Wednesday, December 23, 2009

On "Love, Loss, and What I Wore"


HALLIE: My sisters, Delia and Nora Ephron, have written a wonderful play that’s off-Broadway right now, “Love, Loss and What I Wore.” It’s based on the poignant illustrated book/memoir by Ilene “GingyBeckerman. To Gingy’s stories they added lots more, including some that I recognized (Nora and her bottomless purse, Delia and her hot pink Mexican wedding skirt). Even my daughter got into the act, collecting bra stories from her friends.

What is it about women and clothes?

DELIA: we start young. Really it's the first thing we get to chose -- what to wear. Even before we get to decide what we want to eat, our moms let us pick out what we are going to wear that day. So we define ourselves with clothes from the start. And we shop with our mom's and we rebel with clothes when we're teenagers. And don't forget dress-up -- I mean "play," pretending to be other people, clomping around in our mom's high heels.

HALLIE: We’re not talking about “fashion” here, right?

DELIA: Absolutely. Not fashion. This play is about the clothes we wore and the memories they trigger. We always remember what we were wearing when ... we fell in love, broke up, and so on and so forth. The stories of our lives told through our clothing.

HALLIE: Of course, our mother picked our clothes growing up. I don’t know why but the dress I remember you wearing as a child is a dark blue and white striped taffeta dress with a drop waist and a swishy skirt, and a red velvet bow at the neck. Do you remember that dress? I was so happy when I grew into it.

DELIA: Now that's interesting. I thought mom let us pick all our clothes. And that dress -- I die when I see myself in it. I was built like a stick, and that dress required someone with curves. And that bow!

HALLIE: What can I say? It was yours, so I coveted it!

The production features five actresses with a cast that rotates every six weeks or so. I went to see it with a half-dozen friends from college. We saw Rhea Pearlman and her daughter Lucy DeVito, Kristin Chenoweth, Capathia Jenkins, and Rita Wilson. They were so phenomenal and seemed to be having so much fun doing it. Do you get to work with the actresses, and how do you decide which one gets to perform which story?

DELIA: Yes and it is the most fun. We rotate in a new cast every month. Since the play is a collection of stories, with each new cast, we have to decide which actors are right for each piece.

HALLIE:
The audience I saw this with was rocking, from the minute the cast walked on stage. Do you get to watch audiences respond and talked with them after they’ve seen the show?

DELIA:
The actors love to do the show because the audience -- which is mostly women, since this is the story of women's lives -- are very interactive. What happens is that the show triggers your own memories -- so the audience is having a really personal experience. And often they don't want to leave the theater because they are so busy talking to their friends about their own experiences. But not all audiences are alike -- and no two performances are alike -- so there is always the excitement and anxiety, what will this show be like.

HALLIE: After the show I couldn't stop thinking about clothes. The date decision: whether or not to wear a padded bra. The California shoes that nearly dissolved in a New York City rainstorm my first day at college. Not knowing what to wear to my mother's funeral.

What are the clothes that meant something to you?

DELIA: My crocheted dresses that were so, so short and so so sexy that I used to wear everywhere, even to work, when I was in my twenties. My raspberry silk sweater -- I can see it so clearly -- I wore it on my first date with my husband. I was wearing it when the menu caught fire in the restaurant. Very symbolic.

HALLIE: How about you? Please, tell us about something special and what it meant.

34 comments:

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Hi,Delia. Welcome. Will you tell us some secret stuff about Hallie?

What I loved: The prom dress I wore to the senior prom. (I went with a boy from another school because no one from my own school invited me.) It was the most un-prommy dress--gorgeous dark green and hot pink flowers, floor length, very Lily Pulitzer, straight, high neck, low back, sleevless. The entire lining was hot pink.

It was sleek and chic (it was 1967) and I wish I had it today. My mother was aghast--and wanted me in something prommy. I refused.

It was a fantastic dress, until my date showed up in a blue and black plaid jacket. We were the definition of clash.

Oh, there are more examples. Back later with them.

And we can talk about the lavender hot pants suit I wore to a wedding in 1972. Ah, je regret. Sort of.

Delia said...

Secrets about Hallie? I'm a good sister, I would never betray. What I will tell you is that she was a great tether ball player. And that's the least of it, obviously. We all did have the most amazing matching black velvet dresses with white lace.

Hallie Ephron said...

Ooh, I had forgotten about that. Black velvet with a big circle of white lace at the neck...in the halcyon days when I was still the baby of the family.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Thanks, Delia, for your email. I'll never tell, either.

Hallie, you are still the baby. And I'm pretty tired of you beating all of your JRW sisters at tether ball. You never told us you were a ringer.

I remembered my favorite favorite thing.

It was a royal purple wool, double-breasted, gold-buttoned, bell-bottomed pantsuit that I bought in 1966 on Carnaby Street. (You can instantly picture it, right? I was Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club FAN.)

Oh, I was cool in that. (It must have been--hideous.)

Roberta Isleib said...

Hi Delia, we're so happy you came for a visit! I am dying to see this show...

I have two sisters--my mother was very big on dressing us alike, at least for holidays--Easter hats and full skirts with puffy sleeves, like that. Many of them she sewed for us. And we all sewed too--I made some dreadful outfits. I never went to a prom, but I did get an invite to the Snowflake Ball from a boy I barely knew. I think I sewed something in red velvet, but the strongest memory is the wrist corsage--it covered my forearm from elbow to fingers. Luckily it was delivered early so we had a chance to prune it back.

My first wedding dress was also handmade--a knee-length wrap dress in off white. The minister's kid wanted to know where my "bride suit" was...

Ruth McCarty said...

Great interview. I remember wearing my "Bye Bye Birdie" blouse and feeling great. I must have been twelve or thirteen years old at the time.

Hallie Ephron said...

Ruth! Spill -- what's a Bye Bye Birdie blouse? Must be something Ann-Margaret wore...and filled.

Molly said...

Are there pictures of the matching dresses? I want to see the matching dresses!

Lorrie said...

How well I remember Delia's crocheted dresses, the deep turquoise one in particular...My own most memorable items were Capezios, like the cobalt blue flats with a fluffy green-and-blue fabric flower decorating the top of each shoe. And have any of you read a children's book call THE HUNDRED DRESSES?

RhondaL said...

Since so many of our outfits carry so much emotional meaning, thanks to the events we associate with them, I'm amazed that we manage to clear out our closets to any extent.

I think we women also believe (and know) that clothing gives people we meet clues about us or who we want to be.

So, I've kept a few things that I haven't fit into for years because they remind me of an event then that made me happy. That these garments can be regarded as "classics" hasn't motivated me to set them free and re-home them, though. ;)

But it's probably time to send them on their way. Maybe even long past. :)

Ruth McCarty said...

Hallie, It was the blouse that Ann Margaret wore in the movie. And she filled it a lot better than I did!

Delia said...

Don't know how to scan or I'd scan in Hallie looking cute in black velvet. What I remember about Christmas was, I'm sad to say, clothes-wise, that my mother always bought me the most awful things -- and I was always pretending to like them.

Hallie Ephron said...

She so did... My all-time worst clothing present was a bottle green ersatz-suede car coat with black stitching. I wore it and wore it and it simply refused to wear out. Only now do I appreciate how hard it is for a grownup to even imagine what item of clothing a kid will like.

Jan Brogan said...

Hi Delia,
Thanks for coming to visit Jungle Red and I'm dying to get to NY soon so I can see your play!

I remember the first suit I bought after college for job interviews. It was a terrific looking, styliss light wool suit, with a thick leather belt that showed off your waist. And below the knee but slit skirt. And they were pretty high slits.

It was completely inappropriate for a job interview,

It was a really good thing I'd done internships at college because that was the only way I got my first newspaper job!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Car coat. What a funny thing. (What does that even mean?) I haven't thought about car coats in years.

Rhys Bowen said...

Hi Delia. The show sounds wonderful. I'm trying to think when I can get to New York soon to see it.
Since I spent a lifetime of wearing uniform I really had no chance of self expression until I was in college. Then I went crazy, of course. A friend and I used to see pictures in Vogue and then cut out matching outfits on our dorm floor. I was literally sewn into a ball gown once. Thank God the stitches didn't come apart as I was dancing.

Susan Cerulean said...

Roberta's sister Sue, here...I absolutely remember the Snowflake Ball corsage, and also the fact that Roberta was invited to it, AND I WAS NOT! Even if the guy was a dweeb.

Our parents said we could have as many clothes as we could sew ourselves, and we took them up on it, lots of cute short dresses and silly jumpsuits. The worst thing we ever made were matching short and top sets which we stitched by hand out of floral upholstery fabric. It must have been a really boring summer, but we were so proud of our outfits. We rode all over the neighborhood on our bikes showing off, though probably the 50s moms wondered what we were doing out there with couch remnant material draped over us...

Susan Cerulean
Tracking Desire

Roberta Isleib said...

I love the interview story Jan. I forgot about the suit in my closet--it was the mid-seventies and for some reason I had to have a three piece black wool pinstripe pantsuit. Honest to god, I looked like I belonged in the Mafia...I'm saving that for the right costume party, not because I think it will come back into style:)

Roberta Isleib said...

Hi sister Sue! I had forgotten about the drapery...and the fact that you didn't have a date. It was a very rare turnabout! And yes, the jumpsuits were absolutely hideous--striped sleeveless tubes with zippers up the front...

Hallie Ephron said...

Hello, Roberta's sister Sue! So happy to see you! I was never invited to a prom, either. Sympathies. Both of my older sisters were.

I used to sew a lot - made all my own maternity clothes and adorable little dresses for my babies. Tended toward ragland sleeves because I had a heck of a time making the shoulders come out right.

Car coat - such an old fashioned expression. I think the idea was that it was short (hip length) so it was easy to get in and out of your car.

Delia said...

I hope you all get to the play. It's been the most fun to do it. I'm sitting here thinking about how many clothes I have to put on tonight just to leave the house and not freeze to death. It's so daunting.

Delia said...

I hope you all get to the play. It's been the most fun to do it. I'm sitting here thinking about how many clothes I have to put on tonight just to leave the house and not freeze to death. It's so daunting.

Delia said...

I hope you all get to the play. It's been the most fun to do it. I'm sitting here thinking about how many clothes I have to put on tonight just to leave the house and not freeze to death. It's so daunting.

roseduncan said...

Better late than never, just got to read this great interview, I'm on distinctly Paris time. Love the idea, how clothes define us. I have to admit that I wore overalls and dunham tyrolean hiking boots through much of my childhood and I have a feeling my mother was looking forward to accentuating the more masculine side of me, when I rebelled is it any wonder I opted for thigh high mini skirts?

roseduncan said...

Better late than never, just got to read this great interview, I'm on distinctly Paris time. Love the idea, how clothes define us. I have to admit that I wore overalls and dunham tyrolean hiking boots through much of my childhood and I have a feeling my mother was looking forward to accentuating the more masculine side of me, when I rebelled is it any wonder I opted for thigh high mini skirts?

Rosemary Harris said...

Welcome Delia. I remember the book very well because my husband was at Workman when it was first published. Can't wait to see the show but it's got to be with a gang of girlfriends so that we can yak about it after over drinks.
I remember..my first pair of leather pants which I bought with
my Vegas winnings (first and only time I ever shot craps.) A navy blue Karl Lagerfeld jacket that I wore far too long past its prime. The raspberry silk jacket I was wearing the first time my husband kissed me. (all together now...aaaawww.)

Then, of course there was the peach colored prairie dress I was forced to wear at a cousin's wedding. All the bridesmaids wore them in different colors. Truly frightening..

G.M. Malliet said...

I remember this book well. Please bring the play to the DC area?

Delia said...

re D.C. I'm not sure what the producer's plans are. I know we're opening in L.A. next fall. And I think she'll be bringing it to various U.S. cities.

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