by Danielle Pergament
David Redferns/Getty ImagesBelieve it or not, there was a time that we--that is, humankind--didn't know the words to "You're No Good" by heart. It was 1969, and Linda Ronstadt was just about to release her first album. Forty years, 60 million records, and ten Grammy awards later, Ronstadt retired. Though she's no longer singing due to her battle with Parkinson's, she is writing: Ronstadt's memoir, Simple Dreams, is out this month. I spoke to the rock legend about her unlikely status as a style icon and how she adopted her signature accessory.
Did you think of yourself as a style icon? "If ever there was a person who was less style-conscious than me, I don't know who it is. You'd have to go to Berkeley to find her. When I was growing up, my mother sewed all my clothes and I thought that's what everyone did. My dad made jewelry for a hobby, and that became my uniform--sundresses and hoop earrings my parents made for me. When I moved on to Levi's, I would scrounge secondhand clothing stores--this was before we called it vintage--for lace blouses and wear a concha belt my dad made me. We were hippies, so we knew we weren't supposed to dress like other people, but we didn't always know what that left us with."
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What are your most memorable looks? "For years, I lived in three Betsey Johnson dresses. We were always on the road, so I couldn't send them to the dry cleaners. I would wash those dresses in the sink, and it took me a very long time to realize that they were shrinking and shrinking. I'd wind up on stage in these tiny, really short dresses. But I was so unaware of style. I carried my dresses wadded up in my purse when I got on an airplane in case the airline lost my luggage. I never had curves. I was built like a stuffed animal, but I was small. So for me to wear something, I only had to ask the question, 'Does this make me look like a panda?'"
Who were your style icons? "I remember one night I was at the Troubadour club in West Hollywood with Janis Joplin and we were talking about how much we loved Maria Muldaur's blouse. It was also Betsey Johnson, and it had a scoop neck and long peasant sleeves. We got it from Maria, took it apart and shared the pattern with each other. I think Bonnie Raitt also had it at one point."
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Did you have a beauty routine? "My routine was to wash my hair and find someone who could trim my bangs without making me look too stupid. Then someone taught me how to twist them in front and snip them myself. The other day, I found a picture of myself at the Grammys--and obviously this was before the Grammys were a big deal because I had pin curls in my hair and a cotton scarf wrapped around them! Can you imagine? I wanted to look good for the parties after the Grammys, and if I went to the Grammys with my hair curly, it would have been flat by the time the parties started."
Where did you get the idea to put a flower in your hair? "Oh, the flower. When I look at those pictures, I think, Get rid of that flower, you stupid idiot! People used to send flowers backstage, and you would basically just use what was on hand. But if I went back in time that would be the thing that I would let go."
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by Danielle Pergament