Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Friday, 16 October 2009


Mimi Weddel and I shared a birthday. I'm always fascinated by the lives of those born on February 15. She was a New York model who breezed into Manhattan from North Dakota in 1941. According to her obituary, (she just died at the age of 94,) 'What she had wanted since the age of 16 was to put her foot on the bar of the Hotel Astor, to drink Brandy Alexanders on the St Regis hotel roof garden, to admire hats in Peacock Alley in the Waldorf Astoria.'

She was still going our on calls for modelling and acting jobs at the time of her death. She had a small part in an episode of Sex and the City. She went to the gym to stay fit, despite curvature of the spine but decreed that hats maketh the woman:

She shared an Upper East Side apartment, which she had bought cheaply in 1970, with her daughter Sarah, son-in-law, grandson and 150 or so hats, boxed and not, from the 1930s to the couture present. The film director Jyll Johnstone decided to follow Mimi around with a camera intermittently over 12 years, and called the resulting documentary, released in 2008, Hats Off. Hats On would have been more accurate. "Rise above it" was Mimi's motto, and she could rise to any headgear, however unlikely. There's a sequence in the film, in between Mimi's punishing gymnastics, tapdancing, singing and casting calls, when she takes a ride on the back of a motorbike, cool in jodhpurs, huntsman's jacket and boots. She's as elegant as Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, and almost as youthful, and she wears her visored helmet with elan. "Hats give you a frame," she said. "However dreary you feel, if you put on a hat, by golly, you've changed everything. I keep telling my daughter, my granddaughter, everybody, if you don't wear a hat, you're missing it. "


The full obituary is here

16 comments:

Caroline, No. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mim said...

We need a signature item, especially as we grow older. Her hats were super!

WendyB said...

I heart her.

Louise said...

Wonderful! What an interesting life she lead.
I think she is right about hats, I wish more people wore them.

Eugenia said...

I love hats and I'm also pretty keen on brandy alexanders - Mimi sounds like she was a lot of fun and, clearly, she lived life to the full.

Hogge [Johanna] said...

I'm really fascinated by that old models!

Toby Wollin said...

The saddest thing about the obit is her daughter's comment that she found her mother's mode of dress embarrassing. My mom would have been nearly the same age as Mimi had she lived, but she was from the same school of dressing - full on, all the time, dress as if you meant it and always look your best.

Lewis William said...

Style cannot be extinguished!

Anonymous said...

I just ventured here for the first time from the page of Manolo the Shoeblogger, and I was struck immediately by this piece - for I, too, was born on February the 15th. I am sure you already know that Susan B. Anthony shares our birthday. I always considered myself a Valentine's Day baby (I was supposed to be, but my mother, as she has never ceased reminding me, was 29 1/2 hours in labor with me), until my (much younger) baby brother was born just a few years ago and STOLE Valentine's Day. He's a nice kid, but I don't know how you forgive something like that.

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LGreenWriter said...

Thank you for the introduction to Mimi. What a cool woman.