Sunday, August 19, 2012

La Belle Label

Jean Paul, it's been fun
I will admit to being something of a label snob. Never ever will I wear anyone's logo or initials on my person. That goes for LV, RL, YSL or even CC (sorry can't do entwined Cs on the computer but you know who I mean). Next to my person— as on a lovely sliver of embroidered satin ribbon discreetly sewn at the seam? Well, that's another story. Until yesterday the closest I have come to owning a piece of clothing with a label to brag about is a Jean Paul Gautier skirt I picked up at a thrift shop for $40. The skirt is black crepe with a gazillion brass zippers with pull chains that can be zipped up and down to give the skirt more or less swing. Despite the fact that the chains get caught in everything, it's a fun piece and very Gautier. Couture it's not.
Dangerous when wet
I did own just a label once. My older sister was getting married and "trousseau shopping" at Bonwit Teller. At age 13 I was a reluctant participant, though I loved the Bonwit Teller in downtown Cleveland.  It was small enough to feel like an atelier and quiet enough to feel like a museum— there were even gilt-framed oil paintings on the back stairwell landings. While feigning complete boredom in the fitting room, I noticed a Nettie Rosenstein label on the carpet behind a chair leg. I pocketed it, but should have known that label was cursed.

Nettie Rosenstein was an American designer of the 50s who was part of the Hattie Carnegie/Adele Simpson/Pauline Trigere school of ladylike clothes worn by fashion conscious but not usually fashion forward women. They were brag-worthy designers if not very innovative. Mamie Eisenhower was a Nettie Rosenstein fan. Stifle that snicker— so was Jackie Kennedy.
The girls wearing Nettie Rosenstein
Next day I sewed my pilfered prize into the neckline of a plaid cotton shirtdress. I now had my own designer dress! A few days later the Nettie Rosenstein label ran in the wash and ruined my dress. That could be why I've approached label lust very cautiously. Until now.
Worth waiting for
Finally. At last. A Helmut Lang is mine. OK, it's from TJ Maxx and was only $79, but it's an original, unworn gen-u-ine serious designer dress with Helmut Lang hangtag stating $450, and it's divine. It's some kind of slurred dull silk, with shredded edges and an asymetrical hem, quite unlike anything I've ever worn or owned. OK, it looks a little like a school project that never got finished, but it's NOT, and that's what counts. I wore it last night with black laced sandals and an armful of black rubber bangles. I intend to wear it everywhere except, maybe, to bed.


  1. I can tell you are going to have a lot of fun in that dress.

    I kind of feel sorry for Mamie Eisenhower. She was known as being such a clotheshorse in her day, and then Jackie came along and made her look frumpy.

    1. I do remember everyone thought Mamie was so cute (especially those bangs), but I always thought she was frumpy. It wasn't until I visited the Eisenhower farm in Gettysburg ten years ago that I realized what you say was true. Her "boudoir" (and everything in it) was PINK.

      Am thinking I should plan a trip to Italy as I can so see that dress in Rome with Bernardo sandals and oversized sunglasses. Have you ever bought anything and then dreamed up the place where you would wear it?

    2. Have I ever dreamed up a trip to go with a garment? Heavens yes! I'm especially bad to do that with shoes.

  2. That's a fabulous dress - great deal!

  3. Yes, I am feeling like la belle of le bal!

  4. Great score!! I never seem to have that sort of luck. In fact my TJ Maxx is lousy. It will be fun to play with that dress.
    And LOL about you label saga!

  5. Our two local TJ Maxxs (less than 5 miles apart) have sections called "The Runway"— a kind of hit or miss of fashionable hits and misses. There's Missoni (the real deal) as well as Marc Jacobs, Armani, Nanette Lepore, Tory Burch, etc. The prices are not dirt cheap, and some of the labels may be extinct, but Helmut was waiting for me in Clearance.

  6. I read the whole fabulous article and then came to the end smiling. Then I found the part about the rubber bangles. Oh how fabulous! Where did you find them? Please tell me you haven't been holding on to them since 1985 because I want some!

  7. Thanks, Heather. Not 1985 but maybe 1992. They'll be back, I promise.

  8. I think that La Belle Label has really gets to people's fashion sense. I know that many people really like La Belle's fashion style. I think that it would absolutely great to wear those amazing clothes.