Danny Goldfield is traveling the country, meeting and photographing centenarians for his project To Live 10,000 Years. His goal: Document one woman and one man age 100 years or older in each of the 50 United States.
Edith Morrey was 102 years old when I first met her in Rancho Mirage, California. I’d learned about her in an article in the Desert Sun that described her as a “fashion empress.” Surprisingly, the paper didn’t run a photo of her. Curious to see what a fashion empress looked like, I set off to meet Edith.
When I arrived at her home I met a lovely, independent woman with a tiny dog named Angel. Her home was filled with in-progress and completed creative projects, including a large painting of a floral landscape she’d made years ago.
A performer at heart, Edith was determined to entertain me. She got down on the floor and enjoyed the mess she made pulling out photo albums and other memorabilia, telling stories the whole time. “These are my Gloria Vanderbilt hand-knit pants that I sold years ago at my boutique,”she told me.
In 1957 Edith put up a building on El Paseo Street in Palm Desert to house her first-floor women’s boutique and her husband’s second-floor medical practice. Hers was the first boutique in what is now the main shopping district but back then was a dusty desert road. She designed many of the fashions that the boutique sold. Ladies could shop before and after their visit with the doctor. Prominent families, Hollywood elite and even President Eisenhower were a part of Edith’s world.
According to the Desert Sun, “Her store kept getting snazzier. She staged fashion shows within the premises. She opened a tea room inside the shop with a full-time cook.”
Edith’s 103rd birthday was a luncheon for 24 ladies (and me). They filled two large tables at a local French restaurant, where models from local boutiques paraded around wearing the latest fashions while the courses were served.
One of Edith’s birthday gifts was a kitchen gadget for cooking healthy dishes using the microwave oven. She got a kick out of the instruction manual.
Edith Morrey revealed to me that to be a fashion empress means much more than what you wear and how you look. To be a fashion empress, you must be passionate, observant and forever open to new ideas.