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Remembering Cecil Beaton


Thirty years ago on this day in 1980, the great fashion photographer, Sir Cecil Beaton, died at the age of 76. Beaton is one of those artists who was seemingly born at the just-right place and era, and managed to be everywhere cool and know everyone fabulous. It didn’t hurt that he was born into old money, and had no problems rubbing elbows with the rich, connected and famous. He was raised on an English estate and learned photography at home from his nanny. (Here’s hoping the family took care of her during her lifetime, because it was the nanny who nurtured the artistic inclinations that would become the man’s legacy.) But Beaton’s own perseverance landed his first photographs in Vogue before he was even out of college. From the magazine’s early days of publishing photography and well into the 1960s, Beaton continued to shoot for Vogue’s roster of magazines as well as Vanity Fair, and created stage and costume designs, usually historical ones, for films such as My Fair Lady, Gigli and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. But it is his fashion and portrait photography he is most famous for, shooting what are now iconic and unforgettable images of personalities such as Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and Truman Capote. By the time he died on January 18, 1980, he was a celebrity in his own right, Read More »

Vogue’s First Staff Photographer Jumped Ship for Harper’s Bazaar, and then Became “Sadly Passé”

As jetsetters who could have easily leapt from the pages of The Great Gatsby, fashion photographer and high-society playboy Baron Adolf de Meyer and his chic wife, Olga, knew how to party. From lawn-bowling parties to post-ballet blowouts, the two may not have been high rollers, but they certainly lived the life, thanks to their generous patrons. Traveling in chic circles gave de Meyer, who died on this day in 1949, access to many of his famous photographic subjects, and his portfolio won him a generous contract as the first staff photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair in 1913, a post he abruptly abandoned in 1923 to work for rival Harper’s Bazaar.

It all started just before World War I. After socializing their way across Europe, the de Meyers arrived infamous but penniless in New York. Given their state of financial affairs, de Meyer decided he would earn his living as a professional photographer, a talent that had been a pastime before the war. The timing was ideal, as a young man by the name of Condé Nast had just started using a printing method that enabled a low-cost magazine like Vogue to publish fairly faithful reproductions of original photographs. Out with illustrations; photographs were the next Read More »

What’s Her Line? Lilly Daché was the Most Famous Milliner in America

How many modern-day milliners can you name? One? None? The name Mme. Lilly Daché is unknown to 21st century fashionistas, but the milliner was so well known in her day that she appeared, voice disguised, on the popular game show, “What’s My Line?,” where panelists asked a series of yes-or-no questions to guess the identity of the celebrity mystery guest. Daché, who died on this day in 1989 at age 97, was a name not only “known coast to coast,” as panelist Arlene Francis queries in the video of the designer’s “What’s My Line?” segment (see below), but controlled a multi-million empire, including ownership of the Lilly Daché Building, nine stories at 78 East 56th Street, that served as her salon, business headquarters and garden apartment from 1937 to 1967. Through the 1930s and into the early 1960s, every stylish woman with an extra few dollars bought a Lilly Daché hat—particularly the colorful turbans she perfected by shaping them right on the model’s head—before they bought a new dress.

“I would talk to the woman, ask her where she planned to wear the hat, what kind of dress she would wear it with,” Daché told an interviewer late in her career. “If she thought her nose was too long, I would make a hat with a brim and pull it down so you couldn’t see the nose so much. I made everything with love, affection and Read More »

The Bakst Influence: When Couture Met Ballet


One hundred years before the fashion world was buzzing over Kate and Laura Mulleavy’s tutus for Black Swan, the fashion elite of Paris were doing the same over Léon Bakst’s costumes for the Ballet Russes. The company founded by Sergei Diaghilev opened in Paris in 1909, and until his death on this day in 1924, Bakst would prove to be the company’s most unforgettable costume designer. The influence of his brightly colored, graphic-print costumes on contemporary fashion would outshine even those created by Pablo Picasso and Coco Chanel, both of whom dabbled in costume design, and are still apparent in the styles of 2011.

Bakst truly caught the spirit of what Parisian women wanted to wear during the company’s second season. “…The bright, flowing silks from Schéhérazade, a kind of Arabian Nights fantasy, created something of a style revolution in Paris when it was first performed,” writes Kate Salter on Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes,” the exhibition currently on display at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum.

French couturier Paul Poiret was the first fashion designer to adapt Bakst’s stage style into high style. Shortly after the premier of Schéhérazade, Poiret created Read More »

Fashion Statement: Mainbocher

“Women who apprecitate the inside idea as well as the outside expression of clothes…are, to me, the really well-dressed women.” — American designer Mainbocher, who died on this day in 1976. To read more fabulous Fashion Statements, click here. Read More »

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