Last Year at Marienbad, in Vogue

Posted on December 03 2016

Nothing like a little surreal romance to distract from the current political issues of today. Very loosely based on the Alain Resnais' film, Last Year at Marienbadwhich I wrote about here—this editorial takes from it the bizarre, confused sense of time where "tenses are as casually juggled as a schoolboy's. Past, present, future are mysteriously, fascinatingly meshed, and perhaps the least oblique point in the dialogue is the observation that, 'Time does not count.'" For Vogue, this was a starting point for a series of images that are mysterious, connected solely by the rather oblique text and by the magazine's desire to bring a sense of importance, presence, luxury and authority to summer dressing.

Editorial by Bert Stern for Vogue, May 1962.

This issue of Vogue, as it happens, is concerned with a new sense of timespecifically, a new clothes-time in which such solidly wintry words as important, presence, luxuriousness and authority apply, unarbitrarily, to any season that calls for major clothes. Summer, 1962 calls for themthat's the new fashion season about to be explored in these pages.

Yellow quilted cotton damask dress by Gustave Tassell.

Like jewels, human triangles are intraseason, eternal. Jewels, in fact, are not without influence in shaping such angles. This necklace happens to be a fakea fact that doesn't appear to have lessened the allure at all.

The rhinestone necklace, by Hattie Carnegie.

On the other side of doors: questions.
On the other side of questions: answers.
Are the man and woman about to meet? Perhaps.
In December? August? May? Her clothes are not clues
She dresses for life, not seasons.
This is the life.

On the brink of what might be a memorable encounter, all the apprehensiveness, notice, is on his side of the door. On her side: complete assurance. Understandably. The important dress, a young but beautifully educated coiffure, significant jewellingshe has all the answers. All of the time. Is it, do you suppose, that she's gifted with door-piercing prescience? No, it is not. There is a simpler explanation: she is a charming example of the new fashion-realist, the woman who finds it expedient to view all seasons as fashion-equals, and make her clothes-plans in all-time perspective. Why? That's life: seething with momentousness in what you might have thought was the minor month of May; often languidand how delicious that can bein the middle of a major December. Our heroine has sense that there is something chancy about fixing labels to seasons, can put her finger on a major look whenever it's wanted (it is wantedand providedas you'll see in these pages, more than ever this summer). On this particular summer eveningif indeed it is an evening in summer, and not at a peak in the holiday seasonthis beauty in her short, smoky mousseline dress will dance to the music of time, not jog-trot to some thin little minor-season tune. And tomorrowif this evening turns out as promisingly as it seems about to beginshe will dress for day in some equally devastating, major way. After all, she has only to riffle through her engagement book (or the jet schedule) to see that black-tie evenings and unforgettable days happen all year long, all over the world; merely to open a door to know that anything can happen. Any time. Isn't it smart of her to dress with such pleasant realities in mind? We are convinced of it.

Bud Kilpatrick dress. The heart-pin: Schreiner.

Can a packet of matches outweigh a bunch of carats? Alas, hardly ever.

The gloved hand will probably win the match game. Clever of it. But the hand in the foreground has other consolation. Ask yourself: would you rather be the match-game champion of the blockor go on a lifetime diet of carats? In this extraordinary pear-shaped bunch there are sixty-twoa source of nourishment that the third hand in the picture is clearly aware of. Is it really true, then, that diamonds are a girl's best friend? It is not impossible.

Diamond ring, by Harry Winston.

Suddenly one evening a glass shatters, and action freezes in the corridors of time. Does it auger unspeakable evils? Or is it only a portent of cleaner's bills?

A spectacularly coiffed beauty in dotted red silk has, for one reason or another, spilled her champagne. Nothing worse than a temporary annoyance, surely...

Surah dress with kidskin sash by Scaasi.

And yet, in a terazzo-paved corridor, a page and a time-zone away, attractive young women, spotlessly black-and-white, are inexplicably stopped where they stand. Clearly, they're aware that good looks survive petty catastrophes...Could it be that even the intimation of spilled champagne is curiously saddening?

Top, dotted silk dress; checked cotton jacket in hand. By David Goodstein. Below, Mam'selle black and white dress; Franklin Simon.

Meanings are misleading; look, her composure is ruffledand he is riveted by the calm.

The mirrors of the ancient palace reflect an ambiance of gilt and melancholy baroqueand suddenly, this striking epitome of twentieth-century chic turns up for lunch, her hair smooth as ribbons, her white dress ruffled with composure. Do you wonder that he is disturbed? (Do you, in fact, question the very mise-en-scene? Is it somehow naggingly reminiscent of the Plaza hotel in New York?...So it should be.)

It could be anywhere; who can say whenlandmarks are not what they seem, and the clothes reveal only an impeccable sense of fashion.

On a crisp, stingingly brilliant autumn day, on a twisty cobbled street in the hilly old Portuguese village of X, it is difficult not to become over-emotional about the charming young Americans who wear - with such engaging off-handednessclothes that could never be labelled travel-clothes. It is a compliment to any country. But are these travelers after all? Couldn't this as easily be a wine-and-roses day in June, in the city of New York, in the zone numbered 40? And the cobblescould that, perhaps, be the streets of The Metropolitan's Cloisters? C'est ça.

Top, navy cotton ottoman coat, dress: Samuel Winston. Below, yellow jacket dress by Highlight. Far top, Branell jacketed dress. Far center, Originale white coat. Far bottom, Laird-Knox orange wool coat.

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