Issues of the long-shuttered Flair magazine. (The Washington Post)

Holley Simmons

31, Washington, freelance writer

What do you mean you can’t find them?” I asked Michael.

I was trying not to panic in Michael’s hidden bookstore in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It smelled like old paper, spilt whiskey and cigarettes. The walls were packed with antique reads, first editions and other rare finds — including the Flair magazines from the 1950s I was frantically searching for. I first discovered them in Michael’s shop when I lived in New York. Though the paper was brittle and crumbling, they were the most beautiful paper product I’d ever seen — with a price tag to match. Founded in 1950 by artist and socialite Fleur Cowles, Flair had a run of 12 themed editions before shuttering in 1951. The collection is a gold mine of content, including writings by Salvador Dalí, Tennessee Williams and John O’Hara, among others.

After 20 minutes of digging, Michael located the magazines. I found my favorite issue — the rose issue — and flipped through the familiar pages until I landed on a spread on the dresses of Charles James. Flair had commissioned him to create a rose-inspired dress for the issue. It was, like the magazine in my hand, elaborate and ahead of its time.

“Today is the day I buy these,” I told Michael. Today they live on my coffee table, where everyone can explore them. The rose issue, however, lives in a secret hiding spot that I turn to any time I need a sweet reminder of chance encounters.