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Necessity breeds ingenuity. "The best thing is to wear pantyhose or some pants under a short skirt, I think. And you can always take off the skirt and use it as a cape," says Edie Beale, then 58, in the achingly tragic 1975 documentary "Grey Gardens." Known as "Little Edie," Beale, a first cousin of Jackie O., and her mother, "Big Edie," lived in a decrepit, 28-room estate on Long Island and dined on crackers with cat food. Beale called clothes "costumes" and wore a silk head scarf like a diamond tiara with her moth-eaten mink coat and upside-down cashmere skirts.
"The film has been largely influential to designers like Marc Jacobs," says Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton. Same goes for John Galliano and Phillip Lim. The "Today" show even devoted a segment on how to get the Edie Beale look in 2007, after the doc was refashioned as a musical on Broadway. The takeaway? Anyone can buy fashion, but style is equal parts clothes and character.
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