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Fiercely intelligent and unanimously cool, siblings Mirabelle and Melia Marden have been fixtures on the downtown New York bohemian scene since before they can remember (their parents – abstract painter Brice Marden and artist Helen Harrington – raised them in the West Village). Unsurprisingly, as adults Melia and Mirabelle have contributed to the cultural fabric of the milieu from which they came.
Soon after graduating from Goldsmiths, Mirabelle opened the acclaimed Rivington Arms gallery, which fostered the early careers of artists such as Dash Snow and Hanna Liden, and though the gallery closed in early 2009, Mirabelle continues to curate exhibitions as well as work on her own photography. Younger sister Melia, graduate of Harvard and the French Culinary Institute, is the chef at the helm of über-hip restaurant The Smile and recently launched The Smile To-Go in SoHo. Interestingly, both girls have book projects on the horizon: Melia is working on her first cookbook; Mirabelle is collaborating with her father on a book based on his early journals and his musings on his philosophy and passion for painting.
Avenue 32 talked to the Marden sisters about the “outfits” and “uniforms” that have influenced them, the clothes they wish they could forget ever wearing and the ones that they can’t let go of.
You two grew up in a very artistic household. What role, if any, did fashion play in your youth?
Mirabelle: We loved dressing up. I think it’s a really funny balance between our parents, because our dad has worn the same thing his whole life – it’s like a uniform of black Levi’s and a black shirt and little cap, a French painter’s jacket and cowboy boots – but now that he’s older he can’t really wear cowboy boots anymore. And mom was crazier. She’d wear see-through shirts, which was really embarrassing at the time, but now I think it’s really cool.
Melia: She had a leather jacket, with a bright blue feathered hood that she wore when I was looking at high schools.
Mirabelle: No, when I was looking at high schools.
Melia: I always steal her [Mirabelle’s] memories.
Mirabelle: It was so embarrassing! You know when you’re 13, and it was uptown, and she was shedding blue chicken feathers and talking to high-school students and hot guys. I was like: “Oh my god, you’re so embarrassing.”
Melia: Well, we were always encouraged to be experimental.
Mirabelle: I remember fashion being crazy in high school, because for us to go uptown was so different. The way girls dressed uptown was so different to what we were used to, which was whatever you wanted to wear. Uptown girls were wearing “outfits”.
Mirabelle: At Dalton, in my freshman year everyone wore little black mini skirts and Agnès B. Lolita bags – which actually now sounds really cool, I think, but then…
Melia: I… We were not wearing that. We were more around people who dressed crazy.
Mirabelle: We dyed our hair. I dyed my hair with Kool-Aid, because it takes dye really easily, so it was pink for a really long time, bright red for my prom.
Melia: Our mom’s into Indian jewellery…
Mirabelle: I used to wear this Afghani cuff that she bought when she was there in the Seventies.
Melia: She has all these great things, these rings from Java…
And she was good with you two borrowing them?
Both: Ummmmmmm… No! [They laugh]
Melia: But she’s given us some of it now, right?
Mirabelle: No. This is the one thing I have… [Mirabelle motions to a ring]
So, borrowing vs stealing?
Both: I don’t think we ever stole anything…
Mirabelle: I borrowed something for your wedding, and that was actually really difficult to get from her, these gold snake bracelets from India.
What was your wedding dress like?
Melia: I wore a gold sequined dress. It was Zac Posen. We went to grade school with him. It was Thirties-style, capelet, with variations of gold sequins.
Mirabelle: Hollywood, 1930s…
Melia: I hate the term “Old Hollywood”.
Mirabelle: I didn’t say “Old Hollywood!”
Melia: I hate it when people say movie stars look really “Old Hollywood” when they don’t. They just look really cheesy.
Mirabelle: But Melia does. That’s the difference in our style. You look more…
Melia: Don’t say it. Don’t say I look more “Old Hollywood”. [Mirabelle laughs]
Mirabelle: I think Melia is more Hedy Lamarr.
If Melia’s more Hedy Lamar, Mirabelle what would you be?
Melia: No, Mirabelle has a much better sense of fashion, much more unique.
Mirabelle: No! You wear more vintage pieces. You wear amazing capes and things.
Melia: You have more genuine style.
Mirabelle: That’s not true at all. I disagree. I just think we are an interesting mix of our parents’ styles, sort of eccentric.
Melia: I don’t always wear sweatpants and sweatshirts. Well, now I do.
Mirabelle: Well, of course you do at work. You’re not dressing up to cook.
What do you wear in the kitchen that makes you feel more like yourself?
Melia: I have my Swatch watches. I match them to my headband. I only like them in simple colours. I started wearing workout pants and I feel much freer.
Mirabelle: You’re on your feet all day…
Any “fashion victim” moments which stand out?
Mirabelle: I wear really embarrassing things all the time. I remember when we first opened the gallery, and I wasn’t very comfortable being photographed, and I’d wear really weird things that looked horrible – like orange tights and cowboy boots and tie-dye all in the same photo. Kind of regretting that now, but I kind of still like that.
Melia: You used to always wear a really pretty dress with a giant jacket over it that you wouldn’t take off. We used to go somewhere and I’d say, “Take off your jacket.” And you wouldn’t.
Mirabelle: That’s just about being insecure. I never felt like taking my jacket off and I got yelled at all the time.
Melia: I know, it feels more secure, but you do look crazier.
Mirabelle: Whatever. Now I just wear hats.
Melia: That’s your fashion moment; but I don’t know what mine is.
Mirabelle: Oh, I know, those weird plaid pants you used to wear all the time?
Melia: Polyester, vintage bell bottoms with a stretchy waist.
Mirabelle: They were a joke; they were so ugly. [Mirabelle laughs]
Melia: People would always tell me they were really cool, but really uncool people.
Mirabelle: But that was the Nineties man.
Melia: That was the Nineties! And we were grungy and it was super-cool – and they were also really flattering.
Do you share clothing?
Melia: We used to when we lived together.
When was the last time you lived together?
Melia: In London, 10 years ago. After I graduated high school, I took a year off and we lived together.
Mirabelle: I was going to Goldsmiths. When we lived together, it was a little insane. We started dressing alike and talking alike, and we both dyed our hair dark. People thought we were twins.
Melia: We had the same Daryl K jacket. We both wore New Balance sneakers and black tights, and we were American and had dark hair.
Mirabelle: We have similar mannerisms and our cheekbones are the same, but Melia has that great pallor and curly big hair. Actually, now that I’ve cut my hair, I’ve been called “sir” a lot. People think I am a guy. Do I look like a guy?
Melia: I don’t think you look like a guy at all. I found a picture of you in Greece from the Nineties and you look like River Phoenix.
Mirabelle: That’s awesome!
Melia: It’s you and Mom. You look totally like River Phoenix in an early Nineties way and mom is wearing a hat that says “Protect me from what I want”.
Mirabelle: Barbara Kruger hat. It was so awesome. I want to see that photo.
Have you ever borrowed something from the other and demolished it? Would you even care if that happened?
Mirabelle: No, but I still remember my striped pyjama shirt that Melia ripped off me.
Melia: We got in a fight and she was wearing this vintage silk men’s pyjama shirt.
Mirabelle: This was my “outfit”.
Melia: It was really nice… And it shred in my hands. We’re going to Acme for dinner tonight.
Mirabelle: I’m going to come over to yours to take a shower.
Maybe you can borrow some clothes?
Mirabelle: I thought about that.
Melia: We don’t really do that anymore. Maybe to the outside eye it doesn’t look it, but…
Mirabelle: Our styles are extremely different.
Melia: I think I am going to wear this bright purple/blue dress that I got at the antiques fair. I feel like I don’t forage the way I used to. When I was younger I would look for great vintage finds, but now I am just into Thirties evening gowns. I keep buying these Thirties evening gowns and I don’t know where I am going to wear them. I end up having to just wear them to dinner, for no reason; but I just love the way they feel. I can’t buy another black sequined Thirties evening gown.
Mirabelle: [Mimicking Melia] “I’m like, I can’t buy another evening gown!”
~ Tarajia Morrell
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|Master Size (IT)||36||36.5||37||37.5||38||38.5||39||39.5||40||40.5||41|
|ITALY / EU||IT/EU||36||36.5||37||37.5||38||38.5||39||39.5||40||40.5||41|
|UK||6 5⁄8||6 3⁄4||6 7⁄8||7||7 1⁄8||7 1⁄4||7 3⁄8||7 1⁄2||7 5⁄8||7 3⁄4||7 7⁄8|
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