Fashion & Beauty

Valerie Paley, Chief Historian at the New-York Historical Society, on Her Favorite Fall Indulgences

Valerie Paley is Vice President, Chief Historian, and Director of the Center for Women’s History at the New-York Historical Society in New York City. A graduate of Vassar College, Paley holds an M.A. in American Studies and a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University, where her fields of interest were United States urban and cultural history, and where she currently teaches an undergraduate seminar in museums and public culture at the Columbia Center for American Studies. Her responsibilities at New York City’s oldest museum and historical society include a critical range of administrative and curatorial responsibilities, which have included developing a new Center for Women’s History (opening 2017); curating permanent and temporary exhibitions; supervising pre- and postdoctoral fellows as dean of scholarly programs; and editing publications. She is an elected member of the Council (governing board) of the American Historical Association, where she serves on its Professional Division and Finance Committee.

As much as she loves the “ever-growing pile” of books to read on her nightstand this fall, Paley shares with us some of her other favorite fall indulgences, including a penchant for websites where one can rent fabulous gowns and bags, the fragrance she’s been wearing since the 1970s, and the accessory that “transcends all seasons.” In tandem with our mission at Women’s Voices, we asked her to start out by sharing what reinvention means to her.   

What is your definition of Reinvention?
The ability to project oneself beyond the here-and-now and imagine functioning on a completely different level, as implausible or frightening as that might seem.


MNL167Floral Jadore Gown by ML Monique Lhuillier. (Photo: Rent the Runway)

What are your favorite trends for fall?
I’m thrilled to see a renewed enthusiasm about clothing in beige—a color I love.  I was a little more skeptical about the idea of fall floral prints until I wore a great gown to a benefit last week in a heavy taffeta floral with a black background (rented from Rent the Runway). I was stunned that it made quite a splash. (I’m happy, though, that I don’t own it and will probably never wear such a thing again.) And three-cheers for the return of age-appropriate “lug” booties—I’ve been waiting for this ever since I wore out my favorite pair of Prada ones years ago and have been looking for something similar ever since. Puffy jackets that work with dresses (as opposed to ski pants) are nice to see hitting the runways, too. I’m readying myself to wear a new “off the shoulder” shift dress with cap sleeves in black that I bought in late summer—not sure if I’ll feel self-conscious about wearing it during the day, though.


Untitled“Corneille” Pumps by Louboutin.

What are your five favorite fall essentials?

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