Sara Berman’s Closet: The Tenderness of Creating Your Own Life

(Video link here.) In a tiny exhibit tucked into the The American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum, is a recreation of the strikingly minimalist closet of Sara Berman, a Jewish émigré from Belarus who settled in the Bronx in the early nineteen-fifties, who also happens to be the mother of artist Maira Kalman. After a late-in-life divorce, Berman delighted in her new found freedom and transformed her life; she moved into a studio apartment in Greenwich Village and purged her wardrobe of all colors except white.

As Kalman describes in the Met’s short video, her mother’s closet is evidence that

 …nothing in life has an expiration date. You are free to change at any age…

…She made simplicity meaningful.

…I hope that people take away a sense of the tenderness of creating your own life and that it’s inspiring. That it gives you a sense of optimism that yes you can put your closet in order and maybe and maybe there’s hope for putting your life in order some of the time


This slightly longer video by the New Yorker tells the story of  Sara Berman’s ordinary and amazing life and how her closet came to be and then find its way to the Met, nestled next to heiress Arabella Worsham’s Dressing Room.  (With apologies for the unavoidable ad. Video link here.)

Says Kalman:

In the midst of elaborate trappings of elaborate lives: an illumination of how important a modest life can be.

With thanks to Ellen Silverman for the find.

One Response to Sara Berman’s Closet: The Tenderness of Creating Your Own Life

  1. Ellen Rocco 05.15.2017 at 7:32am #

    I loved this! Thank you so much for posting it. I don’t know that I will get to see the closet in person – I do know I will watch the video many times. It is so interesting to see someone who can make the decision to strike out in their own and then carry it off. Sara Berman’s choice would certainly not be one most people would make but it is motivation to look around with new eyes at possibilities.

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