Friday, June 8, 2012

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As I worked on the Slate article about Eva Rosencrans and Bee Zelin, it occurred to me that it might have been intimidating to for a woman to be related to Eva or Bee. After all, they were both big shots in the fashion industry -- were they always looking at people's wardrobes with a critical eye? Did they judge how people around them dressed, even (or especially) their relatives?

Margie Rosencrans -- Eva's daughter-in-law -- ended up with many of Eva's showroom sample dresses. She told me that Eva didn't necessarily critique her sense of style but that she had very specific ideas that didn't leave much room for argument:

She'd invite me up to the showroom three or four times a year and I'd get all the samples. She'd say, "Now Margie, you need this dress if you go to a formal event, and this one if you go to a cocktail party, and this one if you go to a PTA meeting, and this is if you're meeting someone for lunch." And the truth is, I didn't always like the dress. But I couldn't say no. It was a little awkward. So I ended up taking whatever she told me to take, and then if there was one I didn't like, I never wore it.

As for Bee, her daughter-in-law, Barbara Zelin, attended the Fashion Institute of Technology, where Bee worked, so Bee respected her training and her sense of aesthetics. Later in her life, Bee even allowed Barbara -- who went on to become an interior designer -- to remodel her house. "And that went fine," said Barbara. "She trusted me."

But Barbara's daughter, Stephanie Wilson -- Bee's granddaughter -- said things could occasionally get a bit tense. "She was the kind of woman who'd dress up to go get her mail," she said of Bee. "And I was a tomboy. I'm sure that did not thrill her. Hungarians are often stubborn, and we both were."

More follow-ups on Eva and Bee are in store soon....

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