Fashion

Dressing the Part of Barbara Walters


If anyone could make a baby pink suit look intimidating, it was Barbara Walters. The TV news anchor coolly lobbed questions at the Libyan dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in a 1989 interview while sheathed shoulder to knee in pastel Chanel and pearls.

Back then Ms. Walters, who died in 2022 at the age of 93, reigned among the most celebrated, highly paid and formidable journalists in broadcast news. A trailblazer, she made history as the first female co-host of the “Today” show — and then made history again when she became the first female anchor of the ABC evening news. Later in her decades-long career she migrated to the newsmagazine show “20/20” and to “The View,” the daytime talk show she cocreated.

Her wardrobe for such encounters was both shrewdly considered and often audacious, filling with brash hits of color as her fame grew. This week bits of Ms. Walters’s sartorial legacy were on view — and on sale — at a showroom in Midtown Manhattan as part of a two-day event that drew a steady stream of women in media eager to comb through racks of clothing the journalist had owned.

The items were remnants of a wardrobe, which, during their owner’s fabled career, comprised Audrey-Hepburn-at-Tiffany’s black sheaths and pearls; trim suits in a spectrum of colors; and, for some of the splashier events at which Ms. Walters was a fixture, flame-colored gowns and cocktail dresses. They were donated by Ms. Walters’s estate. Proceeds from the sale went to Shop Repurpose, an organization that uses money from resold luxury goods to provide development and scholarship opportunities to students and young people preparing to enter the work force.

With the requisite, and predictably tame, steel gray coats and jackets on offer were eye-catchers like a chromium yellow, softly tailored Oscar de la Renta jacket and a peach-toned coat from that label edged in pearl buttons.

Other attire seemed to represent a more playful and flirtatious side of Ms. Walters: a scarlet Roberto Cavalli flared skirt with a snake-embossed waistband, for instance, along with an Adolfo gingham skirt flounced at the hem, and a crimson floral caftan most likely reserved for at-home gatherings.

Prices ranged from about $700 to well over $2,000 — a little steep, a few shoppers noted, for many media worker bees.

Among them was Paula Froelich, a senior story producer and an entertainment correspondent at NewsNation and a former reporter for the New York Post’s gossip section, Page Six. As she ambled through a venue that was as pristine as an airport lounge at dawn, Ms. Froelich zeroed in on an orange Burberry coat.

Alison Lynn, a producer at “20/20,” encouraged her to try it on. The coat was tempting, Ms. Froelich thought, but it hung a bit loosely on her frame.

“For $2,200, it’s a little big,” she murmured ruefully.

The piece’s timeless appeal wasn’t lost on her, though. “The coat was pretty fabulous,” she said. “At the office, it would have given me street cred.”

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