Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Helen Shaw: First Lady of Fly-Tying

I'm pretty much a sucker for clothing with interesting provenance, and will usually gobble up any history I can get on the garments I find. These opportunities are sort of few and far between-but fun when they happen.

Last week I went on a house call here:

a little cottage in the woods by a stream, where Helen Shaw and her husband lived for some 35 years.
This is Helen in the left of this photo

Helen was known as the First Lady of Fly-Tying.  Originally from Wisconsin, 
she was an expert fly-tier.   She and her husband Herman, who was a photographer and art director for Field and Stream Magazine, collaberated on a few popular, ground-breaking books on the fine art of fly-tying.
Herman died in 1993 and Helen died just last year at the age of 97.
A major auction house got all the fly-fishing stuff and sold it all on ebay last week;
I got access to the clothing in the closets.

Judging from their wardrobes alone, I would have liked to have known these two.
They were artsy Manhattanites who had moved to the country in the 70s. Down-to-earth sportsmen, but with fashionable good taste.  Brooks Brothers, Abercrombie and Fitch, Saks Fifth Avenue.  Labels with fishies jumping off of hooks and such---and all very wearable.  And--- a big yummy necktie collection that Helen carefully stashed away with home-made sachets ...

This is one of Helen's fly -fishing ensembles, with all these gizmos on it for I-Don't-know-what:And this is one of her silk cocktail dresses:
An olive green suit: and a wool lounging gown with gold embroidered paisleys:
I like to think my customers are as interested in provenance as I am, so I decided to make some special price tags just for Helen's stuff.  When someone buys one of Helen's pieces, they get a little herstory with it.  A photo of a beautiful, talented woman, who once wore this...

I think it would be fun a hundred years from now to buy an old anglers jacket at a flea market, take it home, and find a picture of Helen in the pocket that says ---"this once belonged to Helen Shaw....the First Lady of Fly-Tying."


North Fifth Street said...

First Lady of VINTAGE, I say. Absolutely brilliant.

heydeho said...

This is interesting to me! What an amazing oportunity, to step into someone else's closest. So personal and telling! Thanks for the pics. I got to see Dawn in the dress in person. It is gorgeous.