Entrance to Lauren Bacall Exhibit FIT March 2015

I overheard a five year old proudly proclaim, “look mommy I’m sexy”, as she launched into a song and dance number. I thought “Oh God, get her a chastity belt quickly.” I didn’t want to see her mom’s response. I fled the scene and contemplated how kids might perceive ‘sexy.’

I often see blatant displays of sexuality in the fashion choices women make. When bandage dresses or skirts à la Hervé Léger are worn so short that the pubes are practically revealed, then we think that wearer is either an exhibitionist, or a militant feminist. Such abbreviated clothing taunts, seduces and then spurns.

Sexuality and sex appeal is one of those mystifying, subjective qualities promising infinite possibilities. The woman who comes to mind as the embodiment of refined sexuality is the late actress Lauren Bacall. I am pretty sure she was a feline in a former life. I was always captivated by her sleek saunter across a movie set, the silky purr of her voice and tantalizing flip of her sculpted hair, exposing a seductive look. She was as magnificent as the beautiful wardrobe she chose for each photo-op. She was elegant without over exposing herself, and tastefully exhibited her finest asset–her long won-by-nature’s-lottery legs.

Lauren Bacall publicity photo 1946 tear sheet

Lauren Bacall publicity photo 1946 .

Fashion blogger in pink chiffon pill box hat with huge bow

This is ‘MY LOOK’ at the Bacall exhibit. It’s the perfect place to wear a vintage chiffon pill box hat with big bow. Unlike Lauren’s ‘look’ which seduces, mine says “Wait, you are seriously not attending this exhibit in that schlubby outfit, are you?”

Even though I mourned the passing of another legend in a world with a paucity of future movie-star legends, I was ecstatic when the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC (FIT) announced an exhibit of her treasured multi-decade designer wardrobe.

The exhibit examines her 30 year design sensibility. She loved fashion and even admitted, “from the day I could afford it, I shopped too much.” Amen, Style-Sister, Lauren. Her style as she described it was “studied carelessness.” While a regular fixture at the most influential designer shows, she didn’t mince words regarding her favorites. She quipped “I like to have Emanuel (Ungaro), Yves, and Halston, all three, in my pocket wherever I go…just not in the same pocket.”

Pierre Cardin dress - 1968 - Dynel fabric

Pierre Cardin dress – 1968 – Dynel fabric – This is my favorite dress in the exhibit and is constructed from a molded fabric which he pioneered.  It can be folded and packed, which is amazing considering it looks like the 3-d shape could easily be crushed and damaged.

detail of Pierre Cardin dynel fabric dress at FIT.

Christian Dior by Marc Bohan evening dress for Lauren Bacall

Christian Dior by Marc Bohan evening dress. Silk jersey, ostrich feathers – France – 1968

Norman Norell eveningset - Lauren Bacall FIT exhibit

Norman Norell evening set – Cashmere, silk jersey, sequins – 1958

Miss Bacall began her career as a model at the age of 19 under the tutelage of one of fashion’s most influential editors, Diana Vreeland. She quickly grasped which fabrics and cuts best suited her tall frame.

She was a skilled pro who loved experimenting with various styles, but ultimately favored a neutral subdued palette.

“Put a ruffle on me and I am finished…turquoise, green, purple–I think they’re awful. I loved muted colors. I love understatement.”

Yves Saint Laurent dress owned by Lauren Bacall - FIT exhibit March 2015

Yves Saint Laurent dress – Printed silk cloqué, silk fringe – France – 1968

Even though she donated 700 garments to The Museum at FIT, the exhibit only displayed a dozen of her outfits. This was disappointing, since her clothing styles evolved from 40s high-waisted pants to 70s liquid gowns, jumpsuits and bandeau tops. Still, it is worth visiting since where Bacall’s exhibit ends, 70s fashion picks up in another exhibit: “Yves Saint Laurent and Halston Fashioning the 70s“, which ends April 18th.

The Lauren Bacall exhibit left an impression upon me. Even though American women have the freedom to dress in any way they wish, rule of thumb, less is more. Little exposure is more alluring than an anatomical reveal. I am not suggesting a burka or a dowdy, shapeless garment. Most importantly, clothing should complement and imbue confidence. Lauren Bacall was a confident, outspoken and vocal woman with a wicked sense of humor and intelligence. I watch, study and take away something new each time I see her movies. She was a thoroughly modern woman before her time. And her beauty was transcendent.

What do you find sexy in a woman? I love a woman who wears a beautifully designed pair of glasses–or face art as I call it.

Taking a cue from Bacall’s “How to Marry a Millionaire” starring Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable, I proudly wear this studded French find. I frequently drop my glasses, so I purchased these pearl eye glass straps from bonlook.com.

How to Marry a Millionaire with Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall

Scene from How to Marry a Millionaire with Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall.