Why Beeneiana?

January 27, 2015

This web site is a tribute to Geoffrey Beene, the late great designer of the twentieth century. All the clothes on the site are part of my personal collection and several are one of a kind, made for me.

I came to know Mr. Beene as one of his customers. Sometime after my daughter’s birth in 1979, I splurged on a Geoffrey Beene dress, his version of a sophisticated sundress. That garment-so comfortable, so pretty, so versatile-was the beginning of a 25-year addiction. Like many addictions, I suppose, it crept up on me slowly. I never intended to wear only Geoffrey Beene clothes; in fact, I still purchased things by other designers with every intention of wearing them. But time and again, with my husband dressed for some event and patiently waiting, I’d race back to the closet and change into a beloved Beene. Eventually, I stopped wearing anything else.

The relationship between a woman and her wardrobe is curious. Some women shop for clothes that flatter them and, logically, buy only what looks good on them. Some women shop for clothing of the moment, dressing in the current style regardless of its merits. Both these groups share the conviction their clothes should serve them, either in enhancing their appearance or in giving them the happiness of wearing an up-to-the-minute style. Beene clothes were utterly different. They could be relied upon to fit exquisitely, but the consistency of the vision meant they changed only in subtle ways from year to year. No part of a Beene wardrobe was ever out of style; indeed, subsequent purchases simply revealed his ideas in more depth. And of course there was the originality, the wit, the materials, the lightness and tenderness. There could be no doubt about it: These clothes were masterly and unusual and rare. In no time at all I changed from a woman who wished her clothes to serve her into a woman who served her clothes. And so began my years of collecting Beene, acquiring and preserving everything while wearing as much of it as possible. As I look back through family albums, there is hardly a picture in which I am not wearing Beene.

On this site you will find examples of what I’ve named Beeneiana, unique items which most clearly express the designer’s sense of humor and expertise with fabric. Many of these garments are one of a kind and show what Mr. Beene could do with a scrap of cloth; nothing was too small or too humble to be transformed into an object both clever and beautiful. He deconstructed clothing before that became fashionable, and so you will see collars separate from jackets, cuffs separate from sleeves, halters designed to be worn over clothes, vests inspired by runner’s wear. He had his recurrent themes-flowers, dots, curves, wraps, folds, triangles-and these are visible in many of the designs. Also in evidence is his favorite black-and-silver palette, colors he used generously in designing his atelier as well as his clothing. Because Mr. Beene believed his designs required a body to animate them, and because he loved having dancers model his clothes, the clothes are photographed on dancer Holley Farmer.

Mr. Beene and I had a strictly formal friendship—he called me Ms. Tarr and I called him Mr. Beene. Only toward the end of his life did he start to call me Patsy. But there was often a twinkle in his eye, and our correspondence was lively. In saying goodbye to the wonderful Beene years and what they meant to me, I’d like to quote from e.e. cummings: i am though you so i.

Thank you Mr. Beene.

Patsy Tarr