Live Video Recorded: May 13th, 2021
Rachel Elspeth Gross
All right, everyone, we are going to give this another go. Here at Little Red Fashion, where we are somewhat at the whims of the Instagram overlords. Sometimes technology is not our best friend. Hello, my love. Okay, we've got we've got Rachel. They've both got up. There we go. Yes, magic.
Allie Bullock 0:34
I think it's my computer cuz, I'm now I'm on my phone. Yeah, I don't know what's going on.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 0:42
So how are you today?
Allie Bullock 0:44
Alright! How are you guys?
Rachel Elspeth Gross 0:46
Doing well, very glad to have you here with us.
Yes, thank you so much for joining us.
Allie Bullock 0:50
Well, thank you, Jonathan. For like thinking of me at all.
Oh, no, for sure. I mean, you know, Vera's work is so important, and yet so often overlooked or under, under understood. And the work you've done, and the writing you've done on her is just, it's vital. And I think, you know, part of what Rachel and I are trying to do with #ICanDoThat is really shine a light on those lesser known stories from the world of fashion or those lesser known roles. When it comes to designers, it's definitely we definitely love hearing those often unheard stories. And when it comes to other interviewees, we've had, it's people who are working often behind the scenes and don't often have their stories told her their perspectives heard. And so for us, it's all i'm not just showing the sheer brevity and depth of careers in fashion one might have and the different perspectives that can lead on to a career in fashion. And so we're definitely super glad to have you and I was so tickled to death, by the amazing little brief that you put together. For today, it was so great. definitely gonna be using that as an exemplar to our future guests as an ideal looks like because I think you were able to really draw a lot from what you've put together on Vera and really relate it directly to our mission, which is to empower the next generation of fashion leaders and creatives and lovers, because it's just so important to show them that the things that they want to do whatever they might be, are possible and they can start one step at a time.
Allie Bullock 2:25
Yes. Like Veera was the next generation before she was the generation. Think about it. And she kind of fell into it, she wanted to be a ballerina, you know, and then
Rachel Elspeth Gross 2:40
Allie Bullock 2:42
You know, and then she was modeling, and then that was seasonal. They started putting her in, like shops, the dress windows, and then the clothes, start speaking to her, you know, and it was like a library for all the fabrics and stuff. And then she was kind of someone was leaving to get married the sketcher and said to her, Hey, you know what, if you model and sketch, you'll have a year round job here. It's like, I don't think I can draw. She didn't she used to tell me, you know that her first sketches it was probably perfect in my opinion. But, you know, but anyway, then she found a love. You know, of that. And she used her ballerina days, because she liked to move in her clothes. So then she made her clothes so people could move, which is the opposite of corsets.
Thats true. That's true. Yeah.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 3:34
So how did how did this book project get started? Like? I mean, I know from you know, our conversations a lot about, you know how this happened? But could you share that with our audience talk about how you even start such a big project?
Allie Bullock 3:47
Well, you know, I think it starts with conversation. And just with me being I was kind of in the background, you know, and I was kind of along for the ride with Vera. You know, when I was a little girl, and I was just real interested in what she was doing always. You know, but she was never really talking to me about that, you know, so when I got older, and I had a family and I go visit her in New York, I said, Hey, nobody's written about you, you've done a lot of really incredible things I want to write about you. I'm starting to be, you know, writer. She goes no you're a mom, you need to raise your kids in this, you know, you really need to concentrate on them. And someone else will write my story. She said, but you know what, when you're less kids out of the house, go ahead and write it. You know, and so it was bizarre because her daughter in law sent me this box. She didn't even know that my son was getting married. And that was the last kid to get out of the house. All her stuff. She said, I know you were real close to Vera, and she would want you to have this stuff. And so she gave me this box. But I told her well, this is serendipity of being called to write this book, and that was in 2006. So I was just like, in all sorts of workshops. I had just got my degree, actually journalism. And so I was really into that, like, I loved journalism, you know, talking to people. And so that was my life, you know, and I was doing all that. And then my daughter, Nikki, like, I gave her the two binders, because in the box were various memoirs, you know.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 5:19
Allie Bullock 5:20
Yeah and she had written all this stuff out, you know, and everything so, so she, my daughter just typed it into a computer for me. Cause I didn't have time, then I could word search. And then I thought, Man, this a lot. So then I matched it to newspapers, I matched it to different things, you know, because when you're a journalist, you have to get all the facts straight. And started to be where, hey, that's not that. That's that That can't be true. You weren't born in 1903. You were born in 1901, there are things here that aren't on the up and up. So then I started just, you know, talking to her, like, she was closest to her nieces, nephews and stuff. So I talked to them. And they said, No, she's 100%. German, you know, but people didn't want to be German back then. Because of the wars, you know, and her dad was put in a internment camp and stuff. So I think there was some negativity attached to being German or something. So, you know, they had Danny's Vera in the papers. And I thought, huh, I don't I didn't know that, you know, I didn't know she was raised there. And then I looked it up no she wasnt raised there she visited there once. So it was just a lot of actions. And then me, I really suck at character, writing characters. I just didn't think I'm writing it, you know, me. So But no, the readers are not going to know me, you know. And so I never described them. So my, my English professor just said, You know, I don't care about your character, you need to make them care. So, so I, the only thing I knew how to flesh out was in movie scripts, because I live in California and we all want to be movie writers, you know, screenwriter. So I had taken a lot of script writing classes. So I went ahead and I started putting it in that and the only thing I was really good at back then was poetry and writing, you know, screenplays, so I had never really written a book. You know? So I put Vera into a screenplay. And I just pulled out a portion of her life that I thought would be interesting for the audience. And she started coming alive. And then it was like, she wrote a book about her. So then I went on this. As a writer, you want everything to be in there, you know, so you save. So, you know, a lot of people wanted her story when she was alive, because she knew Princess Grace and you know a lot of movie stars, and different people would hang out at her house and stuff. And I never even knew all that stuff. I knew about Princess Grace, but I didn't know about Cary Grant, Gregory Peck and dig in all those people. She never, you know, and I'm like, seriously, like you, you knew them. And you didn't tell anyone, you know? And it's like, because she was very, just really down home, you know, kind of person humble with me, you know. So when I heard all this, she was telling me when the last time we talked about her book. She said, Yeah, they want that story. So and she says, I don't want to tell that story. That's their story, not my story. You know, so then I realized, you know, nobody's written her story. You know? So that's when I picked it up. And I thought no, wait a minute, Who is this woman who hung out with these people? Why did they want to hang out with her, you know, and so that's kind of where I went with it, you know, so I started writing it and just fact checking and doing all this stuff. And and then I just started finding out who was this woman. So then I thought, Wait a minute, she and my dad were kind of raised together. They were very close knit because their mothers were sisters. And so they loved their their oma, their grandma. She was like their figure. That's all they talked about those two, like, she even taught them how to make this tea, or that might have been on my dad's side, because he was British, but they would take, I don't know, an hour to make a cup of tea. They'd be put, like, steaming water in the cups, everybody's cup, and then they swirl it three times. And they're doing all the stuff. So they they're very old country. You know, my dad was born over there, you know. So anyway, they were very European, you know, so I'll swirl at once, just in all I'm gonna do you know. So anyway, I started thinking, hey, I need to go all the way into her childhood, like, into oma. So then I started getting into all that and my other daughter crystal is like, reading my different chapters. And she said, Where's Vera? I thought this book was about Vera, it's about oma and I'm like, Oh, she goes, why don't you add an appendix for all the interesting stuff, you're finding.
So we can put Vera back on the page. So that's kind of the book was a process, you know, and it was, takes a village, you know, people, you know, have another cousin who's a professor and she did an early edit on You know, and kind of steered it in a better direction. Like when Veera and her mom and sister went to Germany to visit their relatives. They went on a boat. And so that cousin, she said, Hey, I want to know were they in first class, second class? What the boat looked like. Where's the harbor? What does it look like? What was going on back then? So then I had to rewrite that whole thing. So it's constantly writing this rewriting.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 10:24
It is and one of the things I really love about your piece is it's both her story, but it's also you can tell there's memories. It's personal. It's connected to your life, your identity, your family, your history. And it's so interesting to see all those guideposts in American history of American culture in the way they connect to the stories of fashion. There's so much that's like links there's no way to separate what we are and who we are between what we've worn and why we wore it.
Allie Bullock 10:53
Yeah, no, I mean, fashion is amazing. I think, you know, your your clothes tell a story. Yeah, just like in like that movie. The Devil Wears Prada, where she the blue color or something so and happy with Oh, yes. She goes, you don't know where this blue came from? She goes in this whole blue thing, you know?
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It not Lapis. It's cerulean.
Allie Bullock 11:23
The cerulean discourse on the Devil Wears Prada is a classic. And what I think is so important about that kind of writing is that your book serves as a really great example of what I call the lensing effect of fashion. And that fashion is truly a lens through which we can view almost any facet of life whether that be ecologically socio politically, culturally, personally, in terms of our family history, developmentally, in terms of our sense of identity, and I think it cuts a lot to the core of what our mission is here a little bit fashion, which is to teach the next generation about fashion through as many of those different lenses as possible because fashion is so infinitely relatable by that very reason by the by that it's very nature. You know, were you all were you when you were younger, you know, did your aunt get you into fashion? Were you have fashion a fan when you were younger?
Allie Bullock 12:20
I was a fashion guru because I would like a skirt with purple socks. And, and high tops to elementary school, on my walk. She used to give me stuff off the rack, but it was always very big for me. So the one dress she gave me I think I sent you a picture of it. I was nine months pregnant. And I wore that dress where ever. I loved it. You know, she would send me stuff. I'd go with her, she'd take me school shopping for clothes sometimes, you know. And she made me a coat, one year it was after my mom left, I was around 12 I guess it was cold in the winter. And so it was camel. And it was like a was a camel cloth. And it was sort of this beautiful color like a rose. I wish I still had it. It had like that went over and button to hit all these little things. So here my dad and I were living on the edge near the Bronx. You know, in this flat, we have no money and I've got this designer coat I'm wearing to school. It was wild.
Yeah, well, especially those old school I mean, that like vintage aesthetic with the asymmetrical button closure.
Allie Bullock 13:29
Yeah, beautiful. It had silk pockets. Oh, you know, I just she always made me feel safe, you know, be at school or be somewhere like put my hand into the silk pocket. And it would be like she's in the room with me. You know?
Rachel Elspeth Gross 13:43
Yeah, that's wonderful. It's such a beautiful thing. I mean, there's so many places where I don't know, we're all connected to who we are and why we want to do the work we want to do because of details. So if you were going to talk to a kid, if you were going to say to a kid with an idea for a writing project, how would you advise them to get started on it?
Allie Bullock 14:05
Probably have it start with a poem. You know, like, poem, is a, poetry is like compressed emotion. It's sometimes that's a good way to tell a little story. Like you might want to tell a story about your pet cat or your dog or something. Just write a little funny rhyme. And then you're like, Oh, I want to give that cat stripes. Now let's, let's expand it. Let's put it you know, in a bigger.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 14:31
Yeah, flesh it out, get all the details.
Allie Bullock 14:32
So kind of show you I have this. My next book is on the Italians and the Greeks, my mother. So what I do is I take it, and I make it storyboard. (rummaging sounds as Allie looks through material.)
Rachel Elspeth Gross 14:46
Oh yeah. Block it all out.
Allie Bullock 14:53
Yeah. I did it in chronological order, and then I put all the important parts on the side. And then I fill it in, fill in the blank, then I go, then I go look for that stuff. You know, I suppose, you know, and you find more stuff. And then you're like cross output certain things that you might not want to include or you know whatever.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 15:14
Yeah, Keep yourself in line, make sure that you're getting the price you want to hit and make sure to cover everything.
Allie Bullock 15:20
I mean, this can add this can you can go on a rabbit trail, but I was I was taught in fiction, fiction workshop, that your story usually people would write these eight page stories that we used to go over short stories that he is so we say, well, everybody's story really always starts on like page two or three. These are the stories. So, you know, but my, my grandkids they write, like, here's, this was a little poem, one of my grandkids wrote, you know, he wrote a poem. And this other kid, he did, like, you know, kind of a storyboard.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 15:59
Yeah, no, it's great. Yeah.
Allie Bullock 16:00
And then my little grandson, we're actually making a card game. And he had we had to look up shoes. It's all about called the dancing shoes or something like I don't remember.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 16:13
No, but it's great. I mean, there's so many ways for a kid to be involved. And there's so many ways to inspire children, and being open and receptive. And, you know, giving them credit for their work. That's such an important thing.
Allie Bullock 16:25
It's so important. Yeah, like I was telling you about my grandson, Micah. He's in a fashion design class right now in high school, I was really excited about him being in that class.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 16:34
How cool to have a school that does that.
Allie Bullock 16:36
Yeah, real cool.
It's a cool Academy, but he, you know, they think they were assigned to do a shirt to design a shirt. And he, he's into spray painting stuff, he does really cool stuff. You know (shows example of grandsons work), he does really cool stuff. So he's out there, I happen to be down there that day. And I hear him spray painting and I go in, and it's like, you're supposed to be upstairs designing a shirt. He goes, I am grandma. And he's like this, he's spray painting a shirt. And it was wonderful. It was designed well, it was just really cool to see only had like, a few minutes to do anything. You know, it was all his idea. You know,
Yeah, you never know where it starts. And especially with fashion, it's like, it could start with the random list of things that will give you that inspiration. And I say that with kids it's about and this is where I'm coming from with everything we're doing, at least with Little Red Fashion is it's about giving kids license, to say you have the world in front of you, too and now more than ever more resources than you can imagine to go down whatever rabbit hole is your fancy. You know, and so for us, it's about just providing that initial seed of like, here's what's out there. If you are interested in fashion, and here's the different ways you may even not know had existed before, because I think that's the other thing. You know, a lot of people don't understand. Or a lot of kids aren't showing how the sausage is made. And if you don't know the sausage is made, you don't know which part in that process. You may want to be a part of one day.
Allie Bullock 18:10
Yeah, that's true. Yeah. Well, my other grandson made this little it's a bracelet.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 18:12
Yeah. And that's, we've been talking so much about handicrafts and doing work and how important it is to make. But making things making, it's important.
Making is very important. I mean, making is essential to creative play. I think creative play is the starting and end point for a lot of really important formative processes. If you look at the origins of kindergarten, how that you know, and how that influenced the Bauhaus or Le Courbusier, or any of these books. And I think for kids who love fashion, it's just been so interesting to watch the reaction to what we're doing, because so many people are like, oh, where has something been? That gives kids just this information in a way that meets them where they're at?
Allie Bullock 18:59
Yeah, it's it's important to give them all the media they need to you know, like, when I was a little girl, I guess I like to draw and stuff and they had me evaluated, but we didn't have any money for supplies or anything. So I was when I had kids, I'm like, they're getting supplies, you know, my dad was still alive then and he used to send my daughter Nikki, she, she's a painter. And he used to make sure she had anything she needed, like watercolors, anything, you know, all the different media's so she could experiment when she was little and now her daughter, my little granddaughter, Penelope, she's three and I mean, she's got, they've got an art room and she's always in there drawing since she was a baby.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 19:41
So Allie, before we wrap up for the for today, um, I know you've brought together all of these Vera isms, all of these ideas have been applied to more than just fashion apply to more than just you know, could you tell us what your favorite Vera ism is before we before we wrap up?
Allie Bullock 19:58
Say that one more time.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 19:59
Your favorite Vera ism your favorite like.
Allie Bullock 20:01
Oh my favorite Vera ism. I really, really liked her, what she said about fashion, about how the fashion educated her, like the fabric, you know, it was like a library and encyclopedia of information right at your fingertips when she kind of got a job. I think she was doing store merchandising or something. And, and because she's a model, you know, that kind of stuff. And then the clothes, she thought this is really interesting. Every single piece has a story and color involved and it's, you know, really teaching me about fabric like, where to wear it, how to wear it, you know, that that? That was one of my favorites.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 20:48
I love that. I think that applies in so many, so many different ways.
Well, definitely, I'm definitely biased. I mean, one of the lines from the little red dresses, every dress has a story and this one is and that's the opening. So that definitely resonates.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 21:03
Definitely, I'm gonna put the link to the Barnes and Noble site that you had sent me. So if anyone wants to, you know, have a chance to get this book. It'll be up on our linktree later today. And Allie thank you so much we really, really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us about how to help kids. Right, how to help kids Connect how to help kids have agency and available resources. It's a really important thing and it means so much to us.
Allie Bullock 21:27
Yeah, I'm excited for kids these days, you know, to see what they're gonna do.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 21:31
There's so many opportunities. Yeah,
Thank you so much, Allie, really appreciate it. And thank you to our fabulous audience for joining us for another installment of #ICanDoThat here at Little Red Fashion part of our Little Red Village initiative because it does take a village to raise the next generation of fashion leaders, lovers and creatives. I'm Jonathan Joseph, joined by Allie Bullock and my fabulous co host Rachel Elspeth Gross our head fashion historian here at Little Red fashion. We will see you next week. Bye everyone.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 21:59
Bye everybody. Thank you.
Allie Bullock 22:01