Fashion Diary: The Ephron sisters' choice clothes lines
I could barely pay attention to what was happening on stage during “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” at the Geffen Playhouse the other night. The production, a staged reading of short stories, taps into women’s love-hate relationship with their clothes, using a paper dress, a bathrobe, a purse and other pieces to delve into the female experience.
The cast did a terrific job, but all I could think about were my own experiences -- how at age 7 I was so excited by a new pair of sandals that I went running through a parking lot, slipped and broke my arm; how most kids wanted a car or computer for high school graduation, but I wanted a Ralph Lauren blanket jacket; how I knew my husband was the one when he offered to accompany me to Fred Segal to hunt down a handbag. (Those days are long gone.)
That’s why this play, based on a book by Ilene Beckerman, is so special. Because, as Nora Ephron said by phone, "Any woman could write an autobiography using her clothes as a linking mechanism, whether she's a person who really cares about clothes or someone who just has clothes. It’s so self-defining.”
Delia agrees “Women have their emotional lives bound up with the clothing they are wearing. I remember the raspberry silk sweater I was wearing the night my husband and I fell in love. I remember the menu caught on fire from the candle on the table. The whole evening comes back to me when I think about that sweater.”
It’s no wonder “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” has been compared to Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues.” While Ensler’s play is heavier in terms of its social and political implications, “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” may be more universal in its appeal. I can imagine it being performed at community theaters and high schools around the world. My mother went with me to see the play, and she was overcome upon realizing that all women -- no matter how many clothes they have -- stand in front of their closets at times and say, “I have nothing to wear,” “Who did I think I was when I bought this?” or “Why did I buy this?”
The Ephrons are quick to point out that this is a play about clothes, not fashion. “Fashion is a thing that people do in Paris, or on the red carpet, with models who look like hangers,” said Delia. “It doesn’t relate to my life in any way. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a sweater from the Row or a pair of Prada shoes in my closet that I love."
Fair enough. If not fashion, what are their tastes in clothes? “You would never notice my clothes,” Nora said. “I have a fantasy that Bill Cunningham will someday take my picture. But every time I’m at a party and he’s taking pictures, he sees me and he turns his camera away.”
“I do like Armani a lot and always feel happy in those clothes,” she said. “I seem to buy a leather jacket too many. When I was in college, I had fantastic, adorable blouses and pants from Jax in all these pastel colors. Then I went East to college and nobody wore those colors.”
What would she never wear? “Uncomfortable shoes, so as I result I’m barefoot. I would never wear culottes. I saw some in a store the other day and I was truly horrified that they were trying to put that over on American women. The fashion industry is doing what it’s doing, but sometimes I feel like we don’t get to read a lot about what people actually wear.”
Her sister Delia is on the same page. “I’ve never bought that expensive purse,” she said. “As you get older, shoes become a bigger deal because you can buy any shoe but 2/3 of the clothes you can’t buy.”
What would she never wear? “Practically everything.”
“That line in the play about how when you go into a department store it’s like being in a desert, that’s true when you get to a certain stage in life,” Nora said. “It restricts 94% of what’s there. It’s a sad experience on the 4th floor.”
I have an idea -- maybe the Ephrons could start their own clothing line and call it Not Fashion.
“Love, Loss, and What I Wore” runs through July 3 at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood. Information at 310-208-5454 or geffenplayhouse.com.
-- Booth Moore
Top photo: Nora and Delia Ephron's "Love, Loss, and What I Wore" at the Geffen Playhouse. The cast includes (from left to right): Carol Kane, Caroline Aaron, Rita Wilson, Tracee Ellis Ross and Natasha Lyonne. Bottom photo: Nora (right) and Delia Ephron. Credits: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times