While most of these entries are comprised of my own personal appreciations, I have also invited luminaries from various fields to cite something that they believe should be brought back; these include designer Kate Spade, filmmakers James L. Brooks and Nora Ephron, media icons Arianna Huffington and Ted Koppel, interior decorator Jonathan Adler, chef Daniel Boulud, and many other celebrated and accomplished cultural figures. Let's Bring Back even includes whispers from Camelot in the form of advice from Letitia Baldrige, Jacqueline Kennedy's White House social secretary and one of America's foremost experts on etiquette.
Before you get the wrong idea, Let's Bring Back is not about stopping the clock or extolling the virtues of simpler times. Times have never been simple. Nor is Let's Bring Back about nostalgia for nostalgia's sake alone. Looking back in this way helps us to become intelligently forward-looking as well. It makes us preservation-minded, astute observers of contemporary culture, and helps us evaluate what traditions, heirlooms, and elements of our own lifestyles and households we want to pass on to the next generation. It makes us consider why we value an object or ritual one day and forsake it the next.
At heart, Let's Bring Back is a simple appreciation, honoring the history of artful living and artfully-lived lives. Each of us hopes to leave a legacy of some sort when we die; yet all legacies—no matter how grand or modest—require an appreciative audience. Even the most astounding legacies can get lost in the dust kicked up by progress if they are not documented and discussed in retrospect.
So, let's rediscover some of the things that entertained, awed, scandalized, beautified, satiated, and fascinated people in eras past. From sealing wax and quill pens to the Orient Express, from dumbwaiters to quizzing glasses to the Ziegfeld Follies, there are many delights to be dusted off and enjoyed once again.
"X" Marks the Spot
As in: faded old treasure maps that you would improbably find in your grandparents' attics.
Yarn Hair Ribbons
Tied in bows around pigtails, ponytails, and the ends of braids. They always unraveled, but that was part of their charm.
As in, a "good yarn." A tall tale. An outlandish fib of a story.
Yellow-Bulbed Theater Marquees
There's something heady about seeing movie stars' names spelled out in lights, and something distinctly discrediting about seeing those same names in cellophane letters, showcased against a dingy, flickering fluorescent backdrop.
The Yellow Book
First published in London in 1894, The Yellow Book was a notorious avant-garde magazine determined to beam a ray of light into the dusty closet of Victorian literary sensibilities. While it only had a (controversial) three-year run, the publication was the talk of London's salon society; it included the writings of Henry James, William Butler Yeats, and Max Beerbohm and the illustrations of the great Aubrey Beardsley. Wholly dedicated to breaking artistic barriers, The Yellow Book shaped the genre of the short story and showcased new and exciting forms of writing. It would be nice if we had a similarly trail-blazing literary publication today; I feel like I read the same short story over and over again in today's prominent fiction-publishing magazines.
Yellow Café Lights on Strings