A conversation with retailers Butch Blum and Kay Smith-Blum.
You’re celebrating 35 years at Butch Blum, your downtown department store. What was your favorite thing about the prevailing look in 1974, when you opened, and what’s the best thing about how we dress now? (Butch) Seventy-four was all about fit. Names like Cardin and Saint Laurent ruled, and everything was quite tailored. The look was somewhere between Carnaby Street and Rue de Rivoli: three-piece suits, low-rise flared trousers, and platform shoes. At that time I wore the trends. My personal style evolved over the next decade. These days, for me, it’s all about comfort.
Comfort to some means sweatpants and a hoodie but, Butch, you’re in an Attolini suit from Italy. When a garment is sewn by hand to your measurements, it moves with you, not against you. The Italians refer to it as a second skin.
What does fall ’09 have in common with your memories of the early ’70s? (Kay) The best part of that era was having fun with fashion, and losing the conservative bent to professional dressing. But the biggest similarity is the emphasis on knitwear—which is my favorite way to dress, head to toe.
A man should never tweak a woman’s style when she already has a complete understanding of what works for her and what doesn’t.
Are there any style rules concerning silhouette or skirt length for women over 40? (Kay) The only rule is to only wear what truly flatters your body, and never wear a skirt length that cuts your calf. Either show your pins or wear a pant, but don’t interrupt the flow of a great-looking leg!
Kay, you helped raise three sons and build a popular brand, and now you’re running for school board. What key pieces make your wardrobe work? A slim black pant, a black cashmere pull-on knit skirt in a year-round weight, an earth-tone cardigan—this one is Cividini; I have been collecting them since the ’80s—a great necklace, and a chic flat. I ruined my feet with Andrea Pfisters in the ’70s. Learn from my mistake.
Butch, do you ever wish you could alter Kay’s look? A man should never tweak a woman’s style when she already has a complete understanding of what works for her and what doesn’t. I would have Kay wear more dresses, though. She looks great in them! My favorite all-time piece is a Giorgio Armani evening gown circa 1985. I believe it is silk chiffon…incredibly elegant and timeless.