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Trina talks about the song Ladies of the Canyon Print-ready version

by Trina Robbins
April 19, 2008

...and her coat's a second-hand one. Trina, circa 1969, wearing the coat referenced in the song. In the Lower East Side of New York City on Mott Street where she lived at the time. [Photo courtesy of Trina Robbins]

Trina wears her wampum beads

I had been living in New York's Lower East Side since Summer of 66, and in February of 68 (February is the most miserable month of the Winter in New York, plus I had a boutique and had discovered in February of 67 that nobody bought anything in February) I sublet my apartment to a rock musician, who fed my cats while I was gone, and let a friend live in my boutique, and went off to sunny L.A. for a month. I stayed with various friends during that time, a week at each place so as to not overstay my welcome. While staying with Van Dyke Parks and his wife Dury, in the hills, my then-boyfriend, Paul Williams, who published the rock criticism magazine, Crawdaddy, flew out to stay with me. One day, while Van Dyke and Dury were out of the house somewhere, we took acid. I was just coming down from the trip when Van Dyke and Dury returned, along with some friends of theirs whom I had met while staying there. (Damn my Swiss cheese brain, I forget their names! If you put this up on your website, maybe she'll read it and contact us.) The woman said, "Trina, I'm so glad you're here, I made this for you," and handed me a string of what we used to call Love Beads. I wore them during my entire stay in L.A. and those were the "wampum beads."

She fills her drawing book with line

Well, yeah. I had a sketchbook with me at all times, and I would sketch, draw, doodle in it.

Sewing lace on widows' weeds
And filigree on leaf and vine

The filigree is what I drew, the lace on widow's weeds is because I made clothes (that boutique) that often featured antique lace sewn onto velvet mini dresses. In fact, after Joni wrote that song, in gratitude I made her a little black mini dress, very simple except for a patch pocket made from antique lace.

Vine and leaf are filigree
And her coat's a secondhand one
Trimmed with antique luxury

Like I said, the February before, '67, I had discovered that nobody in New York buys anything in February, so that month I survived by taking in and hemming and otherwise "modernizing" vintage furs. There was a real fad for wearing vintage furs in those days, and I got acquainted with a man who had a big warehouse full of the furs, so when women bought a coat from him, he'd send them to me to remove the shoulder pads and take up the hems. Personally, I disapproved of changing the look of these gorgeous furs, but hey. And one day a woman dropped off a fabulous 3/4 length skunk fur coat from the 40s, saying she'd be back to discuss what she wanted done to it. I kept it around for at least two months before deciding she wasn't gonna come back, so I wore it, just the way it was -- with shoulders so wide that it looked like a cube. It was a fabulous coat! Too bad about the negative feelings towards fur today, that would keep me from wearing such a coat. I would never wear a new fur, but when they're that old, I figure the animal would have died of old age long ago.

She is a lady of the canyon...

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