This retired home ec teacher (and current substitute teacher) just returned to her home in Lewistown, PA, after a whirlwind stint at fashion week -- one of her longest-held dreams come true! And through sharing her journey, she shows us it's never too late to find your way to what you really love to do.
momlogic: Hi, Jacquie! Tell us a little about your passion for fashion.
Jacquie Bennett: I've always been a wannabe fashionista! When I was 16, I was happy as a little clam working as a sales clerk in a junior's department. I probably would've done that my whole life, but when I was graduating from high school, my father told me I had to go to college. He brought home an application to the Indiana University of PA. I looked through the book and wondered what I'd do -- until I saw some of the home economics classes, like "Principles of Design." I did that and became a home ec teacher, but I always thought there was something inside of me that wanted to be something else.
ml: Did you try to work fashion into your home ec classes?
JB: Sewing is probably my weak spot, but I love fashion, coordinating outfits and color. So when I turned 59, I was retired from teaching and thought it was time to do something in fashion. Now I write a local column in the paper called "What's Hot Before It's Cool." Each week I give ten fashion tips. I buy every fashion magazine and the tabloids, so I can see what everybody is wearing. I can also connect with my son that way. You have to understand that I'm in the middle of PA. There are a lot of Amish people who might not care about fashion, but they love my column. I write it a little tongue-in-cheek. I did an item on sweats, and one of my tips was to never wear heels with sweats. People thought that was hysterical. I also write essays they publish. Of course, I get paid for none of this -- and I sort of don't want to. If I get paid, they'll expect things.
ml: You want it to be a labor of love, not labor!
JB: Yes! Exactly.
ml: What were some of the highlights of your fashion week trip?
JB: I went with my niece to the Barney's warehouse sale. Oh my gosh. It's so hard to fathom these $3,000 to $4,000 dresses and all the beautiful racks, and now they're all smooshed together. Anyway, we're leaving, I go through security and I come nose-to-nose with this woman and I immediately register that she's on "Project Runway." I'm a big fan of the show!
ml: Who was it?
ml (gasps): Spoiler alert! She's one of my favorites!
JB: You've got to figure she was in NYC with her parents, fashion week is probably why she was there. We all exchanged cards and took pictures together.
ml: How did the opportunity to be a part of fashion week present itself?
JB: I started out by contacting IMG, and they set me up with an interview to be a volunteer. But when I said I was a freelance writer, I was disqualified. Then I tried to get in as a journalist. Scout said that no one would pick me, [since I'm] from a small town and all, and I agreed with him. Anyway, I spoke with these nice people named Meredith Garcia and Scott French, and we started talking about fashion. Scott had been a guest judge on Isaac Mizrahi's show, so when I said, "How about that designer stealing Maggie Gyllenhaal's dress?" we really started talking. Eventually they offered to put together a whole fashion-week day for me. They took me to the tents at Bryant Park and we went everywhere!
ml: Did you learn anything surprising about the fashion world when you were deep in the trenches?
JB: So much work goes into it, and it all depends on who's at the show and who's critiquing it, because that makes or breaks you. And models are unbelievably skinny, but part of the reason they want the clothes in the smallest size possible is because of the fabric. I saw women on the runway with breasts falling out, and they just kept walking! It totally amazed me. Another favorite event was seeing the red dresses from The Heart Truth show at the Top Of The Rock. You couldn't touch the dresses or anything, but they weren't behind glass. Seeing an Oscar de la Renta up close after Felicity Huffman had worn it two days before -- it was amazing! I also loved a line that I saw called Ecliptica. Nelly Furtado and Hilary Duff wear their clothes -- a lot of light, silky, drapey fabrics. The whole show just moved.
ml: What are some of the hot runway trends you saw?
JB: Magenta was a big accent color, and they are calling navy blue "the new gray" for fall. There were cigarette pants and a lot of loose knits, dashes of animal prints and lots of flowing designs. Also lots of sequins and shiny things.
ml: What are you up to now that you're back in PA?
JB: I took a watercolor class and loved it, too. We opened a gallery in my husband's office to support local artists, and we're in the process of branching out into a space of our own. I'm going in a lot of different directions. I'm writing a book about my growing up and my connection to fashion. Here I am at 62 years old and I'm having a ball!
ml: So happy for Scout and Bill and the adoption process! Are you so psyched to be a grandma?
JB: It can't happen fast enough for me. They just put up a new website to help find prospective parents. I can't wait!