Georgia O'Keefe, Living Modern


I was fortunate to be in New York and visit the Georgia O'Keefe, Living Modern exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum.  I have always been a fan of her work, ever since we studied her Pansy painting during my 4th grade Art History classes (thank you Windsor Park Elementary for offering art history at such a young age... this should be mandatory in all elementary schools!).  

I was thrilled to finally see the "Pansies" work in person, and I was completely inspired by the entire exhibition, specifically the striking photography of Ms. O'Keefe and the items of clothing from her personal collection.

Ms. O'Keefe had a personal style which was so unique and avant-garde at the time, and many of her looks are quite contemporary and resonate loudly with my own personal style credo, such as:

  • The importance of a uniform: It is no secret that some of the most successful creatives have their own uniform (Giorgio Armani, yes I am nodding towards you). For Ms. O'Keefe, her uniform was wrap dresses. They were chic, comfortable, flattering, and easy to accessorise.

  • Neutral color palette with a few accent colours: Although she mainly wore black and white, these colours created the perfect base to accent with prints, colours, and also classic indigo Levi's jeans in men's cuts.

  • Attention to details: most of her clothing featured mother-of-pearl buttons and items without zippers (two things I have been increasingly attentive of myself... thank you Levi's for continuing to make button-fly jeans!)

  • Accessories are key: she commonly transformed mundane looks with the addition of a coloured headscarf, the drama of a Vaquero black hat, or her favorite silver conch belt.

  • Quality over quantity: A self-trained seamstress, Ms. O'Keefe made her own clothing which was quite exquisite, with fine details such as embroidery-work and pleats or pin-tucks. Her hand-made dresses were feminine, yet she also experimented with gender-bending clothing, to challenge and confuse society’s conventional sartorial codes for men and women. Many of her suits were tailor-made for her by Knize, the same tailor who made many of Marlene Dietrich's suits. She wore the same suits throughout her lifetime, often adding feminine details such as her Calder pin or Ferragamo flats.

The exhibit, running now through July 23, houses 50 works of art,  50 garments and accessories, as well as nearly 100 photographs of the artist taken by 23 photographers, from Ansel Adams and Cecil Beaton to Andy Warhol and Bruce Weber. I definitely recommend a visit if in New York!

Clockwise from left:  One of the artist's handmade shirts, showing the meticulous craftsmanship of the handmade pin-tucks;  Part of her shoe collection (she preferred flats, although still kept the look very feminine);  Another handmade shirt from the designer, note the fine patchwork repair at the collar;  Wrap dresses, which were actually dressing gowns from Neiman Marcus, yet the artist was so fond of them that she ordered them in several colours to wear during the day.