Saturday, August 9, 2014

Gypsy Rose Lee - Quilter

Not many people haven't heard of Gypsy Rose Lee, the best and most loved strip-tease artist in the world!  She performed in vaudeville and then burlesque, had a film career, and was also a best-selling writer, artist, political activist, and union leader.  She was a single mother by choice, very independent, and lived her life her way.

But did you know that Gypsy Rose Lee was a QUILTER!!!!  I was very surprised to learn that she made quilts and had friends over regularly to quilt!

I was in New York in May and while there went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Charles James : Beyond Fashion exhibit.  

Charles James made stunning sculptural dresses and ball gowns and Gypsy Rose Lee was one of his favorite clients.  His work is amazing!

Here's a photo of Gypsy in one of his dresses at a March of Dimes Fashion Show.

She wore this Charles James gown in a March of Dimes Fashion Show.

This red Charles James gown was one worn by Gypsy in a magazine editorial.

This burgundy cocktail dress was given to the Met in memory of Gypsy.

Erik Lee Preminger, Gypsy's son, gave this dress to the Met as a gift.

So, while I was there looking at amazing gowns, I picked up this book in the museum gift shop.  It is a book written by Gypsy's son Erik about his life growing up with his mother.  I loved the book and highly recommend it.  In the book he mentions her quilting and her quilting bees.  He even mentions her buying a bag a scraps while antiquing in Europe!  I was intrigued.  I knew that she made a lot of her costumes and wondered what a quilt made by Gypsy Rose Lee would look like.  So I contacted her son Erik Lee Preminger and asked him if he had any photos of her quilts and he was nice enough to share some with me.  You can purchase his book here.  

This is an article that appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on April 5, 1959.  Click on the images to see it better.  It shows Gypsy and her regular quilting bee members.  They are from the left, Gypsy and her sister, June Havoc, actress; Bonnie Cashin, fashion designer; Faye Emerson, actress; Hedda Hopper, movie columnist; Jane Ashley, interior decorator; and Celeste Holm, actress.  Other members who were out of town at the time are actresses Hermione Gingold and Georgia Sothern and comedienne Imogene Coca.  What an amazing group!!  

She made crazy quilts, her sister June preferred the regular geometrical patchwork quilts.  
 This article appeared in TV Guide!  Pictured are (from left to right) Faye Emerson, June Havoc,  Gypsy Rose Lee, and Hermione Gingold.  Can you imagine the scraps of silk, satin, lame, velvet,  lace, and whatever they could get from their dressmakers?  What fun!!

Erik Preminger sent me this picture he took of one of Gypsy's crazy quilts!!  Click on the picture to see it.  Her stitching is beautiful, I love the fans in the four corners!  Her choice of fabrics is personal - she was an avid reader and there's a few books,  a rolls royce - she owned one, some cards from a deck of cards, musical note fabric, a hand holding a coin, just beautiful!!  I wish I could have attended one of her quilting bees.  

Be sure to check out Erik's book and also Gypsy's books on his website -
Thank you Erik for sharing this with us!


Anonymous said...

Hey Neighbor (waving from northern Connecticut),
Love this post! If you like Charles James' designs you might want to look up another of his clients, singer Lisa Kirk...I believe her husband donated several of her Charles James gowns to the museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Will have to read Gypsy Rose Lee's books as well as her son's book...

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