Donna Karan - retiring.

When she started her business, she made clothes you actually wanted to wear to places you actually went.  What made the clothes so desirable? the fit, the fabrics, the details, the tailoring. They were made for real women - jackets fit over the hips, the buttons buttoned, you could find the piece that you needed to complete the outfit. She came up the hard way, and after her boss/mentor died, she mourned her loss and got to work. After her husband died, she mourned her loss and got to work.

She played with sequins and beads - but they stayed sewn on. Her cashmere sweaters were like steel magnolias, warm, soft, dainty, and unpillable. Mine still look great under a blazer, with Donna's not-quite-a-boatneck.

For a wonderful occasion, I wore a wine-colored satin maxi skirt with a wine-colored cowlneck cashmere sweater - the sweater had sequins on it, but from across the room you saw only a warm glow.

In case your life didn't require a sweater with sequins, there was also a simple, lighter weight wine-colored sweater to go with the skirt. She was considerate that way. I got the second sweater, too, and a pair of wine wool pants. I was good to go.

You could sit down in her pants.

Her wrap skirts stayed wrapped.

Her silks were thick and opaque.

Her necklines looked like they knew what they were doing.

Of course, life and budgets and The Economy meant that if I wanted a real Donna Karan outfit, I had to hunt it down, haunt sales and specials (Bloomingdales would have one piece in my size, Bergdorf might have the other or I'd haul my weary self to Century 21 or Loehmann's). I never had to worry about quality; I never had to worry about class.

Her accessories were - well, here are examples of pieces I've collected over time. A short pull-through black velvet scarf, made from a tube of silk velvet. A blue velvet beret. A tweed jacket and skirt. Blouses of thick white silk with pick-stitched seams. Bags with compartments and pockets. A small belt bag - every time I wear it, people stop me and ask... Rocks and crystals on leather thongs.

As the business grew, sadly, to my thinking the clothes became more glamorous and less accessible.  Interestingly, though, the pieces I'd frantically tracked down have held their value and utility. But for years, Donna was the opposite of She Whose Name I Will Not Speak, and I honor Donna for the integrity of her designs and her product.

And if she ever passes a bolt of something interesting and happens to come across a scissors and some pins and chalk, I hope someone will let me know.


  1. She was a game changer. People over credit Calvin Klein but he did more for gay men's underwear more than women. It was Donna Karen for sure. I wore her sheath dress for years in the 90's and did staple stuff. But sadly I don't see another replacement for her BC Tory burch is nice but too "lifestyle" driven rather than clothes for helping you get on with life. But hey, that's just me,

    1. I agree with Naomi there is no replacement for her. I remember reading magazines as a teenager and just loving the cut and flow of anything that was Donna Karan. Her clothes flattered the figure but looked timeless, as though one could wear them for years.
      Very happy to think of the beautiful pieces you did track down Fred, they sound like wardrobe treasures. Which are rather difficult to find these days.

    2. I'm sad to see her step back. I view not getting along with inter-galactic mass production as a sign of strength oh character.

      Forgot to mention the gray cashmere slacks - a woven, not a knit, had body and softness but didn't asphyxiate the wearer. Silk lining, too.

    3. Drat autocorrect - strength OF character!

  2. I hadnt heard this! Wow - she's an icon of taste and style and quality!

    1. Knowing that Donna has stepped back and She Who May Not Be Namedis still collecting a paycheck - like a nays ion must feel when its currency has been devalued.

    2. Ok, now I am confuzzled. I was thinking about a different she who shall not be named. But lady I thought of is deceased. And, the company that bears her name gobbled up any and every extraordinary name brand and turned them all into indistinguishable entities. Although in her defense, I believe she was no longer at the helm.

    3. Yes, I remember the very moment the offereings of that company turned to crap before my eyes.

      Donna was something of a cult figure, she made friends with Barbra Streisand among other prominent women, and she turned up at a lot of charitable events. She didn't let it go to her head, nor did she disrespect her hosts by appearing in pajamas.

  3. And the yoga. She is an admirable act to follow. When she and Loius Dell'Olio were were thrust into the position of co-leaders of Anne Klein following Anne's untimely death, they produced some of the most magnificent garments of their time period.
    When she left and eschewed glamour for elegant simplicity she won a legion of followers, myself included.
    I thought of heydays of Ellen Tracy and Dana Buchman when you wrote "Blouses of thick white silk with pick-stitched seams. " That *charmeuse* was exquisite with it's deep rich color and patterning and thick lush feel. And, as you wrote, a collection of edited matching pieces.
    Congrats on your collection of DK pieces. I have a belt bag, too- Coach, from when it was still made in the USA.
    Ok, we are officially in trouble I just had to add charmeuse AND glamour to the dictionary in WORD.

    1. Well, I know what happened at Ellen Tracy, Dana Buchman is still a mystery to me. Hanging on for dear life to my ET paisley so, one richer and deeper than the next. And her satin blouses!

      I wish you could officially add a definition of charmeuse to you-know-where.

    2. drat auto-correct- its not it"s.
      ....OMG I loved those paisleys. And, I have never seen anything of that caliber since.

  4. You've forgotten her big invention - the bodysuit! The first part time job I had while at University was selling rip off versions of her bodysuits for an Australian company called Brian Rochford. We would all curse them, yet still buy them (they were particularly difficult after a few glasses of wine and a trip to the bathroom). After the collapse of the bodysuit- as- fashion- staple, sadly Brian Rochford staggered on for a few more years and, just like the dinosaurs, didn't adapt and finally went extinct.
    But it's always sad to see a beloved label go. For some reason it's so rare to find a female designer that designs for real, actual women. And when they do they corner the market. I know I am very brand loyal to certain designers as you know that the pieces will last and have all those little thoughtful details that make wearing them easy.

    1. Actually the bodysuit was one of the items I didn't see the use of. I have this problem with snaps - or buttons or zippers - in places that aren't always easy to reach when one's in a hurry. Or on an airplane.

      Real women - yes.

    2. The bodysuit was a horror.
      Believe it or not we were told that in order to get a sale over the line to tell the customer they could just "swing it to the side" without undoing the snaps when off to the bathroom. Sadly, I'm not joking! I can't imagine that being too successful either after a couple of glasses of wine...

  5. Well done, Donna. She does deserve a break. I had "real" DK charcoal trousers and a cream crepe de chine blouse in the nineties; sigh. They were perfect.

  6. I wore her pieces in my old work days and foolishly consigned them. Her quality and simple lines were second to none.

  7. The end of simple,great style?
    There are no current American designers replacing her.


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