I recently caught up with Laura Mueller, one of Mom’s models and a friend of my folks since they met after WWII. Laura has always had a fabulous wit and time has not passed that gift by. She says of herself “As a former model, I can say that I no longer have snap to my garters”, but I beg to differ. Laura was 17 when she started modeling for Mom. They met at a place called Wally’s. This was a studio in Manhattan on 44th Street between Lexington and Third. Wally’s was where all the fashion illustrators of their day came to practice their skills, meet like minds and kibbutz. In other words, it was a hangout. The owner, Mrs. Wally, was a widow from Scandinavia and apparently a women of few words. Laura says she only remembers two – “Pose Please” – at which point the models would do four five minute and then four twenty minute poses. This was an opportunity for the for the artists to really express themselves more creatively. Even the very best of them had some more mundane accounts where there were restrictions on how the clothes were drawn. Wally’s gave them an opportunity to create truly unique portfolios. This was a time when the printing technology had evolved so that photography was starting to infiltrate into advertising more consistently. Fashion illustrations were starting to be phased out. It must have been a very competitive group. It was also a place where life long friendships (and business associations) started between both artist and model, and artist and artist. In talking to Laura, I realized that not only she, but other friends that I remember as a kid, came from Wally sessions.
In addition to Mom, Laura worked with many of the artists that she met there. One had an account of a very upscale store. Laura would pose in the most beautiful gowns and after the drawings were done, the artist would give them a little spritz of Chanel No. 5 and off they went to the client.
Mom never mentioned Wally’s. She did love to reminisce, so I’m surprised this was all new to me. Perhaps it was an ordinary occurrence of her week at that time and she didn’t think it special enough to discuss. I am grateful to Laura for helping me bring those years back to life.