“If you think I want to be photographed on my 61st birthday with a bunch of old clothes, you’d be mistaken,” says Carolyne Roehm on Monday. Still, the birthday girl has obliged, and she, along with her friend Nina Griscom, are happily rummaging through a rack in the middle of Roehm’s exquisitely decorated living room inside her exquisitely decorated duplex on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “These pieces are beautiful but just not age-appropriate anymore,” Roehm continues. “Where am I going to wear this?” She’s holding a white J.Mendel gown with a plunging neckline, or, as she puts it, “cut down to my belly button. A, I can’t fit in it and B, I don’t go out to events in the city anymore. I just don’t live that life.”
She’s of course referring to the merry-go-round of front-row appearances, charity events and miscellaneous fashion fetes, to which both women’s attendance over the past three decades has been well-documented. “In the Eighties and Nineties, I certainly lived a very outward life,” says Roehm. “But we both live a pretty quiet one now,” adds Griscom.
Regardless, the party pals’ fashion vestiges still remain — until today, when they put most of them up for grabs at a cohosted, two-day private sale at the Regency Hotel. (Ten percent of the proceeds will go to charity: Africa Foundation for Griscom, and the Good Dog Foundation for Roehm.) That J.Mendel number will be there, along with about 350 other pieces, including shoes, belts and handbags, from labels such as Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, Scaasi, Chanel, Hermès, Prada, Fendi and Burberry, just to name a few. Roehm and Griscom are pricing each item by hand, with tickets running from $75 for a pair of Ralph Lauren wool shorts to $15,000 for a sable coat. “It’s just criminal to keep these gorgeous things you can’t wear anymore hanging in your closet,” Griscom says. “Let some slim, young girl enjoy them.”
The idea for the sale percolated, as many ingenuous plans do, over many glasses of wine. “Carolyne was over for dinner and we were just sitting out on the terrace afterward talking about how we don’t go out that much and are sort of done with the whole thing,” says Griscom. Roehm pipes in: “Ah, yes, that very drunken night!” They admit the details are a bit blurry, but both agree it was Roehm who suggested the sale. “I just thought, brilliant! I’m on board.” Griscom says.
Then came time to make some tough decisions: what to cast off and what to keep. “My own clothes were the hardest to part with, the clothes I designed, ” Roehm says. “But what am I going to do? Be buried with them?” The most difficult discard for Griscom? “The pieces from people who are no longer here: Halston, Saint Laurent. Their things still look modern but I just can’t fit in them so why hoard them? It’s just wasteful.”
Others were easier to let go, such as ensembles with embarrassing memories attached. Take, for instance, Roehm’s red lace Oscar de la Renta gown, circa 1976. She wore it on a very fancy first date to a black-tie event at The Plaza hotel. “I got it when I was working for Oscar so it was a sample,” Roehm recalls. “Back then, the way we got lace to stand up on samples was to put hair spray on it and iron it.” Post-party, there was a dearth of cabs so Roehm and her date took a horse-and-buggy ride. And then it started to rain. “When I went to get out, the whole dress lifted up with me because it was stuck to my hand! It was mortifying!” Roehm is erasing that memory, to the tune of $500.
Other cringe-worthy moments can be attributed not to experience, but to the trend alone. “There are definitely some very Eighties looks in the mix — shoulder pads much?” Griscom says. “We all looked like Cruella de Vil!”