When I ask Olivia how the accident happened, she retorts matter of factly: “Why not?” I lost her for a few weeks. At first her messages were sporadic, then disappeared all together. I hadn’t seen her at any parties. I hadn’t heard any funny stories. No tweets. My multi-media pleas remained unanswered. Until a few days ago, when she sent the text that alarmingly settled all my frantic questions: “I’m at the doctor in the Hamptons! I have 17 stitches in my foot, six in my head and more in my arm!! But I’m OK!” She had been surfing with a few friends. And then one of them decided to drop in on her. “Things got a bit messy. The water looked a bit like the movie Jaws…” she chuckles. “It was fun though. I’m excited to get back in the water when I’m all healed!!” And that pretty much sums up 22-year old Olivia Sandelman’s unbridled look on life. She’s a happy, uncomplicated tomboy, who laughs when she falls and stumbles when she picks herself up again.
I remember every outfit Olivia’s worn since I met her. At Vera Wang’s dinner it was a fuzzy pink cashmere sweater with matching color shorts. At the MoMa Volkswagen reception, flared, polka dot high-wasted Miu Miu pants with a floral button down shirt. At the Whitney Art Party her black “slutty dress”. And at my style.com party she showed up in a beautiful, long yellow floral gown and flowers in her hair. That should say a lot about my utterly shameless admiration for her style. It’s quirky, imaginative and cheerful. “Everyone always makes fun of the way I dress, but I like it!” she chirps. “One time I showed up to lunch in St. Barths wearing vintage sunglasses in the shape of octagons with blue lenses and a beautiful long see-through dress and my best friend was like “No, you look you’re in a movie but this is real life and I’m not sitting at the table with you!” I told her to look the other way…”
Olivia’s closets – she has one for tops, one for vintage dresses, one for jackets she shares with her mom and one for new designers – are bulging with colors, florals, patterns and frilly things. She has a collection of antique little girl’s dresses she wears with flats and a ribbon tied around her waste. She loves long and pretty as much as she does mini and sassy. She started amassing vintage while she attended Spence. “On Fridays we were allowed a break from the uniform and given the freedom to wear whatever we wanted (within reason),” she recalls. “All my girlfriends shopped at the same stores; matching seemed unavoidable. Having exhausted all of my Upper East Side options and vehemently opposed to wearing anything with “Juicy” on the butt, my mother and I ventured into the then uncharted territory of the East Village to go vintaging! It was there in the seemingly wild, steamy, messy, cavernous new treasure trove of smelly incredible clothing that I found a green suede Jean Muir skirt that I think wore every single Friday for all of 8th grade! I fell in love with it and vintage shopping all at once!”
One of Olivia’s favorite vintage stores is New York Vintage, which is high on everyone’s list, across international boarders and waters. On any given weekday, the two floors on 25th Street are jam-packed with stylists, celebrity customers, tourists and vintage collectors. The owners are extremely helpful and accommodating. They’ll search high and low for the perfect outfit to any function, dinner or Red Carpet event you might be going to. You can rent, buy or borrow. “The upstairs room is just a really fun place to get lost for a while and put on a movie montage as we did a few weeks ago! So much fun!!!” attests Olivia with her usual enthusiasm.
Olivia is not ready to grow up. For the time being she’s content being a student, a writer, a skateboarder and vintage collector. Her younger brother Conrad is her best friend (even if she’s not his). Her favorite movie is Almost Famous. She doesn’t wear make-up or anything that inhibits her from dancing, throwing her arms around or diving into pools. She loves Motown music and dressing up like Joey Ramone when it suits her. She doesn’t believe in astrology but swears she’s “such a fish!!” She doesn’t think she’s cool. She just bought an i-Pad a few days ago and is recovering from the surfing tragedy at her house, affectionately referred to as Mildew Manor. “I’m not quite sure I’m sold on this whole growing up business. I just want to continue laughing my way through life and always saying yes to bowling, friendship bracelets, dinosaurs, extreme sports and other forms of ridiculous distractions. Hahaha! Oh and pink afros!”