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Karen’s Quirky Style: Musing with murals

BY KAREN REMPEL | This marks the third anniversary of Karen’s Quirky Style, celebrating my love affair with playing dress-up in New York! KQS would be nothing without you, dear readers, and I want to thank you for reading and commenting and just generally adding to the fun and mayhem these past three years! Kiss kiss kiss.

And thanks to The Village Sun for bringing me to this wonderful online community of New Yorkers who care about what’s going on in our city.

In honor of this milestone, I’d like to tell you about the creative process I went through with my photographer, Phil, to put this celebration of New York street art together.

Phil and I started working together in July 2020. We have a creative flow that’s given me so much inspiration. Often Phil finds a location and then I put together an outfit to go with it. But other times it’s the reverse — I tell him what I’m planning to wear, and then we brainstorm ideas for locations.

After I moved the column from WestView News to The Village Sun, our territory of possible locations expanded beyond the West Village to all of Manhattan from Chelsea to FiDi.

Phil suggested the location for this month’s shoot, at the First Street Green Park. He sent me a few photos of the murals a few weeks before the shoot. I checked out the location one day after work to decide which dress to wear. In the end I chose a blue dress by Chelle Friday.

I met the designer, Michelle Runden, after she put a notice for models on the bulletin board at Joffrey Ballet School. We hit it off, and I did a fashion show with her in Washington Square Park, and another at the Sky Room on W. 40th Street. She gave me this dress to thank me, and I absolutely love it — it’s so flattering with the ruching over the midriff.

After soaking in the murals, I headed to Edith Machinist on Rivington Street, buoyed by the great finds from last month’s shoot. I was looking for super-high, silver platform sandals, like Carrie wore in “And Just Like That.” Edie, the owner, said lots of people have been looking for those shoes! She couldn’t help me out, but sent me to a few wonderful stores on Broome Street, where I found these amazing “rocket bottle” stockings and the endearing owl necklace.

Failing to find the silver platforms, I made do with these lovely Jimmy Choos that I had in the closet, and threw on an old leopard jacket to finish the look. Easy-peasy, lemon squeezy.

On the day of the shoot, in character (a mix of ho, supermodel and B movie star), I flagged a taxi on Sixth Avenue and soon arrived at Second Avenue and Houston. Phil and my friend Amy— Phil’s lighting assistant and girlfriend — were standing along the path by the murals and I sauntered toward them.

“You wanna get lucky?”

“Ha! I think we already did,” Phil said. “One of the artists is working today.”

I took a shot of tequila. Phil took some shots by the blue bird mural that matched my dress, and the excitement of all this shooting grew in us.

We walked over to a wide, paving-stone area between two buildings, where a man was working on a ladder, spray-painting over a mural on a brick wall.

“Hi!”

We learned he was Jonathan Neville of Dripped On Productions and First Street Green (FSG). He welcomed us to his world and let us shoot with him. He even let me go up on the ladder and spray the wall!

Karen Rempel keeps a lookout in blue while Jonathan Neville tags in pink. (Photo by Philip Maier.)

Jon told us that this is actually an official park of the New York City Parks Department, and FSG manages the murals.

“There’s a small global community of muralists,” he said, “and people tell each other who to reach out to.”

Jon has arranged for many traveling artists to paint in the park, or else he tries to find another place for them to paint. Al Diaz — better known as SAMO© — just finished the park’s first residency.

“We’re a grassroots organization of volunteers who support the muralists for the love of New York and the creative scene,” Jon said. “We use the space for everything from jazz performances to fashion shows, to celebrate all art forms and to give public exposure to art and creativity in the city.”

Jon has been involved in the park for nine years.

“The park is turning 10 years old this spring,” he said, “and we are figuring out what special thing to do to celebrate this milestone.”

Stay tuned in this paper and all will be revealed.

This is what’s so wonderful and unexpected about showing up for this column — I get to discover hidden gems of New York, and then share them with you! Thanks for being with me for three amazing years!

To see more fun Philip Maier photos and the inaugural photos for this column, go to karensquirkystyle.nyc.

Style Notes

• Owl necklace with rhinestone eyes and beautiful cream and black enamel inlays. Ritual Vintage, 377 Broome St.
• Maria La Rosa Italian rocket bottle green and white ombré knee socks. Top Hat, 245 Broome St.
• Sky-blue minidress with gathered midriff and asymmetric shoulder ruffles. Chelle Friday (Manhattan designer now in Florida).
• Jimmy Choo silver platform sling-back sandals. Jimmy Choo sample sale, 123 W. 18th St.
• Via Spiga faux leopard jacket with wide collar and black leather detail on pockets. Variazioni, 195 Spring St.
• Makeup inspired by Mia Anjelica, @mianjelica, who was doing an homage to Julia Fox’s makeup at the Schiaparelli show in Paris. My take on it uses blue and green lipsticks and shadows by MAC, with plum eyeliner and black Sharpie.

4 Comments

  1. Mary Reinholz Mary Reinholz March 18, 2022

    The look is decidedly ho/drag queen chic and I’m guessing a working gal would have to advertise her wares repeatedly in Times Square to afford the dress, coat, accessories and sultry blue makeup. Wonder why prices aren’t included in the list of places where you can buy this retro stuff.

  2. Karen Rempel Karen Rempel March 20, 2022

    Hi Mary,

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I appreciate your wit and humor. Well said! I really enjoyed your musing on this subject!

    KQS is about mixing and matching from different sources, inspiring you to create your own quirky look from what’s on hand and perhaps one or two new pieces. I offer places to look for ideas, but not necessarily to replicate.

    None of the items in this outfit would be findable now as they are unique – the dress was a gift from the designer and she’s now out of business. The necklace is one of a kind as well. I bought the jacket and shoes a few years ago so you might find something like them on a second-hand or vintage website, but not at the stores. So there’s no point telling you the prices for any of these things, but I appreciate the question. And perhaps you will find some treasures for your own unique look at one of the places I mentioned.

    In terms of ho dollars, the entire outlay, though it occurred over time, was under $300. Hopefully a well-turned out working girl can make this in a few hours. 😉 But I imagine she would be even more ingenious than I at finding good deals on clothes!

    BTW, MAC Cosmetics has a fantastic recycling program called Back to MAC–return 6 used containers and receive a free eyeshadow or lipstick. I use MAC for my everyday basic makeup as well as special looks like the one here. I recently took my used powder compacts and lipsticks that had accumulated over the past two years of the pandemic to the MAC in Times Square. (Your comment was so apt!) The eyeshadows and lipstick were free to me for returning the used containers, which made it appealing to get these crazy colors!

    Have fun creating your next quirky look!

    Warmest wishes,
    Karen

  3. Pat Duffy Pat Duffy March 20, 2022

    Wow–I’m a native NY-er–but I always learn something new about my city from reading KQS! (Glad to know about FSG!) Also, loved discovering the roots of KQS and how it has evolved! You keep goin’ girl!

  4. Karen Rempel Karen Rempel March 20, 2022

    Thanks, Pat!! You really keep inspiring me to keep going! 🙂

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