Accessories wanted, dead or alive

If you can't acquire a curator, go for the out-of-print coffee-table book.

Published May 14, 2001 7:02PM (EDT)

Do your accessories just sit there, lifeless, waiting listlessly for you to come along and fish them out of a drawer? Do you resent the way they go out of style within seconds, only to taunt you with their presence for years thereafter? Are you tired of the way they cling to you at parties, adding little or nothing to conversation?

Maybe the problem is you, and your narrow definitions.

As socialites, models and movie stars have long known, anything can be an accessory -- from famous friends to children under the age of 5 to those fascinating little people who know all about things like chi flow and books.

This month's Vogue introduces us to the new, new thing in both inanimate and human accessories: the book and book curator. As writer Plum Sykes says, "There is no dinner party line more glamorous, no conversation topic grander, no more effective method of eliciting envy than tossing the words, 'have you met my curator yet?' into the nighttime ether."

The literary curator -- luxury accessory and accessory provider in one -- is the new must-have item for fall. (Fashion always thinks ahead.) He or she is no fusty Miss Jones in spectacles and a bun, however. This librarian, like all human collectibles, dresses only in garments with the right surnames, and mixes well at parties. For a fee, he or she will instruct clients on what books to buy; what is contained within them; how to toss them casually about a room in intriguing, lifelike piles or leave them open in an insouciant manner; and how to use them to enhance one's lifestyle.

The literary curator also procures those hard-to-find literary accessories guaranteed to make clients stand out from the rest of the fashion crowd.

Did we mention that Kate Moss, Stella McCartney and Amanda de Cadenet all have one? Well of course they do. How else, pray tell, would they be, as Sykes says, "well aware" that "a coffee-table book must be out of print to mean anything"?

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It's also no secret that dull accessories can act as a gateway drug to more exciting, intoxicating substances like drugs and alcohol.

Kate Moss once blamed "boredom with the fashion world" for leading her down the road to rehab. As one of Harper's Bazaar's 20 Most Fashionable Women in the World, Moss knows that the key to keeping things interesting is accessorize, accessorize, accessorize -- as long as you don't always do it with a bottle of Veuve Cliquot and a Vicodin in hand.

Asked by Bazaar, "If you could be an accessory, what would you be?" Moss replied "a guitar pick." But as a friend of hers told the British press, what Moss really wants is one of those adorable minihumans everyone's toting all of a sudden.

According to Fashion Wire Daily, Moss became very eager to have a child with her boyfriend, magazine editor Jefferson Hack, after spending time with fertile friends. In fact, her friend told the British press, "if things don't happen in the next six months then she is willing to try fertility treatment" -- the biological equivalent of the waiting list.

The wire service also reports that "Moss is so adamant about conceiving" that she has employed a "health guru" (the human accessory equivalent of the Kelly bag -- a classic) and has embarked on a healthy-eating program based on food.

"She has also reportedly cut down on drinking and is currently trying to give up smoking as well," which explains her sudden interest in carefully arranged out-of-print books.

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Books and babies, diverting as they are, have nothing on that most ephemeral, but pound for pound most attention-getting, bauble, the right last name. As a reporter for Bazaar found out, nothing says "take my picture" like calling yourself "Rose Churchill" and looking puzzled when paparazzi ask what you do.

Within a week of being renamed, handed a fistful of A-list invites and supplied with a wardrobe of designer eveningwear, the fictitious Churchill appeared twice in the New York Times Style section, once in the society column and once in Women's Wear Daily, and made a CNN segment about a salute to Julia Roberts.

Clearly, a Rose by any other name would not have been called "darling" by so many.

By Carina Chocano

Carina Chocano writes about TV for Salon. She is the author of "Do You Love Me or Am I Just Paranoid?" (Villard).

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