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Karen’s Quirky Style: Northern lights at Pete’s Tavern

BY KAREN REMPEL | This month, I went with my crew to another iconic New York literary destination, which also claims to be NYC’s oldest original bar and restaurant, Pete’s Tavern. This combined many of my favorite things: New York history, literature, yummy cocktails and food, and gorgeous quirky fashion. Pete’s is located at 129 E. 18th St., at the corner of Irving Place, in Gramercy.

Established in 1864, Pete’s has a “Friends of Libraries USA” plaque out front, in recognition of the nurturing atmosphere the tavern provided to O. Henry when he wrote his short story study in irony, “The Gift of the Magi.” The plaque also divulges that Ludwig Bemelmans wrote his enchanting children’s book “Madeline” in this locale. Inspiring luminaries indeed!

But more importantly to ordinary mortals, the cocktails are divine (I recommend Pedro’s Paloma), and the food portions generous, delicious, satisfying and modestly priced. I had to take part of my beet salad home and I’ve never been served so many grilled shrimp as an add-on by any other restaurant. It was the perfect day for outdoor dining (at one of New York’s oldest outdoor cafes at 70-plus years), and our server was charming and attentive.

Enjoying the cocktails at New York’s oldest outdoor patio. (Photo by Philip Maier)

Indoors, they have the splendid, original rosewood bar, well stocked with a tremendous variety of Scotch, as well as a spacious dining room and a private party room with bar upstairs. For beer drinkers, you must try their 1864 house ale.

Switching to the fashion, this outfit is my new favorite quirky combo, featuring three elements that harmonize like the Eagles, although purchased separately in time. I’ve paid homage to the fantastical Sophie Webster shoes in a previous column. I bought the crazy spotted shirt in January on a rare Bleecker Street shopping trip with a friend. It was a fun day, as you can see! No, I didn’t get the pants.

And to complete the trio, I adore this swirly Northern-lights-hued dress by 28-year-old Brooklyn designer Tyler McGillivary. I first learned about Tyler when a friend’s hip fashionista daughter was spotted at the Whitney Museum wearing McGillivary’s beloved butterfly dress, featuring a kaleidoscope of winged creatures laser-cut and sewn into layers of mesh fabric. I love the nature motifs in Tyler’s line — with flowers, insects and plants in hyper-realistic detail— and the gorgeous flow of her clothes. I admired her all the more when I learned she is one of the few designers to offer a versatile range of silhouettes, and she sources and produces her textiles and clothing ethically, both locally in NYC and also in India and Hong Kong.

But the real surprise is how I feel when I step out wearing this dress. The silky sheath caressing my body makes me feel so feminine and sexy. No other dress has ever made me feel like this. All eyes are on me, and while I enjoy the rush of channeling Marilyn Monroe, I also want to jump in a cab as quickly as possible to escape the gaze of every passing male!

Style Notes:

Psychedelic Cosmos swirly maxi slip dress with crisscross spaghetti straps and cowl bustline. Tyler McGillivary.
Hypnotic-spots retro Arthur shirt in crinkly coral and turquoise box pleats with satin collar and placket. Isalis, 353 Bleecker St.
Sophia Webster pop-art shoes in mint green and Day-Glo orange with turquoise colored ribbon. The Bay, Vancouver. Ribbon from Michael’s on 6th Avenue.
Butterfly cheek tattoo by Karen Rempel.

Rempel is a New-York based writer and artist. For her past columns and more Philip Maier photos, see


  1. Pat Duffy Pat Duffy October 20, 2023

    I love O.Henry’s. Always take out-of-town friends there ann try to get the booth where O.Henry is said to have penned “Gift of the Magi”.
    And love the dress pleine de couleurs!
    Bonjour de Quebec!
    A bientot, j’espere…

  2. Anila Anila October 15, 2023

    Fascinating as alwyas! Love the colors of our outfit. I gotta check out Pete’s Tavern. Xx, Anila

  3. Jeff Jeff October 15, 2023

    Wowsa! I love the Tyler wearable art! It looks tailor made for you.

  4. Eileen Eileen October 15, 2023

    LOVE YOUR OUTFIT. I haven’t been to Pete’s in many years but it’s certainly an oldie but a goodie place. I remember I used to see the actor who played Superman… George Reeves.

    He and his wife used to go there a lot. I knew someone who’s father was the manager for many, many years, many moons ago. He has long since passed but it was a popular hangout place back in the days. Glad to hear they are still hanging in there.

  5. Louise Louise October 15, 2023

    The whole outfit is truly amazing Karen. I love it. The dress is exquisite.

  6. Alex Alex October 15, 2023

    Omg – this outfit came together so perfectly! Fab!!

    And you look fab! Nice notes, too.

  7. Michael Michael October 15, 2023

    Thanks for sharing yet another part of your city. Enjoyed reading it and seeing the photos. The cab was a good idea. 🙂

    Scotch is one of my favorites to relax with – especially the 10-yr olds and older ones. So, this reference caught my attention with Pete’s Tavern.

  8. Gina Gina October 15, 2023

    Thank you. Your column abut your adventurous life makes me feel young again too. I am always surprised at the beautiful outfits you’ll find in stores!!

  9. George George October 15, 2023

    LOVE your writing! “…my new favorite quirky combo, featuring three elements that harmonize like the Eagles…”

    That totally got to me!

  10. Janet Janet October 15, 2023

    Thanks for showing us how it can be done – such fun style and your eyes really do shine with happiness.

  11. Ash Ash October 15, 2023

    Looking good!

  12. Bruce Bruce October 12, 2023

    A lovely, sultry summer ensemble to bathe our eyes during our dreary autumn rains. Those shoes are rad!!

  13. Mary Reinholz Mary Reinholz October 11, 2023

    Pretty dress and spectacular pop-art shoes complete the vivid colors of an autumn outdoors at Pete’s patio.

    • Baam knight Baam knight November 3, 2023

      Beyond love for the work she has put out over the years and the pop-ups are a must-go.

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