We went out to the underwhelming de Young Museum with the Divine Diane to see the show on Nan Kempner’s clothes. The press release on the exhibit identifies Kempner as “the inspiration for the term ‘social X-ray’ in Tom Wolfe’s novel Bonfire of the Vanities,” apparently believing that was a good thing and sufficient identifying information.
Nan’s closet rolled out Valentino, Saint Laurent, Gautier, all the big boys, from the 70’s through the turn of the century. Big shoulder pads made a bold appearance, to the point that they made me uneasy. Nan, I wanted to ask, what’s with the Joan Crawford fetish? It was as fun as a trip to the finer ladies wear department at Saks.
It’s appropriate that the de Young should have a society lady’s schmata as their featured show. The museum is all about its exterior, a copper clad behemoth athwart Golden Gate Park. Inside it’s all gray with odd, dull lighting and a frumpy collection that leans strongly towards a high-end china closet.