How does one to begin to explain the force of nature that is Barbara Flood? The flame-haired fashion maven is a New York personality to rival the best of them, dashing about the Upper East Side in wild and wonderful, often one-of-a-kind, bespangled ensembles and enough loud (literally) jewelry to announce her approach from a block away.
A bit about Flood’s pedigree: While she demurs to “do age or time,” she will tell you that she was raised on Central Park West, “a real Marjorie Morningstar,” as she describes herself, and grew up to be an “It” model and actress in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Flood worked alongside the likes of Oscar de la Renta, Valentino Garavani, and Rudi Gernreich in fashion and Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper in Hollywood, among many others. (Look her up and you’ll find a famous photo of Flood with Peggy Moffitt and Ellen Harth “tits hanging out” in unconventionally cut Rudi Gernreich fashions.)
It was during that same era that Flood met her now-longtime beau, Top of the Pops director/producer Stanley Dorfman, with whom she’s carried on a decades-strong, long-distance relationship. Flood is dedicated to her life in New York, while Stanley is firmly ensconced in Hollywood.
A true New York original, Flood is known for her bold, eclectic sense of style (the heft of her bracelets could rival any weight-lifting regimen), which she also brings into homes of a few lucky clients through her Flood’s Closet personal-styling business.
Below, Flood spoke to the Cut about her closet, the contents of her handbag, and the enduring appeal of the landline.
Tell us more about Flood’s Closet. When did it start?
It was really a question of when I stopped modeling, when I stopped acting, what am I going to do? I was getting divorced and I needed to pay the rent. For my modeling career, you had to bring your own accessories and I had that sort of instinct. They said, “No, we don’t need our stuff. We need your stuff.” I thought, “Well, I’ll just get a bunch of stuff together. Find an artist or two and see what I can do.” Then someone called to do an interview on me and my closet, and I thought, “Flood’s Closet. Of course.” That’s how the business started.
How do people find you?
It’s a word-of-mouth thing; I have a Flood’s Closet telephone number which is 212-348-7257. For example, I was at the Drama League luncheon the other day and people came up, “Where did you get this?” I said, “Well, just give me a ring.” I’m a traveling service. I’ll go and I’ll charge a fee and I’ll consult — I style the house and the person.
What are some of your favorite things in Flood’s Closet right now?
I’m a big fan of costume jewelry, particularly Eisenberg jewelry. It was a great jeweler to the stars in the 1940s, like Bette Davis and Loretta Young and all those people wore his big rhinestone pins on their suits. That’s something I absolutely always have a collection of — I’d like everybody in the world to have an Eisenberg pin.
Who are your other favorite designers?
My favorite designer, of course, is not around anymore, Rudi Gernreich. I did the topless bathing-suit pictures with him. The stuff that he made in the ‘60s and ‘70s is still perfect for today. The couture is great, but who can afford the couture? I just like to find artists [who] are not particularly well-known, but they have a look and a style that is just great and make one-of-a-kind pieces. And of course I love all the Balenciagas and the Donna Karans; I love Donna Karan because she had people dressing like dancers because she had the original leotard and tights and easy pieces. I base my whole wardrobe on the basic underpinnings and then everything else goes over it.
Who are some of the under-the-radar designers you work with?
Sonia Boyajian is definitely one of the major jewelers. She designs how she feels. It’s a funny story on how I found her. There was a shop here called Linda Dresner on Park Avenue. She always found pieces. I used to go there and shop when they had the sales. There was this incredible collection of Sonia’s jewelry, bracelets. I said, “Who is she?” I found her number. I looked her up. I said, “My name is Barbara Flood. I’m a stylist in New York. I’m a model, actor. I love your things. I’m coming to California and can I come see you?” She was a little hesitant at first, but then I sent her some pictures of me and what I wore. And she said, “Okay.” I came up to her studio then wearing a lot of jewelry that she said clunked as I went along. She heard me coming before she saw me. We walked in and we’ve been best friends ever since.