By Karen Rempel | Fashion Editor
With her dark hair curving against her alabaster cheek in a 1920s bob, and her signature hat, Linda Zagaria is instantly recognizable. Influenced by the stars of the silver screen, her elegant dresses and constant pearls evoke the era between the wars. Her passion for the Art Deco period led her to assume the role of Vice President of the Art Deco Society of New York for over a decade, where she gained a reputation for palling around with a group of similarly clad vintage aficionados. Currently President of the National Arts Club (NAC), Linda is featured in Ari Seth Cohen’s book, Advanced Style, and she appeared in the documentary of the same name.
Everett Raymond Kinstler was Linda’s fellow NAC member and friend. Kinstler painted hundreds of portraits in his lifetime, including half a dozen US presidents. He appreciated Linda’s other-worldly style as well, and she was the subject of the final portrait Kinstler painted before his death in May of this year, at age 92. The portrait captures Linda’s charm, whimsy, elegance, and beauty, and of course, her hat! Linda speaks of their decades-long friendship with wonder. I think their friendship brought a tenderness and poignancy to this final, personal portrait.
A woman of both style and substance, Linda brings the skills and wisdom garnered in her professional career as an educator and school administrator to her leadership roles, and she has twice received the NAC’s President’s Medal. An ardent Francophile, Linda is interested in the beauty of all art forms, including architecture, and she currently serves as the Executive Director of the Beaux Arts Alliance as well.
Linda jokes, “I wore vintage clothes from childhood, but at the time it wasn’t vintage.” She attributes her interest in fashion and style to her mother and aunts. “My mother made all of our clothes, so even though we were not terribly well off, we always were the best-dressed. So that’s always stuck with me.” She grew up in Brooklyn and Long Island, and was influenced by watching old movies on TV. “When you look at these movies from the thirties and forties, no matter what the character’s socioeconomic background, they were always dressed. Men went to ballgames in suits and ties and hats. The secretary rushing to the subway—she was always well turned out.”
Linda believes that John F. Kennedy changed men’s fashion when he stopped wearing hats. “Before JFK, men always wore hats. But when JFK was inaugurated, he didn’t wear a hat. It was like It Happened One Night, the scene where Clark Gable takes off his shirt and he’s not wearing an undershirt. Well, the underwear industry tanked!”
Linda says that anyone can wear a hat if they try. She advises to consider the shape of the hat, the size of the brim, whether it is flattering to you. Also think about the occasion! Lately she’s started wearing 1950s hats as well. “They are very good if you’re going to the theater. Not in anyone’s way.”