Closet Space: Jackie Baron, Fashion, Art, Culture Vulture

 

CLOSET SPACE: Introducing Katherine and Angela Sloan

Angela and Katherine Sloan

Angela and Katherine Sloan

Welcome to the first installment of Closet Space, where fashion isn’t just about pretty clothes. It’s art. It’s the masks we wear, the transformations we make, the inner-self that meets the outer self. It’s using red lipstick as war paint and coming out of the closet—figuratively and literally—while embracing your inner fashion-goddess. We’re the Sloan twins, Katherine and Angie, and we’re so glad you’re here. Do you have your lipstick ready?

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JACKIE BARON: FASHION, ART,  CULTURE VULTURE

(Interviewer: Katherine Sloan, CS Editor for SPACES)

Jackie Baron, also known as “Jiggsy,” was born in London, England on the seventh of January, 1956. She has since been a New Yorker for many years, where she has worked in the publishing business for two decades. She is currently a freelance editor, working for punk pioneer (known for his work with the New York Dolls), Marty Thau. She will soon locate back to Mother England. She is an alum of the University of London and NYU, having studied acting (where she attended RADA and met Alan Bates: remember that nude wrestling scene in Women in Love? How could you forget, right? Or when he’s caught in a compromising position with Julie Christie in a pile of hay in The Go-Between? I digress…)and literature. Jackie was a model for the clothing line Biba in the 1970’s where she looked like a little doll, complete with ringlets and polka-dotted dresses. Now, she is an artist, fashion-lover, cancer survivor, and “prime yenta” who can’t get enough of celebrity gossip. She is a lover of all things beautiful, sparkly, stylish, witty and avant-garde, just the right “fit” for the inaugural appearance of Closet Space. Let’s talk to Jiggsy.

Katherine: You were a model for Biba as a young woman, looking very vulnerable and sad-eyed, a lot like Twiggy, actually! And a very young Marianne Faithful, I might add. How did this career in modeling come about? Also, could you tell us a little bit about your transformation and “look” for the line?

Jackie: I was a glitter rock acolyte. In 1973, I was shopping for cosmetics at Biba in London. A makeup artist for Biba Cosmetics liked the way I looked in their products. I had very fair, smooth skin and a round face. Very Asiatic. She asked me if I’d like to showcase the products as an in-store rep. She would use me for makeovers to show customers how to apply. So I said “YES!!!!!!!” I was paid in store credit which was fine with me. I was too short for fashion modeling but did occasionally make appearances in a lovely dusty rose Harlow Biba dress.

Jackie Biba

*Jackie (in 1973) as a Biba girl. Ninety-five pounds (she ate mostly cucumber slices) and resplendent in polka-dots. With ringlets and doe-eyes, she looks the part of a baby-doll.*

Katherine: You encountered a lot of fashion pioneers and icons along the way when you modeled, including Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren. What were they like?

Jackie: She was bewitching and very sweet, otherworldly. I had heard she was a bitch, but probably more to the media. Malcolm McLaren was hilarious but I just stood against the wall and listened to him.

She seemed very imperious, but was approachable. I just said “Hello, I’m not worthy,” and she smiled. I couldn’t think of anything else to say that wouldn’t have caused me to spontaneously combust.

That statement includes what I felt about her clothes. At the time, I had gained weight and thought I wasn’t allowed to wear her stuff. (This was the late 70s. I don’t remember which year.) McLaren’s SEX shop is still open I think. I felt comfortable in there after I lost weight for the millionth time.

Katherine: I also know that you admire her strength, but you are quite strong too and have faced a lot of very common troubles that come with modeling, such as body image.

Jackie: I was an overweight child and had an epiphany while taking a bath one evening that the only way I could get what I want was to stop eating. I ate virtually nothing for 7 years. A slice of cucumber with a spoonful of tuna every other day and even that I had to run off or I felt awful. I was emaciated but never felt sick. But when I turned 22, I couldn’t handle that anymore so I started to binge myself out of business. Still having my ups and downs with weight issues, and am diabetic. I am appalled at what I did and hope to enlighten teenage girls to refrain from killing themselves for others’ expectations. Not worth it. There are many facets of the fashion industry that don’t include fitting into a size negative 7. Women as ghosts.

Katherine: On that note, what do you think is important for young people to know if they want to lead a fashionable life? What advice would you give to young men and women out there who seem a bit lost?

Jackie:

1) Do not try to look older. Someday you’ll miss looking younger.

2) NEVER go for pure trendy. The harder you try, the worse you look. A mall mannequin obsolete within ten minutes. If you see anything on more than one person, do not buy it. If you must have an of the minute look, go to a discount store and find something as close to classic as possible. No embellishments. Or get one piece of what you want, wear it for days on end, and then toss it.(Clothing bulimia.)

3) Close your eyes and imagine the perfect outfit but do this after withdrawing for a while from magazines and other media.

4) LOTS OF BLACK!!!!!! It casts a spell for chic at any age. Very hard to make a mistake. AND pop it with one bright color in scarf or jewelry.

5) Now it’s time to haunt Vogue and let your imagination combine with those of the designers. Remember that the photographed garment is not going to look the same on you. IMPROVISE!

6) (This is so important to me.) Don’t worry about sizes. If you need to go up a size, do so. Don’t cram your body into a sausage casing. On the other hand, do not go for too big thinking you can hide in it. Won’t work. Get precise fitting.

7) Guys — wear a bit of smudged black eyeliner. 😀

8) ATTITUDE! Don’t walk with your head held down. It might seem cool but it will cause you to get all saggy and baggy. Never a good thing. You’re beautiful.

*Jackie for Biba, 1973. Looks like she has the attitude and confidence bit covered! She's no shrinking violet!*

*Jackie for Biba, 1973. Looks like she has the attitude and confidence bit covered! She’s no shrinking violet!*

Katherine: This is where the fun part happens. Fashion is one of the most accessible, but also fantastical, forms of art there is. What other mediums of art really inspire you/inspired you when you modeled? Was it paintings, sculpture, film, literature, etc?

Jackie: All of the above. I am a culture vulture. I tend towards the decadent. One other major influence was Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. I fell in love with red.

Katherine: I’d love to talk a little bit about fashion in literature and the huge role it plays. Does literature, at all, affect how good fashion can be???

Jackie: Of course. When I read The Great Gatsby for the first time, I designed every piece of apparel in my head. Same thing for Valley of the Dolls, which I do consider a classic now.

Katherine: What about literature and fashion in film?

Jackie: Gatsby and any of Fitzgerald’s books scream for fashion visuals. The hats on the bobbed hairdos are quirky, with odd flowers that may stick up a bit too much. The dresses are glittery, but the colors are muted. They are also a bit droopy because they freed the women from the enslavement of corsets. Room to breathe. The shoes could be planters when worn out. The men wear impeccably tailored suits that they look uncomfortable in at times to add to their vulnerability. (Right now I see Redford because Gatsby‘s charm is blinding me.)

I forgot to mention that Annie Hall had a HUGE influence on my fashion sense. The fashions sprang out of nowhere as that part of the 70s had lost its way. I was not a fan of the disco look. Polyester on parade. Boo. I immediately fell in love with Diane Keaton and every garment she wore. Then she elaborated on it in real life. To this day I’ve never seen such glorious man tailored clothes, all so sweet because of her intelligent, eccentric manner. Not to mention that the whole movie was completely captivating. I love Woody Allen. He inspired my writing and kvetching.

Audrey Hepburn.  What can I say that hasn’t been said.  I watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s the other day for the 100th time and can’t get enough of it.  The theme of Moon River playing throughout set the tone of melancholy and impossible dreams.  Audrey’s wardrobe was the pinnacle of chic. My Fair Lady is a movie musical that was based on a rather dry Shaw play which didn’t really inspire me to clothe the characters in the way they deserved. Audrey’s Cecil Beaton-designed costumes in My Fair Lady were part of what defined the 60s for me.  She was a bouquet.

Katherine: What other forms of art influenced you while modeling?

Jackie: ALL modern art. I loved art deco and nouveau which influenced many glitter girls.

*A77: A Surrealist nod to Salvador Dali, Man Ray’s “Observatory Time,” Luis Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou, Pablo Picasso, and punk rock.*

*A77: A Surrealist nod to Salvador Dali, Man Ray’s “Observatory Time,” Luis Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou, Pablo Picasso, and punk rock.*

Katherine: Who are your favorite designers/artists?

Jackie: Vivienne Westwood, who always designs out of the box. Betsey Johnson for her flirty femininity and the fact that her clothes highlight curves. Missoni for the outrageous zigzag sweaters which have influenced my paintings. Mary Quant for introducing me to the Carnaby Street look. MANY others. I enjoy visiting consignment shops to see what is new and scinitllating. Artists: Warhol, Klimt, Kandinsky, Miro, Picasso, Renoir, Monet, all of the pre-Raphaelites.

*A17: A Missoni-inspired painting*

*A17: A Missoni-inspired painting*

Katherine: How has fashion impacted your life?

Jackie: My mom took me shopping nearly every day and I still remember the scent of Chanel No. 5 and that heated anticipation. I was about 4 years old when my clothing started to matter to me. It HAD to match. Every year, my passion escalated until I needed something new to wear every day or I would just doy. Now I wear mainly basic black and flash it up with a bit of red or another bold color. I don’t look all that great in neutrals, although I love them on others.

Katherine:What makes fashion art, and have you ever felt like a living work of art?

Jackie: I believe that the creative process stems from a special area of the brain that not all people are born with. I do trust in gods and goddesses; that they know who to choose for this special gift. Creating something from nothing is very celestial and the result can be anything from fashion to the fine arts to curing disease.

Katherine: Who was really inspirational/influential to you while you were in the fashion world?

Jackie: David Bowie, Marc Bolan, New York Dolls, Cyrinda Foxe, Edie Sedgwick, Jean Shrimpton, Ingrid Boulting, Twiggy, Jean Harlow, my mom, my grandmom.

Katherine: Who is your ultimate style icon and inspiration? How would you describe your personal style?

Jackie: Style icon: I would have to stick with Twiggy as she came around when my fashion hormones started happening and represents it all. Her huge eyes and the lashes, her way of looking so damned bored in one photo and Miss Carnaby Street on speed in others. Plus she is a fantastic dancer, singer, and actress. She was a virtual child when she was recruited for stardom, yet has never experienced any of the usual stolen childhood syndrome. Everything she wore was something I wanted to wear. On the not so bright side, I starved to look anything like her. She was one of the few who were naturally thin.

My personal style aesthetic now is 3/4 subtle, 1/4 KAPOW! Wear something, just one thing, that will shock and awe privately.

*Jackie in 1980 with a punky cropped ‘do. What else would you call it other than a work of art? Courtesy of Edward Scissorhands.*

*Jackie in 1980 with a punky cropped ‘do. What else would you call it other than a work of art? Courtesy of Edward Scissorhands.*

Katherine: What are your thoughts on reality-based television programs like Project Runway? It’s one reality show that I actually love where the contestants are really talented.

Jackie: Guilty pleasure: reality TV. I watch everything on Bravo, including every city full of housewives who all seem to have visited the same plastic surgeon who has a horse fetish; and some things on E! (Yes, even the Kardashians, as I am in lust with Scott Disick. The only fool I can really take on there but I just stare.)

I am enthralled by Project Runway and was a bit sad when it moved to Lifetime. Not that it changed but I thought of it as a Bravo mainstay. Tim Gunn (Mr. MAKE IT WORK) is one of my heroes. The bit where Santino made fun of him almost burst my bladder, even after watching the reruns 100 times. The consummate professional and perfectionist, Tim still manages to sprinkle humor throughout the process. My favorite designer from the show is cutie pie Chris Siriano. FIERCE! Michael Kors, although a bit brusque at times, another “comedian,” is a master designer himself so I take his reviews seriously. The surprise of the assignments is another key element to my continued fandom.

I watch all the spinoffs so I know more about Austin Scarlett than I do about my ex-husband. I believe he was the show’s equivalent to Versace.

I also enjoy the makeover shows, such as What Not to Wear, but you would not catch me dead in the middle of that 360 degree mirror.

Katherine: I would love for you discuss your work as an artist and your paintings. What is your process and what sorts of paints/substances do you use in order to create? Is music an influence for you at all?

Jackie: Music created me and allows me to create. Whenever possible, I make sure I am surrounded by it. I don’t like to label things; that’s like painting myself into a corner. I like songs from every genre, but I must say that I feel the most alive from punk. The more melodic yet possibly eviscerating kind such as the Clash. THE CLASH! Right now I want to paint just from saying that.

*A23: Commissioned by Kim Fowley (of The Runaways fame) for his wedding, but later disregarded. Jackie calls this: “hideous but hilarious.” I say: it’s a nice day for a punk wedding!*

*A23: Commissioned by Kim Fowley (of The Runaways fame) for his wedding, but later disregarded. Jackie calls this: “hideous but hilarious.” I say: it’s a nice day for a punk wedding!*

My strengthening relationship with practicing the fine arts returned to me only two years ago, after dabbling in sketches and doodles since I was a child. I started with watercolors, and rather timidly, as I was convinced one MUST be able to draw superbly before one should pick up a brush. I discovered that I am an expert at expressing myself through mere color and the fear went away. I also use acrylics, chalk, crayons, pencils, EYESHADOW and anything weird I may find in nooks and crannies around my cosmetic table. So far, I have been using art paper and it curls, crusts, disintegrates. I will be switching to canvas when I have more space, and will start selling through a dedicated website, soon to come. As for themes, I metaphorically bleed on the paper, so I surprise myself. I do very little planning. And everything inspires me.

Regarding music, this says quite a lot about how I feel.

From William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, 1602:

DUKE ORSINO:

If music be the food of love, play on;

Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,

The appetite may sicken, and so die.”

Katherine: Now that we’ve enjoyed a bit of Shakespeare, who (in the non-fashion world) would you like to see in a walk-off? And who would win?

Jackie: Walkoff/Fashionable Setting:

Bret Easton Ellis walking against Robert Downey, Jr.,

James Franco and Colin Firth,

Gov. Chris Christie and First Lady Michelle Obama,

Fran Lebowitz, Martha Stewart,

Drew Barrymore’s baby “Olive” and Stewie from Family Guy.

Stewie would win. Attitude. Football heads are the future.

Fin 

More from Jackie Baron:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Abstract-and-Geometric-Romanticism-by-Jackie-Baron/211512365556298