Barbara Hannah Grufferman


Who’s Your Style Muse?


Hi Everyone,

All the tweets, news reports and talk about Fashion Week here in New York City got me thinking about style, and who has really made an impact on my own personal style (if you can call it that!). You know, someone who is always pulled together, who just knows how to add the right scarf to make an outfit, who inspires, who just always looks great? In other words, a style muse.

Then it dawned on me: I have my very own muse! And her name is Cousin Barbara. 

It was 1968, and she came to visit us from Germany.  I was 12 and she was 19–a gap as wide as the Atlantic Ocean that separated our daily lives. I mean, really, she had no interest in hanging around with a 12 year old!  But, that was a long time ago (or as Cousin B would say: that was in former times). And now?  Best friends, and closer than sisters. 

We’re connected by our maternal grandmothers, who were twins.  My grandmother, being a bit more rebellious, left Germany at the age of 18, moved to Brooklyn, and never looked back.  Her grandmother stayed, and raised her family in a little town in southern Germany.  Over the years, we’ve marveled over our shared ancestery, but very different upbringings–me, in great big NYC, and her, in a very small village an hour away from  Stuttgart. And yet, we are truly like two peas in the proverbial pod.

Cousin B  introduced me to Kandinsky, all kinds of modern art (she was an art teacher for many years), and to the only perfume I’ve worn since 1985–Jill Sander Woman III.  My love of modernism can be traced back to our early museum trips, when she would patiently explain every painting that we viewed, in perfect English, with her great, big Lina Wertmuller sunglasses positioned strategically on her head. 

Since she visits us several times each year, Cousin B knows New York City better than any New Yorker, has gone to every hot restaurant that’s opened while she’s been here on a visit, and can negotiate price with the shop owners in Chinatown, and still leave them smiling. I learned how to navigate the subway system from her.

Since I don’t have much innate style, I rarely make big, important, life decisions without discussing them with her first by email, phone, or Skype, and if I can hold out buying or doing something until she’s here on a visit, all the better.  Together, we figured out that my new sofa should be white leather, and that the “thing” I knitted could be hung on the wall as piece of art.  And, thankfully, she’s stopped me from making some pretty senseless fashion purchases over the years, saving me lots of money and from seeing my husband and daughters roll their eyes even more often than they normally do.

No question, Cousin B is definitely my style muse. But, I  have one question: now that my daughters are getting older and more interested in their own “looks”, do I have to share?

Who’s your style muse?

Best of Everything,


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4 Responses to “Who’s Your Style Muse?”

  1. Laura says:

    One of my favorite quotes from Gore Vidal: “Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” Barbara, you epitomize style and remind all of us to look around at the fabulous women in our own lives for inspiration, and then make it work for ourselves!

  2. I have no style muse, it use to be my mom but she died many years ago. I know she’s rolling over in her grave, having agita, because of what I wear sometimes when I leave the house. And, I don’t polish my shoes which use to drive both my parents so crazy they’d polish them if they had the chance.

  3. I don’t have a style muse either, but this post has inspired me to think about finding one. Maybe Diane Keaton…she always looks pulled together and comfortable in her own skin. Although maybe someone closer to home would be better…

  4. Carol says:

    I need a MUSE!! My body has been changing so much, I need to spend some serious time and money re-evaluating my wardrobe. Approching 50 definitely means purging as mentioned in your book and what a better place to start than with my old tired wardrobe!!