Two Penny-Pinchers Talk Fashion

October 28, 1969

by Eugenia Sheppard

Streisand in white outfit

Barbra Streisand, one of the world's top entertainers, and Charlotte Ford Niarchos, one of the world's most famous socialites, have quite a lot in common.

For one thing, they are both penny-pinchers, they admitted when they lunched together in Carles Evans's new Park Avenue apartment. For another, the two of them are involved in the plum of this winter's movie premieres, Hello, Dolly! which will open Dec. 16 as a benefit for PAL. Barbra is star and Charlotte is co-chairman along with Charles Evans.

About her penny-pinching habits, Barbra says, “I collect everything, and I can't bear to give any of it away. Once she bundled up several hundred pairs of old shoes, one of her real collecting manias, and sent them off to a thrift shop. Two days later she found she needed a pair of pumps with spiky heels to complete a costume. Hastily she called the shop and asked to buy them all back, but they were gone forever.

It was the same when she parted with a piece of mauve panne velvet that she found originally in an antique shop. The minute it was gone, she knew it was what she wanted to make a picture frame for her son's photograph.

The reason: Barbra has taken up collecting art. She already owns a Matisse. She likes abstract art but doesn't find it worth the money. “I could do it myself,” she says, waving at the new Vasarely in her host's dining room. Actually, she has already started painting one for her own dressing room.

Barbra in white outfitFor the luncheon Barbra was wearing a little white fur coat and roller hat (Mr. Fred) over white slacks. Though she looks slim, she's on a protein diet and was on her way to a tennis club where she has just started lessons. It was her last day of freedom before Owl and the Pussycat shooting began. “I play a girl with absolutely no taste,” she says. “Not bad taste, but just no taste at all. I can wear anything. It's rather fun, since all my other costumes have had to be so perfect for the parts.”

No woman has ever loved clothes or cherished the routine of fashion more than Barbra Streisand, who redesigns everything she buys and puts down on paper exactly what she wants when she custom orders.

“Making the best dressed list means more to me than winning an Oscar,” she says.

Much as she loves clothes, though, she hates shopping. She does it all at night in her Bentley that she sometimes drives herself. “I look in all the windows and then I call back next day and order,” she says. “The other day I called Bendel's and ordered everything in the left window. It was a Paisley wool dress. There wasn't enough extra fabric for a hat, but I managed to get it out of the hem and inside the sleeves.”

The committe of Hello, Dolly! for the PAL benefit is hardly formed yet, but Charlotte and Barbra are already discussing what they'll wear to the theater and the small supper dance at the Pierre later.

“I never know till the last minute,” Charlotte says.

Both are anti-expensive clothes. “I don't mind paying custom order prices for things I use in my business,” says Barbra, most of whose public appearance costumes and Nefertiti hats are made by Scaasi. For private life, the boutiques amuse her. “Didi Ryan took me to Belsey, Bunky and Nini and I found a dress that fitted perfectly.”

For the big opening, though, she may wear one of Cecil Beaton's costumes that didn't make the film of On A Clear Day. It's a long green cape and Barbra managed to get enough fabric to design her own dress.


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