashion editor and held that title for 15 years. Restless and seeking a new challenge she once again moved on, this time becoming the design director of accessories at Ralph Lauren.

Perhaps the most storied chapter of Ms. Wang’s career began with her marriage in 1989.  Dissapointed with available wedding gowns, she designed her own bridal gown and launched her own bridal collection in a luxury boutique on Madison Avenue. Her chic and romantic bridal designs have clean lines and silhouettes, balancing modern design with traditional elegance. She is the most prominent bridal wear designer in America; her gowns are now sold at over 55 bridal retailers making them available to brides of all income levels and sizes.

In 2000 Vera branched out into ready-to-wear that reflects more her personal edge style.  It was “… a major goal for me – to be able to reach and encourage more women, to encourage them to express themselves and be what they want to be.”  Since 2006, her lifestyle line at Kohl’s, known as Simply Vera, offers a piece of her good taste in shoes, home goods, perfume, jewelry etc…

Along the way Vera Wang has won many awards including the Womenswear Designer of the Year in 2005 by the Council of Fashion Designers of America. She has become a high-profile figure in the fashion world and at age 66, she is one of the Forbes top 50 most successful, self-made women in the US. She is still competitive, driven and uncompromising but those who know her speak of another Vera: an outgoing, spontaneous, charmingly eccentric woman who tempers her intensity with humor and an ability to laugh at herself.


 Vivienne Westwood is Fashion’s Rebel with a Cause

 

“My clothes have a story. They have an identity . They have a character and a purpose. That’s why they become classic.                         Because they keep on telling a story.  They are still telling it.” – Vivienne Westwood, Fashion One, November 2014

Vivienne Westwood-Photograph-Linda Brownlee for the Guardian

Photograph: Linda Brownlee for the Guardian

At age 75, Dame Vivienne Westwood, fashion designer, business woman and political activist, is one of Britain’s most recognizable living icons.

Born to working class parents, Westwood grew up with  little exposure to art or theater.  She became interested in fashion at an early age but her interest never came to fruition until a fateful meeting with an art student, Malcom McLaren in 1965 changed her life. McLaren went on to become the manager of the Sex Pistols and Vivienne dressed the band. These fashions helped shape the punk rock phenomenon. Throughout their relationship, the two maintained a close linkage between music, fashion and political activism and Westwood came to think of the fashion runway as a platform for the expression of political ideas.

Her fashion statements were often as bold as her political views.  “All the clothes I wore people would regard as shocking. I wore them because I just thought that I looked like a princess from another planet.” Together with her new romantic and creative partner, Andreas Kronthaler, Westwood went on to create many eclectic designs that combine unconformity with a sense of tradition. She reflects her opposition to the status quo by taking romanticized stereotypes, historic garments and classic British fabrics and presents them in unexpected ways.

She continues to seamlessly blend fashion with political activism and is currently promoting a Greenpeace documentary and her global warming initiative, “Climate Revolution“.  Dame Westwood is a rebel and a trendsetter who aspires to stir our minds. She asserts that, “The sexiest people are thinkers. Nobody’s interested in somebody who’s just vain with a hole in their head, talking about the latest thing – there is no latest thing. It’s all rubbish.”


There will always be new upcoming talent in the fashion world and they will continue to learn from their predecessors. The three mature women we profiled continue to instruct us, surprise us and delight us. They are among the visionary pioneers who epitomize what Edna Woolman Chase, iconic editor in chief of Vogue magazine from 1914-1952 once said, “Fashion can be bought. Style one must possess”.

Of the three designers we featured, who inspires you most?

 

 

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Roslyn
I loved going to work each day for 30 years as a professional career counselor. When I retired, I explored my creativity and regard for crafts until I discovered beading. At age 68 I turned my new found passion- jewelry design, into a business. At age 72 I took on learning about social media marketing and developing my computer skills. I am sharing my journey from inception, to frustration, to elation -in the hope of inspiring others that 'it is not too late to start again'. Welcome to my re-invention!

Comments 94

  1. Hi Roslyn,

    I admire those 3 women so much because they are a big example of creativity. Age doesn’t matter, it’s just a number. It is the market industry that has made women obsessed with their image and showing men that the perfect woman is a young woman. It is not only the age but other physical “flaws” such freckles or moles. I always give advice to my students to stop stressing out about external beauty because whoever is obsessed with it, it means that they are trying to put a mask up to cover personality traits. Thank you for this great article to honor those 3 amazing women!

    Zaria

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      Zaria, so great that you address the true meaning of beauty with your students. Recently, I’ve seen many articles and spokespeople addressing this very point. Hopefully, our younger women will grow up seeing their inner beauty. Thanks so much for your contribution to the conversation.

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  2. They are all remarkable women, but I think Patricia Field inspires me the most. Probably because I don’t posses her talent or imagination for creating the styles she comes up with. I really admire people who can think outside the box and come up with something spectacular.

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      Lisa, great point about creativity. So many people have varying degrees of creativity and when coupled with an extraordinary imagination & courage to put it out in the world, we get outstanding designs.

  3. This is beautiful, Roz! Maybe because of my age, I don’t think of Style as a young-thing anymore. I truly admire women who create and recreate themselves as they go, as these do! Lincoln said that a man is responsible for his own face after the age of 35 (or in this case, a woman). So true. As we age, we portray who we are.
    And I just love this: “The attainment of style requires something more than just physical beauty; it requires experience, self-awareness and a cultivated view.”
    Yes!

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      Susan Mary Malone, I always look forward to your responses as I know you often include your favorite quote. Again, understanding the difference between style & beauty probably comes with age. I often feel badly when I hear gals saying they have no style. Or they don’t like their own appearance.

  4. I have to admit that this is my favorite of your blog topics to date! When I was younger, I badly wanted to be involved in the fashion industry. But, as the only child of two very conservative Catholic parents, I was “persuaded” to pursue other interests. There was one time period, however, in which my parents allowed me to experiment with my style, and I enjoyed every minute of it. It was the 80s, so I expressed myself through neon, paint splashed items, men’s ties, and more–just stopping short of dying my hair pink. 😉 The women you discussed are pioneers in so many ways–not just fashion. And I love what you said about style. It is SO much more than beauty. I’m inspired by all three women, but I love Vera Wang’s simple elegance and Patricia Field’s memorable boldness.

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      Appreciate your contribution to the conversation Meghan Monaghan. Beth is really the writer of this post. We do collaborate & I get them started but it tapped into her love of fashion. Like you, she loved trying out different looks thru clothes & it fit her creative spirit. I loved seeing her daily outfits & the variety. Love how you describe yourself & these pioneering women. Look forward to pleasing you some more.

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  5. Three very different stories with very different results. But all three having “style” and willingness to set an example in common. Style definitely seems to born and nurtured from within. Although many of us loose sight of our own style, I believe it’s still there.

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      Jane Gramlich, I so agree with you that we all have our own style. We express it in the clothes & colors we choose to wear. Having confidence about our choices also contributes to developing style.

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      So glad we introduced you to these amazing fashion+ women. I also learned more about their back story in preparing this blog. Welcome Tammileetips and thank you for your comment.

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  6. I really love and admire the woman you portrayed in the article. I intend to follow the inspiration of aging gracefully and focusing on my individuality rather just the clothes trends. Nice…thanks for sharing.

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      I think Vera Wang is more relatable for many reasons. We know her better & her name is familiar. I loved her when she was an ice skater. Thanks for your comment Chelley

  7. Hi Roz 🙂
    Enjoyed reading about all of these awesome designers, especially love Vera Wang….and how she is helping women to age gracefully with you unque style 🙂 I always try to look my best, no matter what. Being “comfortable” in what I wear is very important to me 🙂 Great post and share!

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  8. The rebel or revolutionary in me, probably loves Vivienne Westwood and her very “out there” designs. I really enjoyed reading about all three of them and really admire Patricia Fields and her whimsical designs too. I love the focus of this piece, as “style” truly is very individual and is a reflection of who you are. You can dress someone up in the latest fashions and unless they are comfortable and it represents who they are, somehow they don’t pull it off. I admire how some women seem to wear everything and just carry it off with pure style and grace. Being into astrology, as you know, I see Scorpio women have a very specific style and I can often spot someone who strong Scorpio in their chart. Personally how I dressed was always very important to me when I was younger and now, I am really all about comfort, which often doesn’t equate to style. Thanks for the inside look at these three fashion and style icons. It was very interesting to read their history and how they got to where they are today!

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      So appreciate your contribution to the conversation. I just knew your favorite would be Vivian Westwood & then Patricia Fields. You have an understanding about style & have your own even if dictated by comfort. I enjoyed learning about their back story which helped put their fashion style into context.

  9. I guess I relate to Patricia Field the most. I love that she has red hair – I mean really red. And is a standout where ever she goes. But I have to admit I do have some Vera Wang ready to wear. Classy lady with a laser focus on style. Thanks so much for sharing this inspirational post!

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      Patricia Fields is so comfortable being a standout. Most fashion designers have their own flair. I wish I could wear Vera Wang ready to wear. I look at them often & wish I had them back when. So pleased Audrey you found post inspirational. Thanks for your comment.

  10. This post speaks to me so much! Style, elegance, and fashion comes is so many variations which we should be open to. I love seeing people be themselves and show off their uniqueness. Love the roundup of ladies that you profiled, they are undoubtedly style icons.

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      Appreciate your comment and addition to the conversation, Emily Smith. As a fashion blogger, I knew you would relate. Not always easy to decide who to select for a style/fashion blog. Our focus was older female fashion icons and ultimately, we were very pleased with our choice. Hopefully, will do more over time.

  11. This is very inspiring, Roslyn. I particularly admire all these women. I enjoy listening to their life story. They inspire me to do better and to take action without fear. Thank you for sharing.

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      Sabrina Quairoli, love the point you are making about taking action without fear. These 3 women definitely stood behind their beliefs & expressed them to the world thru design. Happy you enjoyed learning about them & their story.

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  12. This was such an interesting post to read Roslyn. The women you featured are all so talented and fascinating it’s difficult to say which one is most inspirational though anyone who fights the good fight for our planet always wins my heart so Dame Viviene Westwood tops the list for me. I love the idea of exploring fashion as fantasy – dress ups for the big kids – but the important theme all the women seem to share is empowering people to express themselves through fashion. Great post!

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      Tamuria, I just knew you would love Vivian Westwood & not because she might appeal to Aussies but for her incredible range in self-expression. You would love a wardrobe full of her designs to play dress up with your goddesses & encourage their creativity. Appreciate your comment.

  13. I sure hope that I will have the outlook that you and Bev do as I age… I sure am struggling with mine.. not sure the whole reason why… but maybe I just want so much more for myself and well… we never know how long we will last. I miss some of my past and maybe that is why I am associating it with age.. you know.. that must be it. Thanks Roz for keeping it real, keep it up. Love you bunches sista

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      Knowing how you embrace life and take it on Kristen Wilson, I have no doubt you will age gracefully. Just keep on being active, involved, healthy and aware.

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      Yes, Carol Rundle, it seems Vera Wang is more well known especially since she produces designs for the everyday woman. The other two women have specific and unique niches. It was fascinating to learn more about them.

  14. Vera Wang. I love that she learned discipline and tenacity from the sport of skating. To me she is an amazing woman. Thanks for sharing the 3 women’s stories.

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      Thanks, Rachel Lavern for your comment and nice to see Patricia Fields being a favorite. More and more people are speaking out about aging well, perhaps it will become more uniform. Or maybe it will be what works best for you.

  15. Vera Wang is my favorite. When I was in New York two years agon, I had to pass her store on Madison Avenue every day back and forth as I visited a friend in the hospital. Every designer on Madison Ave. was showcasing major design in their windows. Vera Wang had a gorgeous deep pink dress in her window. I can’t remember what the others looked like but I can still clearly remember that dress. She’s a fashion icon.

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      Joyce Hansen, walking & window browsing on the way to a friend in the hospital. A trying time and yet the memory remains, so I must assume it had a positive impression. There are times we see something, not even to purchase & something about it stays with her. It could have been the style or the color. I hope someday you get to see Vera Wang’s designs again.

  16. Vera has to be my fave. Though it’s hard not to like the lady who dressed the gals in Sex in the City. Great post. I vow to always go for style and never act or dress my age.

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  17. I’m a Coco Chanel and Yves St Laurent person, Roslyn, but of the 3 ladies, definitely Vivienne Westwood because I relate to her values and initiatives to be part of a bigger picture. Maybe its because I studied in Britain for my Chartered Accountancy qualification and knew her name and style as a younger person or perhaps because I am still a rebel at heart though with more grace and tact than I had as a 20 something. 🙂

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      Vatsala Shukla, I was looking forward to your selection and not surprised that your favorite is Vivienne Westwood. And i think you probably had mre grace and style than most when you were 20.

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      Thanks for your thoughts, Rachel Yerkes. The key is to be comfortablewith your own style. Pay a little attention to what is in fashion, but make it yours.

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  18. With few exceptions, I don’t believe they are rules for dressing our age. When we feel young, we can dress young. I really enjoyed reading about the ladies in the blog and how they approach dressing and aging gracefully. Great blog.

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  19. Thank you, once again, Roslyn, for bringing loving inspiration to my eyes today. I used to shop at Patricia Field’s shop when I lived in NYC, and have never found a place that works for me as much since I moved to California.

    And I’d add chutzpah and a kickass sense of self to grace. How I want to age: with kickass chutzpah.

    🙂

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  20. They all inspire me but Vera Wang resonates with me the most because she embraced a core philosophy I personally have in my own life. If you can’t find something that suits your needs, create it yourself!

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      Appreciate your contribution to the conversation Patricia Philippe. Many entrepreneurs are born because they had to create a way to meet their own needs.

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  21. I love your take on this topic – it needs to be addressed and you hit exactly the right tone and take on the subject.

    To answer your question, hough I love Vera Wang’s classicism and elegance, and I admire her many-chaptered story, I’d have to vote for Vivienne Westwood for her daring creativity and edgy expressiveness.

    xo, Reba

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  23. Great post. It really is about time companies started using women as models that are more relatable. They are slowly transitioning to this in the UK.

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  24. Unfortunately I have no sense of style whatsoever and come in a kinda wide, square shape, so anything on me tends to look like a sheet anyway! I only have the fact that I don’t seem very lined yet to my benefit and a touch of bling is something that I feel personally really dresses me up as I never wear jewellery normally.

    I recognise all the names of labels of course but as they all look either too old or too young on ME or I have to buy such a large size in it I find it all a bit overwhelming I tend to avoid them. I do however appreciate that their is a lasting durability and quality in labelled clothing and footwear and frankly when you buy them they can already be timeless pieces. I do try to buy nice quality shoes though! Never spent less than €90 on shoes they last for ages!

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  25. What an inspiring group of women! There’s no question in my mind that I added a good 5 years to my life when I settled in here in Maui and maybe another ten by walking away from corporate America. I can’t even remember the last time I saw someone wearing a suit or pair of high heels since where I live most people live in casual clothes year round and shopping options are few and far between outside of the Internet. But I treasure my hair stylist and do work at not falling into the trap of living in t-shirts and shorts. I succeed, well mostly.

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  26. Great post, Roslyn! What an astute group of feminine designers! I like them all but probably resonate the most with Vera Wang’s style. Personal style is like a little story about a woman… her preferences, her values, her brand. When I worked for big corporation, I was wearing formal dark colors clothes all the time… Now I have freedom to explore the colors and styles, and dress with intention…

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  27. Wow! What incredibly inspiring women:) I really was inspired by Patricia but then Vera… I love how she makes affordable bridal gowns and connects with the everyday woman. I am inspired by all these women who show us what passion and creativity can do.

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      Katarina Anderson, not sure if these 3 women are known in Italy. I suspect they are amongst the very fashionable. They will always make a contribution in or out of fashion industry.

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  28. Age is just a number what makes a difference is how you carry yourself.
    I really liked this article not because I am a women but it gives me strength to stand in society by not considering age as a changing factor.

    Thanks
    Jennie

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  29. Lovely article, Roslyn. Age is just a number and I love the creativity these woman have brought to the fashion world. A beautiful client of mine, Linda, says “Personal style is not determined by your size or your age, but by your attitude.”

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  30. I have to say, Vera Wang is my favorite of these; most likely because I relate to her somewhat. Starting out in one thing, getting really awesome at it and then moving on to something else, always changing and molding herself, but always remaining at the top of her league.
    I didn’t realize she had been into skating as a child; really neat tidbit to know!

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      Appreciate your response Natalie Palumbo. Early life experiences often influence the direction or path we follow. Glad we told you something you didn’t know about Vera Wang.

  31. Hi Roslyn,

    What a great read. I found all three of these women inspiring. I loved the story of Dame Vivienne Westwood and her connection to the Sex Pistols. Also found myself admiring Vera Wang’s tenacity. I just wrote her skater quote down in my notebook too, I love that!

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      Appreciate your response to the blog Dave. These are such interesting women we are all finding inspiring. I’m noticing more information about each of them since publication.

  32. I love hearing about women like these. I’m sure in their own way, they had to scrape through tons of skirmishes in order to get to be leaders in the fashion world. We tend to think of women in men’s fields (like the military) to be tough as nails, but my bet is on these women, as well, even though they’re in a “creative” industry. I also love looking at their pictures. For me, it’s nice to see that the tough gals look like you & me. Thanks for a great article.

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      I love your comments which add another perspective to the conversation Joan Potter. From what I read about them, they were strong persona;ties who knew what they wanted & were focused on their direction. Both Patricia Fields and Vivienne Westwood went against the establishment so often, it was their norm. And throughout their careers, they didn’t always look like you & me. Thanks so much for your thoughts & appreciation of the blog.

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