PRINT February 1997


Kennedy Fraser’s Ornament and Silence

Ornament And Silence: Essays on Women’s Lives, by Kennedy Fraser. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996. 247 pp. $25.

With The New Yorker for a finishing school and, as taskmasters, an editorial gaggle of deeply idiosyncratic, “more or less elderly” men led by William Shawn, the young Kennedy Fraser, a veritable ’60s English rose amid brambles, was a stylish and rigorously cossetted debutante in the most exclusive, most lavishly indulgent precinct of literary New York. By the age of twenty-two, she had been assigned the magazine’s fashion column. Over the next fifteen years or so, she brought an unprecedented, at times almost alarming level of serious reportage and analysis to what had essentially been a pithy, high-toned shopper’s guide. Indeed, though Fraser rarely seemed actually to like much about fashion, she was instrumental in creating the climate of high-critical importance it now enjoys.

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