Rachel Syme

  • The Laconic Verses

    It is probably unfashionable to begin a review with a reference to Sex and the City, but Natasha Stagg has given me tacit permission to do so—she cites the show in the first sentence of her new book, Sleeveless: Fashion, Image, Media, New York 2011–2019. In a short essay titled “Cafeteria,” which was originally published in Spike Art Quarterly in 2016, Stagg writes about observing a cadre of diners meeting for brunch in Chelsea:

    They meet at Cafeteria because the characters in Sex and the City did that. The New York of that era is not the same as the New York of today, but even while

  • It’s the Pictures That Got Small

    One evening in early 1950, the film mogul Louis B. Mayer hosted a small dinner party for the actress Gloria Swanson. She was fifty-one years old, which was not considered an ancient, crone-like age, even in an industry that values youth above all else. Still, she was in need of a professional boost. Mayer’s small soiree was something of a ceremonial gesture. Here was one of the last tycoons of classic Hollywood extending his hand and his hospitality to an actress who was tottering, on marabou-covered heels, back into the business after a decade-long fermata.

    Swanson was one of the highest-paid—and

  • You Better Work

    If I see Joan Didion’s packing list on Instagram one more time, I’m going to scream. And then I am absolutely going to click. We all have our baggage, we just want to know how to organize it. What if a streamlined suitcase is the missing link, the unheralded key to writing sentences like skate blades? Best to memorize the method, just in case. And so Didion’s scribbled checklist lives inside my head: two skirts, two jerseys, cigarettes, bourbon, Basis soap, Tampax, mohair throw, baby oil, aspirin, etc. I’ve seen this list most often on social-media feeds, but it also pops up in publications

  • All That Glitters

    here is a scene in Douglas Keeve’s 1995 documentary, Unzipped, in which Keeve films his then-lover, the American fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, getting a haircut. Mizrahi’s mane is wild, a crimpy bristle that forms a compact tangle over his forehead as single corkscrews try to escape the mass. Mizrahi, thirty-three at the time, is more or less oblivious to the snipping happening around his face. He’s too preoccupied with explaining his vision for a new fall runway collection, which he says came to him in a bolt of revelation before Christmas. “It has to be this kind of, like, you know, ’50s