Notorious & Notable: 20th Century Women of Style

With names like Clara Rockmore, Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, Pauline Woolworth, Joan Crawford and Helena Rubinstein on the wall, the Notorious & Notable: Twentieth Century Women of Style exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York gives a brief glimpse into the lives of 81 socialites and the fashion that defined them. Having façade titles such as philanthropists, art collectors, and heiresses, the women left their scandals to be the touch of intrigue to their social gatherings and the shared whispers during gossip tea time. These were the women who ruled the world. Powerful. Enigmatic. Glamorous. | Giuseppe

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The Jewels

Above: (Former First Lady) Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ gold handbag (1970) + gold flower brooch (1980)

Top: (Countess) Mona Williams von Bismarck Schonhausen de Martini’s bracelet (Cartier, 1927)

Platinum, sapphires, pearls + diamonds

Bottom: (Actress) Joan Crawford’s bracelet (Raymond Yard, 1932) Platinum + diamonds

Front Center: (Socialite) Florence Gould’s Belle Epoque evening bag. Seed pearl, white leather, diamonds + platinum

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The Clothes

On the left: Mrs. Alexander Hamilton Rice (evening gown, Paquin/Paris 1937) A wealthy member of New York’s elite and widely known for her philanthropic endeavors, “she is noted for her beauty and is said to possess one of the finest collections of jewels in the world.” – The New York Times, October 6, 1915

On the right: Babe Paley (evening dress, Roma Valentino 1968) As a debutante from a prominent family, her striking beauty garnered her much attention +  she was a constant fixture on Best Dressed lists throughout her lifetime.

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On the left: Mrs. J. P. Morgan, Jr (evening gown, Worth/Paris circa 1900) Married to the son of banking tycoon J.P. Morgan, she was a reluctant socialite who managed to persistently remain in the background of society. She preferred gardening + had an immense passion for flowers.

On the right: Mrs. Andrew Carnegie (evening dress, Jeanne Dimelow/NYC circa 1915) Known as the wife of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, Louise Carnegie stayed primarily in the background + greatly supported her husband in his philanthropic endeavors. Rather than shopping in Paris, she ardently insisted on patronizing local designers such as Dimelow.

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Front Center: Mercedes de Acosta (teagown, Fortuny/Venice 1910-1920s) Born into a wealthy Cuban-Spanish family, Mercedes was a successful novelist + playwright. She was also known for having affairs with Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, and dancer Isadora Duncan.

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On the left: Geraldine Stutz (evening dress, Mary McFadden 1980s) As president of Henri Bendel’s in 1957, Geraldine used her love for fashion + art, coupled with her understanding of contemporary culture, to revitalize the store & fashion retail itself. “She knows it is important for her to be  seen in the right places wearing the right clothes. In almost any gathering she occupies the spotlight, but with grace.” –The New York Times, November 14, 1959

Front Center: Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt (evening gown, Callot Soeurs 1908-1910) Grace Vanderbilt had the ability to attract the highest members of European royalty to her lavish parties. Entertaining at least 37,000 guests a year, she hosted at least one ball each month + multiple dinner parties every week. The gold dress is a great fashion fossil from the ostentatious Gilded Age.

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Front Center: Mona Williams von Bismarck Schonhausen de Martini (evening ensemble, Balenciaga/Paris 1968) Her love for fashion + a lavish lifestyle made her a regular topic in newspapers & popular magazines. During the 1930s, she indulged in Chanel + Vionnet. After marrying her 4th husband & gaining the title of countess, Mona turned to Balenciaga where she purchased hundreds of dresses + other pieces of garments from the fashion house.

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Front Center: Bernice Chrysler Garbisch (evening ensemble, Christian Dior/Paris 1964) Heiress daughter to the auto empire, Bernice was known as a dedicated art lover. She + her husband displayed in and donated many pieces of artwork to prestigious galleries & museums.

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Front Center: Laura Johnson (evening costume, Emilio Pucci/Florence mid-1960s) Wife of Saks Fifth Avenue President Raymond Jackson, Laura was called the most flamboyant woman in Manhattan + was a prominent & glitzy member of New York’s cafe society. During his lifetime, Raymond refused for her to wear a garment after she had been photographed in it once, giving her the reason to happily and eagerly expand her wardrobe.

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On the left: Helena Rubinstein (evening dress, Unattributed late 1950s) Creating a global cosmetics empire, Helena became one of the world’s wealthiest ladies. A sharp businesswoman from the beginning, she understood the importance of effective marketing, luxurious packaging + celebrity endorsements. One of her biggest rivals- Elizabeth Arden.

On the right: Angela Lansbury (evening gown, Unattributed 1980s) With an acting career that has spanned 7 decades, this notable English actress has been in quite a roster of theater, movie + television appearances.

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Front Center: Gypsy Rose Lee (strip costume, Unattributed 1940s) Having been a famous + innovative burlesque performer, she was the woman who put ‘tease’ in striptease. Her statuesque appearance, sophistication + witty, sensual dance movements on stage garnered her high fame & fortune.

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Front Center: Iris Apfel (evening coordinates, shawl-Pertegaz/Madrid + skirt-Gianfranco Ferre/Milan 1970s-1980s) Having earned herself titles such as style doyenne + fashion maverick, Iris has made her flamboyant fashion sense take an entity of its own. She is known for mixing expensive haute couture with tag sale & vintage finds.

On the Right: Annette de la Renta (evening dress, Yves Saint Laurent/Paris 1985) Wife of fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, “Annette de la Renta is generally regarded as Brooke Astor’s successor as the Social Empress of New York. She’s Blue Blood and Old Money.” –Huffington Post, May 18, 2009

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On the left: Kitty Carlisle Hart (evening dress, Madame Gres/Paris 1966)  A renown actress + singer, Kitty became a staple in New York’s social scene as well as the art world. Having an affinity for fashion, she favored the most garments made by Madame Gres.

Front Center: Sunny von Bulow (mini-dress, Christian Dior/Paris 1968) Daughter of a utilities magnate, Sunny spent many years basking in the glory of being a heiress + socialite. Later in the 1980s, her life became a tragic fairytale after her marriage to her husband Claus severly soured. The story of adultery, wealth + attempted murder in high society dominated the headlines & the case was the first criminal trial to be televised in the United States.

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|pictures belong to Fashion + Class & Jet lag. ask for permission to use, duplicate, etc.|

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