There was a tug at my heart when I saw the press release for this exhibition of the designer Vera Neumann at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York in my in box. I remembered all the tablecloths and scarves I had given away after my mother died, among them many examples of Vera’s work of the 1960s. My mother wore scarves the way some people wear a bra and undies: as if it were a truly necessary part of her daily wardrobe, something that at first enhanced, then possibly served to disguise her neck. (See Nora Ephron on necks). I went to the closet to look to see if by chance I had saved any, but no. The scarves went to my aunt Mitzi and the tablecloths and napkins to Housing Works. I couldn’t keep everything.
We knew Vera by her first name, like any other kind of diva. She was a star but one who radiated inclusiveness. Vera was more or less a cottage industry with her husband George. She had inherited the mantle of the Bauhaus—the fusion of design with the everyday—and so middle class moms like mine could have access to nice things too.
Vera wasn’t Cardin, or Gernreich or Quant, but rather someone who took pleasure in flowers and natural things. She wasn’t trying for the cutting edge. And of course, I love her fish most of all.