When I needed to find a new husband, I put on a RED dress, a red leather strapless mummy dress. "Red is the color to wear to get men," I've been telling my customers for almost forty years.
The power of Red was first revealed to me by Fred Hayman, who owned Georgio's of Beverly Hills. Fred and his beautiful wife Gale first came to me to buy my dress line in Paris in 1971. Fred saw my show and was horrified. I only offered my then infamous draped jersey Torrid gown in black and pastels.
Fred, with the authority of a fashion professor, proclaimed to the astonished French model, "Vicky, the first color that I sell a gown in is black, because women in black look the skinniest, the second color is RED, so women can excite the men, the third color is white, for their tans and their weddings, and the last color I sell is a great blue. This year it's turquoise... and forget the rest!"
I will be speaking next week at Initiatives in Art and Culture 13th Annual Fashion Conference, in New York this year, on the color RED and I learned about RED from the best; Mr. Rodeo Drive.
At only 26, I was asked by Jean Rosenberg, fashion director under Geraldine Stutz of Henri Bendel's, to join Jean Muir and Zandra Rhodes (who will also speak at the RED fashion conference) at their store. Bendel's innovative "shop of shops" became the number one go-to fashion destination in New York in 1970.
The first collection for my boutique on the second floor's opening European collections was a new notion... leather dresses for day and chiffon for night. Upstairs on the third floor was Steven Burrows, also with a new boutique; silver-studded black leather mod sportswear. With the launch of my Bendel's dress-leather line, I added a novel idea; a leather jumpsuit in red.
My first big name client to order the jumpsuit was Barbra Streisand. She ordered it first in navy, then came back and ordered it in red. When Barbara wore the red leather jumpsuit in public she changed her image. Sporting a new chic Paris fashion look, a change from her hippie thrift shop granny style she was known to wear, she attracted a different male. In her new sleek, sexed up look she suddenly dated actor Ryan O'Neal and hairdresser, Jon Peters... Hollywood Hot Men.
The very first catsuit (a skintight body with a foot) ever made for street wear was in snakeskin cashmere for Ursula Andress in What's New Pussycat. This one piece pant combined with a top garment with a zipper was now called a "jumpsuit" by the the fashion press. One piece pants had been worn before as overalls, but never for evening and never for sex.
I ordered a red leather jumpsuit for myself and wore it on the set of X Y and Zee in London, a film with Elizabeth Taylor, the backer of my shop in Paris. My husband, Ron Berkeley, was doing her makeup.
Seeing me, Elizabeth squealed, "Oh PLEASE, Vicky, make me a red jumpsuit too! RED is the color of the Welch flag, and it would really please Richard."
The idea of Elizabeth Taylor's stupendous breasts encased in red leather and crushed inside a giant zipper was hard for me to imagine, but I told her, "I'll make one for you as soon as possible."
I never saw her wear it in public, but Richard made comments to Ron. "My wife's gone kinky on me! She comes on to me in this red leather outfit and slowly undoes the zipper... " I could picture the whole scene. Elizabeth loved sex and games.
Several years later I was wearing my same red leather jumpsuit when Richard arrived from Switzerland with his new wife Suzy Hunt. Suzy was a model from South Africa, five-nine and blonde, quite the opposite of Elizabeth. Richard had met her on the ski slopes after his separation. Unable to stand being alone, a quick romance led to a quick divorce from her race car driving husband James, and a quick marriage to Richard.
When Suzy saw me in my red leather jumpsuit she took me aside," =Love, I have to have one. Rich will love it, since RED is his favorite color and it stands for Wales".
Oh my God, I truly had a designer moment. Should I let wife number four wear the same red leather jumpsuit as wife (two and three)? Richard and Elizabeth had married each other twice; I gave in. Of course, I'll make you one next week." I promised and hoped Elizabeth would forgive me.
And so I made it and Suzy loved it, owned it, and wore it everywhere with Richard.
Elizabeth never said a word. We stayed friends. Her generous nature understood my my fashion designer's dilemma.
Richard's marriage to Suzy Hunt lasted six years. She met a man in Puerta Vallarta, a friend of all of ours, and left all the movie crazies to settle down with him in Mexico and help manage his hotel.
Sally Hay was next. She had been a production secretary for Richard during the filming of Wagner in Austria. Sally was a medium size, normal looking brunette Englishwoman. She looked like Richard's secretary and was very eager to change that image by having me design some French high fashion for her, including one RED leather jumpsuit.
For more on the conference on the conference.. RED, Allure, Style, Significance (Dec 2 and 3) visit www.artinitiatives.com. Telephone: (646) 485-1952.