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A Fashionable Muse - Edie Sedgwick

Originally Posted: March 14, 2007

Clare E. Bendall

Fashion will always need muses. The Hamptons will always need celebrities but how do you choose whom to admire from afar? Clothes are not enough to draw your attention and hold it for a long time. In order to get truly excited about fashion it is inspiring to have a whole character to dress up as and emulate. Real Estate is not enough to keep a conversation moving. But, when a property with a home goes for an asking price of $50 million in the Hamptons, it is something to get excited about.

Edie Sedgwick and Andy Warhol in happy times.
Photo from the David Weisman collection

That said, I have a slight obsession with many of the celebrities from the 1960s. I could not help thinking back to my favorite trendsetters of all time, Ms. Edie Sedgwick and Mr. Andy Warhol. Two originals that exemplified the excess of the 60s for whom it was never enough. Breaking boundaries in fashion, art, and as some forget, even real estate evolved naturally out of "Edie and Andy".

When writers and artists were first coming to the Hamptons in the 1960s it must have been a thrilling celebrity sighting to see that pair. Edie, Andy Warhol's muse of the swinging 60s, had enough money to buy all of the popular styles of the day yet it was her notorious black tights, leggings, and the largest earrings she could find that made every girl want to look like her. Just thinking about what her outfits might have consisted of when venturing out to Westhampton Beach to take part in a Life Magazine shoot, or cruising out to parties in Southampton in her notorious gray Mercedes, made every fashion editor take note. Warhol, whose particular style became intertwined with Sedgwick's, would buy what was recently priced as one of the most expensive compounds in the Hamptons, Eothen in Montauk, making every broker take note.

When the couple began talking late in the evening at the apartment of a New York advertising executive, they began one of the most iconic and controversial relationships of the post war era. The collaboration made Sedgwick famous. Interestingly, there is a new movie out surrounding the Warhol-Sedgwick relationship. "Factory Girl," starring Sienna Miller as Edie Sedgwick and Guy Pearce as Andy Warhol, centers around Sedgwick's rise and fall in the spotlight. Unfortunately, the movie had been put on hold until recently due to Bob Dylan, who claims that the flick blames him for the underground movie queen's early death by drug overdose at 28.

Sedgwick was born in Santa Barbara, California to a large dysfunctional family of eight siblings. Upon moving to Manhattan she inherited a trust fund of $80,000 from her maternal grandmother. Trying out for a series of acting, modeling gigs, and society events, she quickly embraced the fast paced life of New York and shopped and spent money with little regard. In the spring of 1964 Sedgwick met Andy Warhol who was perhaps one of, if not the most, famous artist in American history. The two quickly became inseparable and Sedgwick was a regular fixture at Warhol's "Factory" where many artists, writers, and just about anyone who wanted to make the "60s scene" would hang out.

Warhol produced many of his movies and art at the Factory. Sedgwick, who many believe created the first type of 'performance art' would entertain everyone who passed through the silver spray painted studio. The blonde ingénue would also practice jazz ballet for several hours a day. "I need to dance it out" Sedgwick often said. Her infamous 'uniform' evolved out of her daily activities - a black leotard, tights, and often a loose fitting man's style shirt or long coat to cover up if she was going out.

Edie in her uniform of tights and minidress.
Phot by Fred Eberstadt

Billy Name, one of Warhol's cohorts said it best, "The leotard and the shirt. I mean that's what every girl wants. That's all you need in the world. It was like the underground version of the little black dress with the pearls." Sedgwick also had a love for well made clothes and knew many of the well known designers such as Christobal Balenciaga. Balenciaga was highly fashionable in the 50s and into the 60s and has seen a recent trend on the fashionable scene recentyl. The French fashion house produced 'sculptural evening wear' that Sedgwick frequently wore to evening parties. Betsey Johnson, who after all this time has made quite an impact on modern fashion and showed at this February's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Manhattan, created many of the mini dresses so synonymous with the 60s and in which Sedgwick was photographed.

Makeup was also an incredible creative outlet for Sedgwick. The infamous black eyes, with the false lashes and pale lip were another trademark. Sedgwick has said in interviews that in her early 20s she did not think of herself as pretty enough, and would use heavy makeup to create a kind of mask. A large amount of money was spent on cosmetics, she would unthinkingly spend $500 on a pair of false eyelashes at Bonavita, however when the money was gone she used blue and gray watercolors to paint her eyes. People who waited for her to go out for the evening would often become frustrated by the fact that over three hours was spent on making up her eyes alone.

Fans have especially loved her Vogue spread for which Diana Vreelan, Vogue's editor in the 60s, dubbed her 'Youth Quaker'. Edie also took part in a fashion layout for Life magazine in the September 1965 issue. Paula Emerson, a private school teacher from New York remembers a young Sedgwick out at a party in Southampton at the home of a friend: "Every one of the society ladies in New York or the Hamptons was concerned with wearing the popular fashion of the time. And there was Edie in a short mini dress that clung to her body, no shoes on. Its not that she didn't care about her appearance mind you, she looked fetching, yet there was something so personal about the clothes she wore. It was if to say, this is who I am, I make no apologies, this is the woman I feel like portraying tonight."

That style still continues to influence designers today as John Galliano named her as his muse for his 2005 Dior collection. Many believe Sedgwick's look and personality captured Bob Dylan's interest and that she was the inspiration for many of the songs on the Blonde on Blonde album. Listen to "Like a Rolling Stone," "Leopard Skin Pill-Box Hat," and "Just Like a Woman," and Sedgwick's style is right there.

Edie Segewick with Chuck Wein and Andy in the background.
Photo by Stephen Shore

Many have speculated over the romantic relationship between Dylan and Sedgwick. We do know that for several years Sedgwick was closer to Warhol than anyone else throughout his life. The symbiotic relationship between the two surrounding, life, art, and fashion was indiscernible. As Sedgwick gained more notoriety she even lopped off her hair and fashioned it in the same style as Warhol, dying it almost whitish silver.

Eventually, the duo's relationship ended on a bitter note due in part to Sedgwick's drug addiction and Warhol's tendency to exploit, or, some have argued, possibly use the muse he created. Yet at their high point they were photographed everywhere together, often getting invitations to the best parties as a couple.

In 1966 Warhol and Sedgwick had a falling out and the two parted ways. Warhol continued to make art and later began looking for property in the Hamptons. Though many people know him to be primarily an artist associated with the Campbell's soup can, Warhol had an incredible business sense. Others would argue he was obsessed with money. This was atypical for his profession of the time and had rented a house in Southampton but grew tired of the area quickly.

Together, Warhol and Paul Morrissey, a director of many of Warhol's early films, decided that buying a home would be a great investment. Though Warhol loved fame, it was money that drove him to make many decisions in his later career. Tina Fredricks, one of Warhol's early friends from his Vogue Art days, had later become an East Hampton realtor.

The Warhol estate, Eothen, in Montauk.

On a rainy weekend in 1972 Fredrick's took Warhol and Morrissey on a tour showing them the prime areas of the East End - Southampton's Gin Lane, and East Hamptons Ocean Avenue and Further Lane. None of it seemed to capture Warhol's attention. Driving further east the architecture of the Memory Motel in Montauk sparked Warhol's interest.

Upon seeing the large compound, Eothen, overlooking the ocean settled upon a 30-foot Montauk cliff, Morrissey and Warhol bought the home immediately for $225,000. Warhol was not really a beach person due in part to his pale skin and silver wig. He, "wasn't interested in the house, he was interested in the investment end of it, I would say," according to Morrissey, "although he got to love the house." Thrilled that he was able to rent it out, initially he helped cover the cost by having top celebrities such as Lee Radziwill, Jackie Kennedy's sister, along with other members of the Kennedy family.

Mick Jagger came out to Montauk as well, prompting him to write "The Memory Motel," one of the Rolling Stones signature songs. Warhol's unapologetic way of creating life as he saw it, whether it was through managing a rock band (The Velvet Underground), as an artist, or a business man can be seen in many of the multi-venture moguls of today.

As it turned out this investment was the best buy of Warhol's life and went for an asking price of $50 million in 2001. Eothen was later sold through Prudential Douglas Elliman agency's Manhattan office bought by J.Crew CEO Millard Drexler, who was reported to have offered under $30 million, however still impressive an offer.


What is it about the mention of Andy Warhol that makes even the complete art novice stand up and take notice? What is it about Edie Sedgwick, this tragic and fragile figure that continues to inspire such interest? Perhaps it's a fascination with groundbreakers, people who paved the way for experiences we are able to have today that is so rarely scene in today's pop culture.

Some have claimed that Edie Sedgwick was the first girl to become famous for doing nothing. Nothing could be further from the truth. To some Sedgwick's achievements may have appeared to have little substance - a couple of fashion spreads and a slew of roles in underground movies. Yet to dismiss her in this way is to disregard the modern notion that she constructed her life as if it was a piece of performance art, which was something that was highly regarded by serious artists of the time.

Roy Liechtenstein regarded Warhol, and the Factory crew, as a work of living art. Robert Rauchenberg the American artist who met Sedgwick at an opening has said that he felt intimidated by her, "because she was like art." Many have regarded Warhol as the villain artist, who exposed everyone and everything. But it was his artistic achievements and keen ability to capitalize on everything America had to offer him that his critics always forget to mention before demonizing him.

I had the opportunity to see "Factory Girl" a bit early. I did not see a strong association with Hayden Christiansen's character in connection with Dylan. The producers insist that the supposed Bob Dylan character is a composite of Mick Jagger and Jim Morrison. Sienna Miller, who plays Sedgwick was apparently "mortified" over Dylan's reaction, "It blames Warhol more than anyone...(Sedgwick) needed help and no one helped her. It's not that Dylan drove her to a heroine addiction."

Dylan and his lawyers were adamant about stopping the release of the film. Factory Girl will now be released throughout the East coast. While the film was on hold so many people questioned why and hoped they would have the opportunity to see it eventually. It thrills me to know in a culture of Britney, Anna Nicole, and Paris that so many people have an interest in Warhol and Sedgwick, forty years later. It gives me hope that we may have two more icons emerge out of this day and age who will break away from the mainstream and inspire us all to be true originals.




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