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.
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.
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.