Barbra Streisand at 21

In 1963, WWD spent a day with the then-21-year-old diva as she prepared to play Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl” on Broadway.

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If you are not Sarah Jessica Parker, Donna Karan or Bill Clinton, you probably weren’t at Barbra Streisand’s ultraexclusive one-night engagement at the Village Vanguard last month. To be sure, it was an opportunity to see the consummate performer in an intimate setting, sans the pomp and circumstance that usually surrounds her appearances. Streisand was also promoting her new album, “Love Is the Answer,” released last week. (It debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, beating out Mariah Carey’s new release.)


This got us reminiscing about our October 1963 interview (and impromptu photo shoot) with the then-21-year-old diva in her new, unfurnished Upper West Side apartment. Streisand was preparing to play Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl” on Broadway beginning in February. Here, excerpts from WWD’s day with Streisand.

On the media: “Most reporters never mention my clothes and, if they do, they play me up as a kook. It’s great to talk about fashion seriously and not have to answer all those stupid questions about how I got started and where I’m from, etcetera.”

On thrift store shopping: “I have the greatest collection of old clothes…paid from $3.50 to $7.50 for them. When I first started in show business, I couldn’t afford clothes so I went to thrift shops. I even got a Fabiani at a shop in New York.…So what if somebody else wore them…I don’t care. Probably if they could afford those clothes, they were clean.”

On her first show: “My first professional appearance was at the Bon Soir. I had nothing to wear except a sequin lace and velvet top from the early 1900s. I wore it with a long velvet skirt and old silk pumps — everyone calls them my Minnie Mouse shoes. People thought I was weird. But, I felt I was wearing something that should be shown to the world.”

On shoes: “It’s in my contract that I can have custom-made shoes. I don’t care about the money…just the shoes.”

On a possible fashion career: “I go to museums to get ideas for dresses…and I’m always searching thrift shops everyplace I go. Then I often sketch my ideas. It’s not that I’m creative.…It’s just that I’ve had to suffice with simple things and it makes me look around. A few department stores have approached me.…They’d like to use my name and designs. It would have to be a well-made, high-priced line. I think I almost might do it.”

On pants: “I don’t really like to wear pants…except dungarees and bell-bottoms. I prefer lingerie and lounging things like culottes.”

On her insecurities: “I have this awful stomach that pops out and I like to be comfortable when I sing. That’s why I wear a lot of Empire dresses. You don’t have to wear all those underthings that hold you in. Bill Blass loves my stomach. He told me he’d like to design some clothes around it.”

On her new apartment (with then-husband Elliot Gould): “It has a 55-foot terrace and a stairway so I can make an entrance. I used to live in an old railroad flat over on Third Avenue.…There were no closets so I had to just throw my clothes over the furniture. Now, I’m devoting a whole room to my old clothes. They’ll all be hanging on racks. My beaded bags will be hung on the walls…and I’m going to have cases for jewelry and shoes and things. There’ll be a wooden floor, a pot-belly stove and an old captain’s desk. It will be just like a little store…but I’m the only one who can shop there.”


In related news, Streisand is currently at work on a design and style tome, “A Passion for Design,” set to be published by Viking in October 2010. According to an effusive press release, “Ms. Streisand will share memories of her childhood, the development of her taste and inspirations, and what collecting and style mean to her.” In addition to photographs of her various homes and collections — Babs has come a long way from her empty pad and second-hand style — the book will “focus on the architecture and building of her newest home, the dream house and refuge Ms. Streisand says she has longed for since the days when she shared a small Brooklyn apartment with her mother, brother and grandparents.”


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