Fran Keuling-Stout and her spouse Henry Keuling-Stout were soul-mates in their interests and their styles. They lived both in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, where Henry is a lawyer, and in New York City where they had an apartment. They especially loved Paris: "a go-to hang out for an added fusion of fashion, friends, art" as Fran described it. They frequented cultural events-theater, concerts, and fashion shows--in New York and Paris.
Fran wore clothes by world-renown designers that took fashion to the level of art, including Giorgio Armani, Alexander McQueen, and Ralph Lauren. Fran said of them, "Ralph Lauren is Fashion. He encourages us to be our ideal. Armani is Style, a sweeping breath of creative vision. Alexander McQueen is Art. He creates perfect precision of design for a woman's body."
Fran passed away two years ago after the Keuling-Stouts had been married for 31 years. The current exhibit "Dressed by Design" at the William King Museum of Art is a tribute to the spirit of Fran Keuling-Stout and her love of haute couture.
Perhaps the best way to describe Fran's sense of style is to use her own words: "elegant funk with a dash of madcapness; iconoclastic; irreverent; outspoken; authentic; striving for originality; breaking down barriers-all levels."
Fran sought out designer originals and was a regular client at private Paris shows. When asked to describe her, the Director of Giorgio Armani's Privé in New York spoke of her "eclectic style which can be very bohemian chic and a sense of individualism." This characterization was evidenced in her habit of sometimes wearing clothes back to front or combining an elegant costume with Reebok shoes. Her godchild once described Fran as a "statuesque eccentric." Fran describes a pair of glittering suspenders as totally rocking, tickling her fancies and giving her joy. She paired them with her Reeboks, a long-sleeved black tee and black pants.
She herself said, "I have never had a spa treatment, I don't polish my nails, and I don't feel compelled to have a complete look that smacks of perfection at any of the high-end fashion shows I attend." Whatever her sense of style, she enjoyed the rarified world of haute couture that translated into her own personal use of it: fusing fashion and style into individual art form.
Fran was born in the Bronx, New York. She had a bachelor's degree from St. John's University, two master's degrees from New York University, with additional post-graduate work at New York University.
She taught English at Scanlan High School, Brooklyn, New York, was a preceptor in English composition at New York University, taught English at the University of North Carolina - Charlotte, and worked for Henry at his law firm in Big Stone Gap.
Fran wrote poetry and literary criticism. Her favorite poet was Walt Whitman and his "Two Rivulets" a favorite poem. Her favorite color was green, the deep green of Ireland where she and Henry eloped to marry and the emerald color of the engagement ring. She had a deep commitment to her Roman Catholic faith, and she valued relationships with husband, friends, and family.
To hear and see Fran's exuberance about fashion, visit YouTube.com and search for her name. The exhibit at the William King Museum of Art runs until March 18.
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