Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Other Vera

Vera Wang might be everybody’s fashion darling right now, but when I was growing up, Vera Neuman was the “it” girl.  She and her Austrian husband, George, started out humbly enough, silk-screening Vera’s cheerful artwork on linen placemats on the dining table in a tiny studio they shared in New York City.  Born to a man who encouraged each of his children to find a passion and follow it, Vera soon found that her artful placemats (the only thing small enough to silkscreen on their homemade printing press) were selling like hotcakes at B. Altman department stores.

During World War II, linen became scarce, and in a search for alternate fabric Vera came across some parachute silk at an army surplus store.  She fashioned the fabric into scarves and began transferring her art, including her signature, to each piece, which had never before been done on clothing.  “Vera scarves” became immensely popular.  By the early 1970s art galleries and department stores alike were launching exhibits of Vera’s art and attire all across the country.

With today’s temperature reaching almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit in our nation’s capitol and exceeding 105 with the humidity factored in, I needed something seriously light and airy to wear on my 90-minute commute from Baltimore County to the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.  Crisply cuffed white shorts by MTC that I’ve owned since the 1970s were an easy choice.  I added a plain white ribbed Faded Glory tank top and started hunting around my closet for something colorful to complete my look.

An airy top with crocheted flowers in pink, blue and purple on the front and back was an ideal counterpoint to all that white.  A hand-me-down last year from my best friend’s mother, Joyce, in Spokane, the open-weave “T” is delicate and beautiful; it’s maker a mystery since Joyce snipped the tag off years ago.   A bracelet of purple wood disks and vintage enameled metal earrings in baby blue enhanced my pastel palette.   But I needed something more…

A glance through my extensive scarf selection from years gone by revealed an ideal complement to my breezy summer outfit: a Vera silk in those exact colors.  What a lucky coincidence!  Since it was too hot to wear the wrap around my neck, I tied it to my ponytail.  Perfect.  Silver jeweled sandals by Rampage from Macy’s rounded out my ensemble and I was out the door and off to work, cool and comfortable in my vintage Vera.

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