One Woman’s Clothing at the William King Museum of Art

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Thanks to the phenomenon of the Advanced Style empire, older people are no longer invisible in the style world, at least the ones who are a bit colorful and eccentric are not invisible. But what about the rest of us?

We recently went on a little Christmas holiday to Abingdon, Virginia to attend a performance at the wonderful Barter Theater and to stay at the Martha Washington Inn. This was my Christmas “present” as we no longer indulge in physical gifts. I’ll join the hundreds of older people who tell you to spend your money on experiences rather than objects. Unless that object is really great, then spend away, is my philosophy.

I found out, purely by accident, that the William King Museum of Art in Abingdon had a fashion exhibition going. What serendipity!

The exhibition was of the type that I love – that of one woman’s clothes. The woman was Fran Keuling-Stout, of whom I’d never heard, but that’s not surprising. She and her husband lived in the small Virginia mountain town of Big Stone Gap, though the museum did sneak in a mention that they also maintained a residence in New York City. And we also learned that Fran had three major fashion loves – Ralph Lauren, Alexander McQueen, and Giorgio Armani. She was born in 1946, so she was a few years older than me, but of the same generation.

In the photo above, you have left to right: McQueen, Lauren, Lauren

How refreshing it was to see an older woman celebrated for a sense of style that was not kooky. Yes, Fran obviously had some money in the bank. The coat above was from Alexander McQueen. But still, here was a woman who knew what she liked, and just went for it.

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Most of the garments in the exhibition were things I could picture myself wearing. Maybe not in small town North Carolina, but definitely in NYC. Which left me wondering if she wore her McQueens in Big Stone Gap. I hope she did.

One thing that left me confused about the exhibition was a display case full of Fran’s sneakers and other flat shoes. I somehow missed the explanation at the museum, but when I got home and started looking into Ms. Keuling-Stout, I learned that she was known for her sneakers. No impossible stilettos for her! She loved pretty clothes, but knew that comfort (and stability) were also important. You can see a pair of her dress flats above, paired with a lot of Armani.

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Speaking of comfort, these dresses give the illusion of structure, but all are knit; all by McQueen.

I learned that Fran died unexpectedly last year at only seventy years of age. But I found a video of her talking about clothes, that makes me appreciate how she lived her life. And she talks about sneakers.

 

17 Comments

Filed under Designers, Museums

17 responses to “One Woman’s Clothing at the William King Museum of Art

  1. Ruth

    My husband and I (both of us are in our 60’s) were recently discussing the way people of a certain age seem to become invisible. I know we both dress the way most people our age seem to dress, comfort more than stylish is a necessity. I love to see the fashions from someone who has a distinct style, but I still prefer comfort. There are times I want to be seen, and times I really just want to blend in, and attitude seems to be the difference. People our age tend to be more confident (or we act like it), or maybe we just hide our confusion better. Younger people are too busy with their devices or maybe attempting to be seen by the opposite sex, or in many cases dealing with children. I think I like this age, and if I want to be seen then I get out the “crazy or loud” clothes. The ones my kids cringe at, and I used to. Maybe that’s way we wear more color as we age, too?

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  2. Reba Worth

    What a wonderful video to cap your blog. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing her model her clothes and express her enjoyment of her wardrobe. Very authentic. A beautiful expression of her spirit and personality.

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  3. This was such a nice article. Fran Keuling-Stout showed such confidence and joy in life. I so enjoyed the video. And those McQueens are so magnificence.

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  4. jacq staubs

    As Fran is only a year older than me – it is difficult to comprehend a woman in my generation being observed as “colorful” or categorized as whimsical in style! OMG I am old suddenly! Having been very fortunate with a large part of my career in fashion and working with/for the same type of profession women that dressed and maintained their style by injecting their favorite designers – like Fran. When I was an editor in Washington covering the social events my favorite ladies were the ones wearing their favorite designers-no matter what the era . And photographed them.

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  5. Amanda

    Wow. Terrific blog (what else do we expect?) and wonderful video. I am the same age and also have the Afib thing – Certainly don’t have her style (or income) but I do wear comfortable shoes at all times – in my case not sneakers, but Merrell step-ins – so comfortable.

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  6. Thank you so much for sharing this, and for sharing the video of Fran! She seemed like an incredibly lovely woman and the video actually had me in tears. What a sweet woman with such an amazing style, spirit and personality. It’s very sad that she’s gone from this world.

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  7. And she clearly had a color scheme she loved! What a treat to find this exhibit.

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  8. Amy

    Appreciate that you linked the video and your images from the museum: beautiful garments and a confident woman. You’ve probably already seen/read about Sara Berman’s Closet at The Met, I was sorry to miss the exhibition, her story sounded so intriguing. If you or your readers didn’t see/read about it, here’s a link: https://metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2017/sara-berman-closet

    Happy holidays and do keep up the wonderful, engaging posts. It’s clear that everyone really enjoys them!

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  9. Envy, envy, envy…
    What a collection and what style!
    Stylish people are the flowers of contemporary space!

    Like

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