Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Southwestern Jewelry of Millicent Rogers


Photo-Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Harpers Bazaar, 1948


One of my favorite fashion icons has always been the ultra chic and uber stylish Millicent Rogers. During a recent visit to Taos, New Mexico I had the great pleasure of touring the Millicent Rogers museum, which houses her astonishing collection of Southwestern and Native American decorative arts, in particular the Navajo and Zuni.

She spent the last chapter of her life in Taos from 1947 to her death in 1953 after many years in New York, Paris and Austria. Millicent created the "hippie chic" look during those years in Taos by combining refined and delicate blouses by Charles James, Schiaparelli sweaters, and Mainbocher linen skirts with chunky Native Amercian jewelry.

The museum houses Millicent's jewelry and to see it in person was truly inspiring. If only she could have lived to see the jewelry of Tony Duquette!

A large scale turquoise and silver necklace

Silver beaded necklace with crosses

Turquoise and silver buttons

Coral, turquoise, and silver necklaces with silver broach. Velvet blouse.

More silver buttons

Sterling silver necklace

Armloads of silver and turquoise cuff bracelets


A massive turquoise necklace. You would not believe the size!

Over the past two years I have grown to love the Southwest, in particular Santa Fe and Taos and I am often at a loss for words to describe the feelings I have for it. At the museum they have a copy of an extraordinary letter that Millicent wrote to her youngest son, Paul Peralta-Ramos prior to her death. It is through her words that I understand more not only of my love for the Southwest but also how we should approach and contemplate ones life.

"Darling Paulie,

Did I ever tell you about the feeling I had a little while ago? Suddenly passing Taos mountain I felt that I was part of the earth, so that I felt the sun on my surface and the rain. I felt the stars and the growth of the moon, under me, rivers ran. And against me were the tides. The waters of rain sink into me. And I thought if I stretched out my hands they would be the earth and green would grow from me. And I knew that there was no reason to be lonely that one was everything, and death was as easy as the rising sun and as calm and natural - that to be enfolded in earth was not an end but part of oneself, part of every day and night that we lived, so that being part of the earth one was never alone. And all fear went out of me - with a great, good stillness and strength.

If anything should happen to me now, ever, just remember all this, I want to be buried in Taos with the wide sky - life has been marvelous, all the experiences good and bad I have enjoyed, even pain and illness because out of it so many things were discovered. One has so little time to be still, to lie still and look at the earth and the changing colours and the forest - and the voices of people and clouds and light on water, smells and sound and music and the taste of wood smoke in the air.

Life is absolutely beautiful if one will disassociate oneself from noise and talk and live it according to one's inner light. Don't fool yourself more then you can help. Do what you want - do what you want knowingly. Anger is a curtain that people pull down over life so that they can only see through it dimly - missing all the savor, and the instincts - the delight - they feel safe only when they can come down someone. And if one does that they end by being to many, more than one person, and enjoyed. And when my time comes, no one is to feel that I have lost anything of it - or be too sorry - I've been in all of you - and will go one being. So remember it peacefully - take all the good things that your life put there in your eyes - and they, your family, children, will see through your eyes. My love to all of you."

Millicent Rogers died on January 1, 1953 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


3 comments:

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Sounds fantastic -she had such amazing style. I love the stories of how she was so particular that she would know exactly what suited her and would get 20 of the same blouse from charles james at a time amongst other things.

Lesley said...

Extraordinarily moving.
Thanks
Best Wishes
robert

little augury said...

I agree, for me the area had an unexpected effect on me. the house had the same- it may be that the house was practically empty except for me and my niece and it seemed a few ghosts. Her jewelry and clothes were a special part of the entirely overwhelming experience.