Stoppers: Photographs from My Life at Vogue By Phyllis Posnick
The name Phyllis Posnick is synonymous with Vogue and the extraordinary fashion editorials the magazine’s audience loves. Posnick is best known for creating photo editorials to illustrate the magazine’s Beauty and Health articles, but cast off any ideas you have about close-ups of lips and eyelashes. Instead, picture models bathed in paint or posing next to cuts of fresh meat. This collection invites readers to glimpse the complex production process—and the collaboration and creativity—behind each extraordinary editorial. The book features images by a who’s who of legendary photographers: Irving Penn, Steven Klein, Annie Leibovitz, Mario Testino, Patrick Demarchelier, Tim Walker, Anton Corbijn and Helmut Newton.
The following is an extract from Stoppers: Photographs from My Life at Vogue By Phyllis Posnick
Whoever coined the maxim “A picture is worth 1,000 words” clearly had Phyllis Posnick in mind. For more than twenty-five years now, I’ve had the huge privilege of working with Phyllis and publishing in Vogue the fruits of her labors with Helmut Newton, Annie Leibovitz, Bruce Weber, Steven Klein, Tim Walker, Patrick Demarchelier, Mario Testino, David Sims, Anton Corbijn, and, of course, Irving Penn, or Mr. Penn, as he was known around the Vogue offices. Phyllis is more than a match for all of these consummate and renowned image-makers, who have no doubt counted themselves extremely lucky to be partnered with such a gifted and formidable collaborator. Yet there was something particularly magical about her pairing with Mr. Penn. That relationship flourished because she, like him, could distill the essence of any given story into one single and solely memorable picture, be it a portrait, a still life, or some wonderful conceptual flight of fancy. But if you have leafed through this book, pausing again and again to gaze at her incredible body of work, which is by turns majestic, intimate, and provocative, then you already know that. One has only to meet Phyllis to understand her particular brand of brilliance. Everything about her is meticulously planned, carefully considered, expertly executed. She herself is a study in rigorous taste (a personal style that borders on the ascetic) contrasted with unexpected flourishes (her passion for monumental vintage modernist Scandinavian jewelry). You could say the same of her approach to her picture-making, which she studiously—and, I’m sure she won’t mind my saying, stubbornly—pursues in the name of originality and intelligence. Nothing is ever banal with Phyllis. She could be the creative offspring of Lee Miller and Luis Buñuel: from the former, a deep commitment to photojournalism, that an image should always convey a clear and direct meaning; and, from the latter, a twisted, surreal sense of humor, with Phyllis deploying a little shock value to draw you deeper into the narrative of the picture. She has certainly never shied away from taking risks, walking the line, going that little bit further to make a sitting work. I’ve always been amused by the tale of one of Phyllis’s assistants taking a call one day from her boyfriend, who casually asked where she was. “In a sex shop, again, buying props for a shoot with Steven Klein” came her reply. In Phyllis’s time at Vogue, she has wrangled everything—flora, fauna, insects, supermodels, movie stars, athletes, and all manner of titans of the cultural and political landscape. Phyllis makes every picture she takes for Vogue an adventure, and that, let me tell you, makes coming to work every day absolutely thrilling.
Ever wanted to peek into your idol’s closet? In The Coveteur, celebrities open their doors to offer us a glimpse of their life, their style and their private treasures.
The following is an extract from The Coveteur: Private Spaces, Personal Style by Stephanie Mark and Jake Rosenberg
Founder, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics; editor-in-chief, Yahoo Beauty
When: November 12, 2014
Where: Brown’s family home in Montclair, New Jersey
Why: As if we even need to say this, but if there’s such a thing as a beauty godmother, Bobbi Brown is it.
“Sometimes it’s okay to break the rules and create your own.”
Apologies ahead of time if we get a little sentimental here. Just bear with us.
A lot of what we do when we’re considering whom to photograph is about inspiration— what’s the special thing or person or moment that has us excited now, but also in the long term? A lot of the time, quite honestly, this looks like stumbling across a person or trend when we’re down a deep Instagram black hole sometime north of midnight.
But then there are those luminaries we’ve grown up with—who have seemingly been a constant presence in our lives by way of advice given in nineties-era issues of Seventeen or even a book or two still residing on our present-day bedside shelves. And there’s no one who really epitomizes the endlessly inspiring, yet totally relatable power woman quite like Bobbi Brown. What can we say? The woman has been our personally appointed cheerleader ever since Teenage Beauty: Everything You Need to Look Pretty, Natural, Sexy and Awesome. (And, not coincidentally, that book title is still very much our mantra when we look in the bathroom mirror every morning.) So when we finally got the go-ahead to get into her closet (and beauty cabinet, because we couldn’t not), the prospect of meeting the woman who taught us that there is, in fact, a perfect blush color for each person–(“To find your ideal blush color, pinch your cheeks or look in the mirror after a workout. The color they turn is your ideal shade.”)–became a game of minimizing our obvious fan status.
Showing up at her suburban New Jersey home, it didn’t take us long to get digging through her prodigious collection of Céline, Saint Laurent, and Chanel. And, honestly, it wasn’t so hard to feel at home with the makeup mogul, especially when she plied us with food and coffee— unquestionably the surest way to our hearts. Then again, that could be because we’re still reading up on everything she has to teach us via Yahoo Beauty, which, when it comes to empowering women (rather than encouraging insecurities) pretty much nails it on the digital head.
“I built my brand on empowering women to celebrate their natural beauty and be their best, most confident selves,” she told us. “I have worked with actresses, models, and celebrities my entire career, and have learned that they share all the same beauty concerns that everyday women have. So shedding light on those issues that nobody talks about is important to me. I will talk about them and tell you the truth.” And there she goes again: our cheerleader.
Founded in 2001, TheCoveteur.com is one of the most popular fashion websites on the Internet. It is swooned over for its portraiture, profiles and beautiful photographic excavations of the closets and homes of the stylish and celebrated jet set. The book features 50 notables, including Karlie Kloss, Jessica Alba, Tavi Gevinson, Nate Berkus, RosieHuntington-Whitely, Tommy Hilfiger, Bobbi Brown, Hamish Bowles and Carolyn Murphy. Showcasing celebrities’ favourite clothes, accessories and objects in their private, rarely seen spaces, the book is an intoxicating combination of fashion eye candy, interior design, and celebrity voyeurism. With its intimate documentation, The Coveteurexamines the creative process and inspiration of 50 of the designers, models, fashion editors and other tastemakers who are defining the fashion zeitgeist of our times.
Stephanie Mark is a stylist and the cofounder of TheCoveteur.com. Jake Rosenberg is a photographer and the cofounder of TheCoveteur.com. They split their time between Toronto and New York City.
The Coveteur: Private Spaces, Personal Style by Stephanie Mark and photographer Jake Rosenberg | Abrams | Hardcover | £21.99
For our Bookstore of the Week are are taking you on a tour of Koenig Books Ltd, this is THE place for art, architecture and photography books and thoroughly deserving of the accolade Bookstore Of The Week.
An inspiring, German-owned independent bookshop specialising in art, architecture and photography books Koenig Books is a European institution. In London they have three branches; the original London branch is based in the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, a small branch in the Whitechapel Gallery and, our favourite, the newest store on Charing Cross Road. The latter is done out stylishly in black and every book is given space to show off its beautiful facade; books are displayed with their covers rather than spines facing out.
Koenig are known for their huge selection of interesting coffee table books, on topics like art, fashion and design. But they also stock a great collection of non-fiction titles on art theory and a good selection of rare magazines. It’s also a good place to find independent books by small publishers, handmade titles and zines.
It’s luxurious displays and wonderful selection of books cater to all price ranges and they always have a good selection of books at reduced prices in the basement. Plus, all of the London branches of Koenig have full access to the stock of mammoth arts bookshop Buchhandlung Walther Koenig in Cologne, so if you can’t find what you want they can order it in for you!
If you are interested in the arts this is a bookshop not to be missed, we always find ourselves delighted and mesmerised by their selection of books. Have you visited? Let us know what you thought!
Fashion is synonymous with PARIS. So we are launching our Top 5 Fashion books with Paris Street Style; the inspirational fashion bible that will help you, no matter where you are from, develop an everyday style of timeless glamour, votre style français.
Fashion writers Isabelle Thomas and Frederique Veysett explain the je nais se quoi of French style. Through interviews and witty quotes, renowned experts on French style, fashion stylists, editors, boutique owners and designers tell us all there is to know about the French fashion and elegance.
To the Eurostar!
This cloth-bound special edition of the bestselling fashion classic is without doubt the little fashion guide every fashionista needs.
Christian Dior reveals the secrets of style in his indispensable guide that covers everything from what to wear to a wedding and how to tie a scarf to how to walk with grace. Illustrated with delightful photographs and drawings, this little book is a beautiful little addition to our Top 5 Fashion books.
What could be more FASHION than an illustrated history of Vogue?
Vogue: The Covers chronicles over 100 years of the images that have influenced past and present style. It includes over 300 of the most beautiful, provocative, and fashion-forward that covers ever produced are highlighted alongside the history and stories behind the covers themselves. Organized in chronological order by decade, this book illustrates the evolution of fashion, art, and photography for the past 100 years. This book is a stunning celebration of the magazine and its cultural influence. An elegant and fascinating addition to our Top 5 fashion books.
Adding a touch of haute couture to our Top 5 Fashion titles; Yves Saint Laurent. One of the most distinctive and influential designers of the second half of the twentieth century, Yves Saint Laurent takes his place in the pantheon of French couturiers, alongside Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, and Jeanne Lanvin. This volume, the first comprehensive retrospective of his life’s work, looks at his influence on fashion from his early days working under Dior and heading the House of Dior after his mentor’s death, to the opening of his first pret-a-porter shop on the Rive Gauche.
Discover the debut of the Le Smoking tuxedo, the muses he adored; Loulou de la Falaise and Catherine Deneuve among them. Yves Saint Laurent reveals the breadth and scope of the designer’s influential and illustrious career.
Topping off our Top 5 Fashion titles, the magnificent Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk.
Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk celebrates the three-decade career of this provocative French fashion designer, who began as an assistant with no formal training and has risen to the rank of grand couturier. His risque and often irreverent styles; think Madonna’s iconic cone bra from the 1990 Blonde Ambition tour, have earned him the designation of couture’s enfant terrible. This stunning monograph explores the range of Gaultier’s collections: his interpretation of modern Parisian life, play with gender roles, metropolitan style and streetwear lines dubbed “Eurotrash” and “X-rated.” Gaultier himself contributes a foreword and an extensive interview about his biography, his inspirations, and the themes of his collections, from his first in 1976 to his recent work for Kylie Minogue’s international tour. Packed with images of the celebrities who have worn his bold styles, including Madonna, Lady Gaga, Naomi Campbell, Marion Cotillard, and Helen Mirren, this luxurious volume is the perfect homage to a modern master.
Did your favourite designers make the list? Share your personal favourites with us! #FiveYearsOfBooks
A deserving winner of countless awards this season, The Grand Budapest Hotel has been recognised for their outstanding costumes by the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, SAG Awards and Costume Designers Guild to name but a few.
Milena Canonero grew up in Genoa, Italy, before moving to England to finish her studies. Canonero’s film career started with Stanley Kubrick when she designed the costumes for three of his films: A Clockwork Orange (1971), Barry Lyndon (1975, for which she won the first of her three Academy Awards), and The Shining (1980). She has worked with Alan Parker (Midnight Express, 1978), Hugh Hudson (Chariots of Fire, 1981, for which she won her second Oscar), Francis Ford Coppola (The Cotton Club, 1984; The Godfather: Part III, 1990), Sydney Pollock (Out of Africa, 1985), Louis Malle (Damage, 1992), Warren Beatty (Dick Tracy, 1990; Bulworth, 1998), Julie Taymor (Titus, 1999), Roman Polanski (Carnage, 2011), and Manoel de Oliveira (Belle toujours, 2006). Her work with Sofia Coppola on Marie Antoinette (2006) brought Canonero her third Oscar. She has collaborated with Wes Anderson on The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), The Darjeeling Limited (2007), and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014).
Matt Zoller Seitz: Were you familiar with Wes Anderson’s films before you started work on The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou? What did you think of his movies as visual statements?
Milena Canonero: I had seen his movies and how his work had evolved into a sophisticated, highly personal cinematic style. Wes is not only a film director, but an author. Like a great painter’s, his work is very identifiable, and unique to him. His visionary world is very inspiring; I completely submerge myself into it.
What is it like to work with him on a day-to-day level?
Wes is particular about details, and so am I. He is very specific, and yet he also leaves you a lot of space. He wants input and ideas. The “look” of the characters, when not specified in the script, evolved over the course of much discussion. I have continuous exchanges with Wes via e-mail, his favourite medium lately, but he is also very available in person, even when he’s under the pressure of a film shoot. I work closely with the production designer and the cinematography, so that everything comes together as a whole—especially in the overall colour palette of the movie. Colours have their own music, and Wes cares a lot that they are the right notes.
How did Wes describe the world of this film to you? Did he have any specific or general suggestions for how he wanted the clothes to look?
He told me he wanted to set the movie in an invented northern European Teutonic country, sometime in the 1930s, and for the opening sequence in the 1960s, he wanted Eastern European tones. Most of the story would take place in a luxurious mountain hotel resort and the surrounding area. Of course, this being a Wes Anderson movie, the title had nothing to do with the city of Budapest. Therefore, the look could be inventive, with historical innuendos, but at the same time accurate. This story is told through memories and therefore we could develop the look that was able to freeze the image in your mind. Wes’s references of Austrian and German writers, artists of the pre–Second World War period, were a good guideline, but also I looked at the work of August Sander, a great German photographer of the thirties, as well as at old movies and other sources. Of course, during the creative process, the final look of each character evolved. For instance, at the beginning, Ralph Fiennes’s character, M. Gustave, was supposed to be quite blond, with hair like the dyed blond hair of the very old ladies he goes to bed with. But then it seemed more suitable that he would have more realistic auburn hair, with golden highlights.
Were the clothes entirely original, or did you use some vintage items?
We made most of the clothes in our workshop in Görlitz. Some were made at Theaterkunst in Berlin, and all of the uniforms were made at Krzysztof’s costume workshop, Hero Collection, in Poland. I also rented and bought vintage clothes for the extras in the crowd scenes. One of the vintage shops we used in Berlin is called Mimi. Great shop.
How do you work out ideas for costumes before they’re sewn? Do you draw rough versions of them in a sketchbook and then have somebody do more elaborate illustrations when the ideas have settled a bit?
On the other two movies I did with Wes, The Life Aquatic and The Darjeeling Limited, I applied traditional sketching methods to design the look of the characters. On this one, our illustrators used both Photoshop and traditional sketching to incorporate Wes’s and my own ideas. With Photoshop we could get very close to the actors’ likenesses, and then easily do variations and send them to Wes via e-mail. The actors were very pleased because they could relate easily to how their character would look. Having worked on two of Wes’s other movies, I had already worked with some of his “ensemble” actors and it was interesting to change them again to these other characters. Wes had decided that all the men in the movie would have moustaches or beards, save for Jopling and the nasty sergeant in the train. I loved this idea, and it is curious that hardly anyone notices this detail—but it gives a style to the men’s looks.
What are some of the materials that you used most often when designing the costumes for this film? Were there particular materials that you considered “workhorse” materials—ones that you perhaps used more often than others?
The purple and mauve facecloth, which is a very densely woven wool used for military uniforms. I wanted to avoid being too classical and using typical subdued colours for the hotel uniforms. I showed Wes the purple and mauve facecloth from an old swatch book from a company called Hainsworth in London. Wes was immediately taken by those colours, which worked beautifully with the set. Then the nightmare began, because I could not find the volume of fabric in that shade anymore, and time wasn’t on our side! But just in the nick of time, we discovered a German company, Mehler, who came to our rescue with an identical fabric, as well as so many of the other great colours that I needed for the movie.
What influences did you bring to bear on the hotel staff’s uniforms?
I used the cut and style of real uniforms of that period, and also many photos of high-end luxury hotel staff.
Can you describe the look of Ralph Fiennes’s character, M. Gustave? What did you hope to convey about the character based on his clothing?
M. Gustave, from the top of his hair to the tip of his shoes, had to give us a sense of perfection and control. He had to be able to move with elegance and freedom. Even when the world he knows collapses, he still maintains his sense of style. This is not at all difficult when you’re working with an accomplished actor like Ralph. It was delicious to watch him perform, and he is a great person to work with.
What are Tilda Swinton’s clothes made of?
Silk velvet, for both the dress and the coat. Then I had it hand-painted with design patterns inspired by the paintings of Gustav Klimt. Tilda’s character, Madame D., is eighty-four years old. We had to age her, and a great team from London did that beautifully. Wes described her as a great eccentric beauty and an art collector, belonging outside the fashion of her present time. Therefore I designed the clothes in a retro style, like that of the early twenties. Wes liked that. She just went for this look with incredible ease and so much humour. Fendi, with whom we had a relationship, contributed by making Madame D.’s muff for us, as well as the black diamond mink fur trimmings on her cape and hat. Fendi also made the gray Astrakhan fur overcoat I designed for Edward Norton, and they gave us all the furs I wanted for the movie. Nowadays, movies need the generous input of patrons from the fashion world to help with our costume budgets.
Can you tell me a little bit about the look of Willem Dafoe’s character, the assassin Jopling?
The design of Jopling’s leather coat was based on the coats of 1930s military dispatch riders. Our tailor made the toile, and we sent it to Prada, who generously manufactured the coat for us. When we got it back from them, we lined it with a red super-fine wool, and constructed the inside of the front lapel to contain the weapons arsenal as Wes had described it in his script. We made gauntlets gloves, but these were never used, as Wes liked to see the beautiful knuckle-dusters that Waris Ahluwalia had designed and made especially for us, with a skeleton head for each finger. Waris, an actor who has appeared in several of Wes’s movies and here plays one of the concierges, is also a terrific jeweller.
How would you describe the director’s own sense of style, as he appears in daily life?
Today we are continuing our celebration of Emily Spivack’s Worn Stories with a tale of over priced merchandise and underage festivalling from our publicity intern Francessca.
My Worn Story – A t-shirt from an under-age festival in 2008
What can I say? I was 14, my hair braided so tightly to my scalp that I had lost most of the sensation in my temples and I was going to my first ever festival. Too young for the sex and drugs, I decided it would have to be the rock-and-roll that would see my friend and I through, and I think I may have been right.
I bought this shirt after a lot of umming and ahhing about the price, wondering what my Mum would say when she found out I’d spent £15 (the equivalent of 4 whole magazines and a bottle of diet coke) on a T-shirt, that, she would later claim, “never really fitted anyway”. After scrambling through the crowd, crumpled notes in my hand, I grabbed the nearest one that looked like it might fit, and promptly ducked to avoid the vast array of hands reaching towards the counter. It wasn’t really until later that I actually got to look at it properly.
Every band of the festival was there, splayed across in bright colours and I remember the feeling of wanting to tick everyone off like a list. And I’ll be honest, I nearly did. Florence & The Machine (when they were still doing covers because they hadn’t written enough songs), Glasvegas (who have indeed always looked that hungover), The Gallows (I maintain that no one’s skinny jeans should be quite that skinny, and a thousand names I didn’t get the chance to see. It was an experience made flesh, or cloth rather, and I wore like a badge of pride. It beats the bruises that I seem to wear from other gigs I’ve been to since.
Now it seems to only be brought out as pyjamas or when I have done washing in a while, but it still holds the feeling of standing in a field, surrounded by people, music blaring so hard I could taste my heartbeat, and feeling like the coolest person in the entire world.
Working through our Digital department and continuing the shoe trend with Emma and a story of first love, which was, like the Titanic, not unsinkable…
I mean, I guess you could say I liked my Chelsea Boots.
It would, however, be more accurate to say that they were my feet. Worn until they feel apart and then worn some more.
My mother bought them as a Christmas gift the winter I moved to Oxford for university. I honestly can’t remember what I’d worn to trudge around the city’s icy cobbles before these babies came into my life. Probably leopard print ballet pumps. Not ideal.
They’re not very stylish but, my god, are they practical. The type of thing orange Julian who steals all Bridget Jones’ mother’s money would call ‘an all-rounder, the sort of thing one can wear with anything to any occasion’. And so I took orange Julian’s advice and wore them everywhere. As tough as they were to break in, they were also tough enough to endure a move to London and many treks around European cities, add an edge to girly dresses and withstand festival crowds, long stints in the library and the urge to kick mean boys in the shins.
And then, as if all of a sudden, they began to give up. Still attached to my feet, as soft as slippers, they became just as waterproof. I began walking around puddles rather than through them and avoiding littered gum and discarded cigarettes.
You really will never notice how much vomit there is on London’s footpaths until you have a hole in your boot.
I clung on to the bitter end. They were the Jack Dawson to my Rose DeWitt Bukater. I could say ‘I’ll never let go’ until I’m blue in the face but, once they were wet, we were through and I dropped them into the vast skip outside my flat and got on with my life.
Their memory lives on in the new sleeker, tougher Chelsea Boots currently attached to my feet. Throughout the living hell of breaking these ones in, I mourned my first loves drowning in a sea of rubbish, ill-equipped to protect themselves from the rain.
Worn Stories by Emily Spivack – PAPress – OUT NOW!
We are celebrating the release of Emily Spivack’s Worn Stories with some of our own tales!
Read on for a story of how one pair of shoes travelled the world!
Madeleine Hall – A&CB’s Digital Whiz & on pair of, I swear they used to be white, Converse.
It all started when I was studying for my A-levels; a burning desire to travel the world settled itself in my brain. Partly as a chance to prove that despite being small in size, at a towering 5ft and ½ an inch, I was independent, brave & at least a little bit interesting. With some reluctance from my father, despite my mother’s willingness to send me out the door with a kiss on the head & a ten pound note for luck, I decided to travel, on my own, around Australasia before heading off to University.
I worked all the hours I could at my local supermarket, to save for my trip & with my final pay cheque I invested in a pair of shoes to take with me. The sensible purchase would have been a sturdy pair of walking shoes, at a push some well fitted running trainers. But limited space & my fashion conscious, by then 18 year old, brain, meant I chose a pair of white Converse high-tops.
Oh but the places those white converse would take me!
I remember the way they squeaked as I walked away from my parents, wondering if this really was the smartest idea, through Heathrow security. I remember running up some stairs at LAX where I had left my book with my passport stuffed in it in the toilet. I remember jumping off the world’s second highest bungee jump with them on. I remember straddling two Australian states at the point they met. I remember horse riding through New Zealand wearing them, humming tunes from Lord of the Rings. I remember the day they turned peach as I trekked through a jungle in Fiji…I remember arriving home with the same shoes on my feet as I had left in, and how they carried me out the door a few weeks later to the sunny Brighton coast for university.
Those Converse, bought out of vanity, became my most trusted pair of shoes, I never travelled without them. Including the trip I christened them; the soles of that ill-advised purchase have trod on the soil of 10 countries and 4 continents. They have literally taken my feet on an adventure. It was a heartbreaking day when those well travelled shoes finally gave up the give. RIP white Converse, may your replacements take me as far as you did.
You know they say a picture is worth a 1000 words, well Emily Spivack has proven that an old item of clothing is worth even more.
In her book Worn Stories, Emily has collected tales from cultural figures & talented storytellers. These narratives, or more accurately mini memoirs, are inspiring & a beautiful account of everyday life. By turns poignietn, tragic and funny Worn Stories is a little tapestry of the everyday, sewn together by old items of well worn clothing.
Keep reading for Piper Kerman‘s (author of the memoir Orange is the New Black) contribution!
I have loved vintage clothing since I was in high school, thrifting the racks or raiding my grandparents’ attics and closets. I attended a lot of morning college classes clad in old men’s pajamas. Skinny-lapeled men’s suit jackets over miniskirts were a favorite in my twenties. I’ve worn crepe dresses from the thirties and forties to friends’ weddings, and when I was getting married I found my fiancé the white silk suit of a dead Chinese diplomat to wear on the big day (I got one of the diplomat’s wife’s cheongsams for me).
In my professional life I’m less inclined to wear vintage. When I was caught in a criminal case in federal court in Chicago in my late twenties I wore my most sober gray and brown pantsuits to court arraignments and plea negotiations, because when you’re appearing on the docket, believe me, you wish you could disappear into the woodwork of the courtroom.
However, when I went to Chicago for what I thought was my final court appearance, my sentencing, camouflage was not an option. I had taken a plea deal—95 percent of criminal defendants do. As your case wends through the system, you barely speak in court; the prosecutor and defense attorney do most of the talking. Unlike 80 percent of criminal defendants, I could afford to hire a lawyer, and I was lucky that he was a very good and experienced one. He had advocated long and hard with the prosecutor on my behalf, and then the day came where his work and my case would be decided by the judge, a Reagan appointee to the federal bench.
Most criminal defendants wear whatever they are given by their attorney or family to their sentencing; a lot of people are too poor to afford bail, and so they have been wearing jailhouse orange for many months before ever getting their day in court. I was much more fortunate; when I flew to Chicago to be sentenced to prison, I had three choices of court attire in my suitcase. A cadet-blue pantsuit, a very severe navy coatdress, and a wild card I had packed at the last minute: a vintage fifties pencil-skirt suit I had bought on eBay, in a coffee and cream tweed with a subtle sky blue check. It looked like something a Hitchcock heroine would have worn.
“That’s the one,” said my lawyer, pointing to the skirt suit. “We want the judge to be reminded of his own daughter or niece or neighbor when he looks at you.” For someone standing for judgment, the importance of being seen as a complete human being, someone who is more than just the contents of the file folders that rest on the bench in front of His or Her Honor, cannot be overstated. To enter the courtroom ready for whatever would happen, I wanted to be dressed to represent me, which was much more than a few months of my life ten years past. The eBay suit worked as a counterbalance to my decade-old neck tattoo (which would serve me so well months later in prison), two visual signals on the opposite sides of the scales of justice on that day.
Piper Kerman is the author of the memoir Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, which was adapted into an original television series for Netflix-Official.