Fashion & Beauty

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



Black “BUMMI” Glasses in tortoise shell by Moscot.

What are your favorite fall accessories?

  • I prefer prescription glasses to contacts and wear them as accessories as well as necessities, so I’ve gotten a new pair of prescription tortoise-shell eyeglasses from Moscot. (I was astounded and delighted to discover that that this retro-hip eyeglass company was a historic brand from downtown New York City, my home town. And they even took my insurance!)


UntitledMedium Tri-Fold Shoulder Bag in burgundy from the Celine Fall 2016 Collection.

  • A leather handbag in a fall color, large enough to fit a small laptop, but small enough to look chic, perhaps with a cross-body strap (although I’m probably too short to pull that off successfully). I’m intrigued by Celine’s new fall collection, with bright fall colors, textures, and shapes. (Honestly, though, I have a knack for choosing the wrong color, and the price check-point of this designer under such circumstances is, well, check-worthy. So my new favorite thing to do is to rent from Bag, Borrow, or Steal. Even if I rent a different bag every month (which I don’t), I still don’t come close to spending as much as I would were I to buy just one. And then I get to try out different colors, designers, and styles.)
  • A long, thin chain in silver and black that I use as a lanyard for my museum ID.
  • A fun, new, clean, and dust-free wallet.


VP -4(1)Valerie Paley wearing her timeless Verdura gold curb-link “Garbo” watch.

How do you transition chic from summer to fall?
I’ve always been a bit flummoxed by the manner in which summer becomes fall. The weather still can be hot, but things just feel different, but not so different that it feels appropriate to go all-out in wintry colors. I reach for things in my wardrobe that transcend the seasons: my Verdura gold curb-link “Garbo” watch, which adds pizzazz to even the most boring gym clothes; black pencil skirts; short-sleeved form-fitting shift dresses topped with a fall jacket or sweater; and simple high-heeled shoes (with unexposed toes) in beige, taupe, or black.


nd.7372What is your favorite fall fragrance?
I’ve used only one fragrance since the year it came out in the 1970s (when I was a pre-teen): Diorella by Dior. It’s a citrusy scent that’s becoming rarer and rarer to find (Amazon helps), and it works year-round for me.


7550719908_fd134fd660_zHarbor in Early Fall, Nantucket – Photo by Michael Galvin. Image via Flickr user Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism. (Creative Commons License)

Your favorite fall destination?
New England, without a doubt, particularly Nantucket while direct flights are still available. Tourists are gone, the sea and sky are glorious, the air is crisp and clean, and restaurant reservations are remarkably easy to get.


What books, films and exhibitions are on your list to see and read this fall?
I rarely have the patience or time to go to the movies, but two I’d like to make the time to see are The Beatles: Eight Days a Week, the documentary by Ron Howard, and A Quiet Passion, starring Cynthia Nixon as Emily Dickinson.

I love popping into the Metropolitan Museum on weekends to see whatever is on view—or to see “old friends” (ie., favorite paintings or objects) in the galleries that are always on view. But exhibitions/museums/galleries I’d like to visit with a bit more directed purpose are the Diane Arbus show at the Met Breuer; the new show at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Gowanus, along with a trip to the Gowanus Studio Space (I find that area altogether enchanting, a word that most people wouldn’t use to describe it); “See How They Ran: Roosevelt and His Opponents,” at the Roosevelt House; and the new “core” exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York. Last week I caught “An Occupation of Loss” at the Park Avenue Armory, which I found utterly fascinating.

In terms of performing arts, I’m always up for a new season of the Metropolitan Opera—and am looking forward to seeing the new Tristan und Isolde. I’ll catch a couple of performances of the American Ballet Theater in a more experimental mode in their short fall season as well.

For books, I perpetually have an ever-growing pile of reading material on my desks at work and at home, as well as on my nightstand. I am always grateful for a riveting and easy read like Joe Gould’s Teeth by Jill Lepore, something I just finished and loved—the perfect combination of archival detective work, the story behind the Joseph Mitchell story of Joe Gould, and Lepore’s superb writing. I have the following books at the top of my current stack:

And I might finally have the chance to read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

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