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Friday, May 22, 2009

Dixie Cape

Amid rolling thunderstorms and blankets of Spanish moss, a handful of fashion's intelligentsia gathered in Savannah, Georgia, last weekend to take in the Savannah College of Art & Design’s annual senior fashion show. Among them were Ruben and Isabel Toledo (who were honored with SCAD's Lifetime Achievement Award) and Vogue’s André Leon Talley, a North Carolinian who holds an honorary Doctorate of Humanities from the Southern institution.

I ran into André pre-show, decked out in his now-signature Obama pin (“I’ll be buried with them,” he said of his collection, which includes hundreds of First Family pins alone). Naturally I asked him about his style as a student. “I had a pale yellow, V-neck cashmere sweater—my first cashmere sweater, that my grandmother sacrificed a lot of money to pay for—and my first pair of Italian loafers.”

André's trademark capes, apparently, didn’t enter the picture until college: “I was reading Vogue and dressing like Diana Vreeland’s pictures of Verushka dressed as Greta Garbo in [the 1933 film] Queen Christina. I went out and got myself a big cape, and then I took black silk curtain tassels and roped them around by neck with a white, pleated tuxedo shirt. I would go like that to class, with a big black hat. And I found all of this in North Carolina, by the way. I would walk around campus and people would look at me funny, but my French teachers thought it was wonderful." And there you have it, the source of André's cape craze.

—Alisa Gould-Simon

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