Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Girl Bill Cunningham Shot Three Times

Durell has reason to smile

I love my friends. I revel in their joys, am thrilled at their successes and delighted when they run into good luck. With one possible teeny-tiny exception. All the years I lived and worked in New York City, all the times I placed myself on the corner of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue (his favorite spot), I was never photographed by Bill Cunningham. My friend Durell Godfrey, on the other hand, has been photographed by him thrice (1970, 1982, 2007).

Well, why not? Durell and I have been friends for 40 years. I knew from the first that this gal was born with Style written all over her. Sure enough through the years I've seen her style evolve into a true part of her Durell-ness. And now that we are all a lot more talkative about ourselves (or more confident and not afraid to say what we think), Durell has consented to be interviewed for this blog.

AIF: I know you had your own style even as a very little girl. What's your first fashion-related memory?
Always in fashion
DG: Pre first grade I wore a black velvet cocktail hat for an entire year. It was my mother's— a black velvet disk, what would now be called a fascinator. My mother decorated it with bows and ribbons for holidays.

AIF: What trend or style has most influenced you?

DG: I've always liked mismatched-with-matching. My father had a great sense of mixing patterns so there was always a comfort level with "oddball". I started making my own clothes when I couldn't find what I wanted— like a pair of "buffalo" plaid pants I made and wore with a black ski sweater with a red and white pattern on it over a red and black checked shirt. [Durell's outfits never shouted "Look at me" because she had early on perfected the art of nonchalance. Plus she is tall.]

AIF: What's your favorite everyday go-to outfit?

DG: Now that I live in the country my go-to outfit is pleated khaki pants, a white t-shirt and a fitted riding jacket or double breasted black linen menswear jacket, mismatched socks and mismatched Converse sneakers or mismatched espadrilles.

AIF: Haven't I seen you wear massive amounts of beaded African bracelets on both arms?

DG: I do wear Massai beaded bracelets and ones from the Ivory Coast [souvenirs from her trips to Africa] on both wrists if I am wearing something really simple in the summer (they don't play well with jackets and coats). Bill Cunningham took one of the pictures when I was wearing them. It is a thrill to catch his attention.

AIF: What will you never wear?

DG: I avoid purple. I avoid green. I rarely wear skirts or most prints that are not on Hawaiian shirts.

AIF: What's one item in your wardrobe you can't live without?

DG: My round glasses. The better to hunt and gather!

AIF: What was your "best buy"?

DG: A black and white silk gingham dress with a jacket— very vintage. The fitted jacket has a peplum; the dress is sleeveless with a full skirt and crinoline. It was $25 at the thrift shop. I wore it to everything for two summers running. One day while wearing it I met the lady who had donated the dress. It had been her daughter's. I think it's very Dior New Look.

AIF: What was the "one that got away"?

DG: A reversible Norma Kamali sleeping bag coat on ebay.

AIF: What do you think when a woman says she's too old/doesn't have time for fashion?

DG: I understand being unable to find age appropriate clothes that fit. Age redistributes the body (hence the dreaded elastic pants). What I hate is the people who dress in the "comfortable" sweat pants and sloppy top. Who said it was okay to walk around in your jammies? I like to dress as though I am going to bump into someone special, from my past perhaps. When I see that person I won't wish I could hide.

AIF: What are ten fashion pieces you can't live without?

DG:   1) a tuxedo (le smoking)
        2) black blazer
        3) big rhinestone pin
        4) string of good pearls
        5) white t shirt
        6) white shirt with over-starched collar
        7) khaki/gray flannel and/or black pleated pants
        8) winter white pleated pants
        9) Toms shoes with red sparkles
       10) black fedora

AIF: What's your beauty routine?

DG: Daily sunblock, concealer for sunspots, smudged grey pencil on lids, light mineral blush applied with a big brush, little smear of lipstain. I don't like sticky stuff on my face. Shampoo formulated for grey hair. Pond's dry skin cream on my face at night, Lubriderm everywhere else.

AIF: How did you get started wearing non-matching socks?

DG: I joined a gym, with not much enthusiasm. Being a newly retired city girl at that point, I had nothing but black tights for legwear. I went to the GAP and bought cotton crew socks in every color they had. To make it fun to go to the gym I wore one red one and one yellow one— and a style was born. It works if they are the same sock but made in different colors, stripes, polka dots or argyles. They have to "know each other" in some way.
Durell-style mismatched mixing

AIF: Where do you shop today?

DG: Thrift shops and Rugby Ralph Lauren. I buy designer stuff at thrift shops that I know are classics. Every now and then I'll venture into something odd for me, but it never integrates well. I'm a sucker for black jackets, pinstriped suits from the men's departments and down vests in bright colors. Thrift shops, if they are in affluent areas, will get high-end cast-offs. I love to shop vintage stores and thrift shops in other cities. Antique shows can unearth great vintage clothing.

AIF: If you could pick an era, other than one in which you lived, based on its style, which would it be?

DG: Edwardian fits my body type. I totally identify with the Gibson Girl. I totally identify with Mrs. Isaac Newton Phelps-Stokes. My fantasy is to be painted by Sargent.
Mr. and Mrs. Phelps-Stokes by John Singer Sargent

AIF: How has your style changed/evolved over time?

DG: My style has evolved with my age and location. When I lived in New York and worked at Glamour creativity reigned. Now I live in the country and some city stuff just doesn't work. Grass and the beach and pebbled driveways can ruin "city" shoes. I wear pants because dresses and skirts are not cut long enough these days. I am too old for mini anything.

AIF: Do you have any advice for younger women as they grow into themselves? 

DG: Confidence is the best accessory! Check yourself from the back before you leave the house. Pick something that will be your signature and build on it— a special color of favorite look from fashion history reinvented for you and today. Wear your clothes but don't let them wear you. Be brave. Try to remember your great outfits rather than the disasters. Most important— dress as though you will meet the love of your life or the man who broke your heart.

Although he never photographed me, I must confess I get a lot of points even knowing the girl that Bill Cunningham shot three times.



  2. This is so wonderful! What special friends! and I absolutely love the advice for younger women. I totally wrote it down in my notebook!