Candy Darling was a Warhol Superstar who led a life of parties, men, and disappointments, but the one constant in her life was style. Even on her deathbed, Darling stayed true to who she was, a Hollywood glamour puss.
Born in Long Island in 1944, Darling spent her childhood idolizing Hollywood. In this world, she learned about glamour, which exuded from the fabulous women on her screen. From then and there, she wanted to become a famous actress.
Darling’s love for cinema may have also been a form of escapism from her less than charming childhood. Darling was an only child of divorced parents who was often bullied; a group of boys once attempted to lynchher when she was 16, which caused her to drop out of high school.
Darling often escaped this world for the excitement of local gay bars or the Manhattan LGBTQIA scene. There she could be herself, dressed to the nines.
Darling’s acting aspirations took off when she met Andy Warhol. Attracted to her outgoing personality and beauty, Warhol saw her potential as a star. How could he not? She was the living embodiment of Marilyn Monroe, Joan Bennet, and Jean Harlow all in one.
As a Warhol Superstar, Darling’s personal aesthetic was a combination of Hollywood nostalgia and 1970s bohemian. She blended prints with furs and lace, and because of her tall frame, she never veered into tacky territory. She accessorized these looks with platinum hair, patterned headscarves, and kohl-rimmed eyes.
At the young age of 29, Darling died of lymphoma. Her funeral was a star-studded event with Gloria Swanson saluting the coffin. While in the hospital, Peter Hujar created the famous photo series “Candy Darling on her Deathbed,” which documented the actress in the hospital. Although extremely sick, she still looked like a movie star.
Candy was both brave and brilliant by just being herself. She once said, “There is one thing I must tell you because I just found it to be a truth …You must always be yourself no matter what the price. It is the highest form of morality.”
To learn more about Candy Darling, check out the 2010 documentary, Beautiful Darling.
American arts benefactor and philanthropist Jayne Wrightsman passed away on April 20, 2019. An often private presence on the New York social scene, Jayne and her husband Charles Bierer Wrightsman helped develop the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s French Decorative Arts wing (Wrightsman Galleries) through extremely generous donations (Vanamee, 2019). They have been dubbed the museum’s “most important benefactors (Baetjer, 2019).
Another element of the former model’s persona that dazzled American society was her personal style and in particular, her jewelry collection. “What really struck me about her taste was how educated it was while not being overly academic,” said the head of Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels Auctions in New York Catharine Becket to Vanity Fair (Vanamee, 2019). Some examples of her jewelry collection can be seen in a 2012 Sotheby’s auction that garnered millions of dollars. Included were collections of pearls, diamonds, a 17th-century emerald rosary, and a mid-19th-century diamond bow brooch worn by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II (Vanamee, 2019; “Magnificent Jewels from the Collection of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman,” 2012). These jewels display Jayne’s taste for dazzling pieces in classic and referential shapes. “Everything was beautiful, but she had broad cultural interests,” says Becket (Vanamee, 2019).
Like the fine and decorative art that the Wrightsmans’ donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a portion of Jayne’s wardrobe has been given to the museum’s Costume Institute. Included is a collection of gowns, evening separates, and accessories that showcase her signature style. “Her clothes, which were incredibly well-tailored, served as a blank canvas on which to hang jewels,” said Becket (Vanamee, 2019).
During Jayne’s early beginnings in the 1960s social scene, she wore fashionable gowns that blended classic shapes with ornate details. As she got older, her clothing continued to incorporate eye-catching detail, but with a streamlined silhouette.
A famous example of her personal style is seen in a 1966 Cecil Beaton photograph of Jayne at her Fifth Avenue home (Bowles, 2019). She is documented wearing a 1965 Balenciaga quarter-sleeved gown that is accessorized with feathers and a silk ribbon belt. The photograph has been so inspiring that it was the basis for a 2010 Steven Meisel photoshoot featuring model Amber Valletta (Wintour) and is featured in the Costume Institute’s exhibition, “Camp: Notes on Fashion” (Bowles, 2019).
Jayne’s signature style is also seen in a photograph of her wearing a white Middle Eastern-inspired Balenciaga coat while posing in front of a Georges de la Tour painting entitled “The Penitent Magdalen” (Vanamee, 2019). Both in this photograph and the Beaton piece, Jayne is wearing clothing that blends fashion trends with cultural influences. She would continue this theme in her wardrobe years later with a 2000 ensemble made with a colorful ikat print and simple green trousers. As with her taste in jewelry, she chose pieces that initiated conversation and thought.
To learn more about Jayne Wrightsman and her contribution to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, visit the Charles and Jayne Wrightsman and The Metropolitan Museum of Art page.
Imagine you’re a princess from a far-off land who hobnobs with fashion icons, wears haute couture, and is always decked out in opulent jewels. This was a reality for Princess Karam of Kapurthala.
Also known as the Maharani of Kapurthala, the Princess built a reputation in the mid-to-late 1930s for blending Western couture with South Asian saris and opulent jewels. She may have also been one of the first faces of Indian descent to grace the pages of Vogue and partake in Western high society.
Princess Karam was born in 1915 to the Kumaon royal family. At the age of 13, she was married to Maharajkumar Karimjit Singh, the son of Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of the House of Kapurthala, a Punjabi royal house. The affluence of Princess Karam’s in-laws provided a life that allowed for travel and the enjoyments of upper-class society life, no matter the location. This wealth also allowed the Princess to purchase saris and Parisian-made haute couture, which at 19 years old, she wore well.
The couple arrived in Paris in 1934 and instantly made a scene for her eye-catching saris. “I prefer them to be georgette or mousseline de soie, because when made of these materials, they hang well and give one a better line,” Karam explained to Vogue in 1935. “..I generally wear them in bright colours at all important functions” (“Beauty In India Ncess Karam Of Kapurthala,” 1935, pg. 72) (1). Princess Karam also attracted attention for wearing Mainbocher, Suzy, Madame Gres, and Schiaparelli with jewels that were sourced from India and reset by Cartier (“As Seen by Him: Forever England,” 1934, pg. 94) (2).
Princess Karam’s style was often featured in the pages of prominent American publications, including American and British Vogue, Town & Country, and Harper’s Bazaar. A clothing piece that garnered so much attention that it was incorporated into a Vogue photo shoot was an evening wrap made with dark brown gauze with pale pink gardenias placed under ruffles. According to the Vogue article “Features: Two London Successes,” Princess Karam wore the piece over a silver or pale pink sari and accessorized it with strings of pearls (1934, pg. 56)(3). In 1939, she was described by The New York Times (1939) as “evoking memories of Racine’s Phedre ” in a draped Madame Gres white jersey gown with a knee-length cape attached to the shoulders (p. 49) (4). Wraps were a way she could add a “semi-European touch” to her South Asian wardrobe (“As Seen by Him: Forever England,” 1934, pg. 94) (5).
Aside from Vogue, Princess Karam’s personal style inspired Elsa Schiaparelli. The designer incorporated sari-like evening gowns, dresses with harem pants, and long lame scarves for her 1935 collection. On being the source for one of the leading designers of the decade, Princess Karam exclaimed, “I was thrilled to see that some of the dressmakers were actually inspired for their new models this year by some of the saris I wore in the summer of 1934” (“Beauty In India Ncess Karam Of Kapurthala Karam, Princess,” 1935, p. 72) (6).
Princess Karam was often placed on ‘best-dressed’ lists and was even used as a promotional tool. She found herself as one of twelve stylish women to attend a presentation on healthy eating by Hollywood dietician Dr. D. H. B. Hauser and is said to be the inspiration for Ira Gershwin’s Maharanee (At the Night Races in Paris) in The Ziegfeld Follies of 1936.
According to a 1934 Vogue article, Princess Karam’s appearance was shaped by the influence of her husband. “Prince Karam, who has a great deal of taste in women’s clothes, has taken his beautiful wife in hand and made her into one of the best-turned-out women in Europe to-day. He sits with her at Antoine’s while she has her hair done, and at Paquin’s while she is being fitted” (“As Seen by Him: Forever England,” 1934, p. 94) (7). It’s not determined whether the Maharaja was the sole influence of Princess Karam’s appearance or was one of many hands that shaped her appearance.
The couple returned to India before the beginning of World War II, raised their children, and she passed away in 2002. As like in Paris, Princess Karam became a style icon in India for her saris, opulent jewelry, and social standing. Although she lived her life as a wife and mother, she was also a style icon who introduced Indian fashion to Parisian society.
(1) Beauty In India Ncess Karam Of Kapurthala Karam, Princess. Vogue; New York Vol. 86, Iss. 1, (Jul 1, 1935): 72. (2) As Seen by Him: Forever England Vogue; New York Vol. 84, Iss. 5, (Sep 1, 1934): 94. (3) Features: Two London Successes Vogue; New York Vol. 84, Iss. 5, (Sep 1, 1934): 56. (4) Costume Ball Forecasts Fall Elegance (1939, July 23). The New York Times, p. 49. (5) As Seen by Him: Forever England Vogue; New York Vol. 84, Iss. 5, (Sep 1, 1934): 94. (6) Beauty In India Ncess Karam Of Kapurthala Karam, Princess. Vogue; New York Vol. 86, Iss. 1, (Jul 1, 1935): 72. (7) As Seen by Him: Forever England Vogue; New York Vol. 84, Iss. 5, (Sep 1, 1934): 94.
It’s not unusual to see an artist dressed in a uniform. Johnny Cash became the ‘Man in Black’ because he wore the color so much, and Steve Jobs put his genius on display by forgoing conservative suits for a comfortable turtleneck and jeans combo.
This act of hiding oneself to reveal their craft is also seen in the wardrobe of American interior designer Sister Parish. Sister’s work was built around a bright aesthetic, but when examining her own sense of style, there are extremes. Her professional attire was consistently colored in somber hues and designed in structured silhouettes. This countered the way she transformed her rooms, which were festooned with rich fabrics and quirky embellishments for customers with social status’ as bright as the patterns she used.
How Dorothy Became Sister
Sister was born Dorothy Kinnicutt to a wealthy American family. She earned the moniker Sister as a familial nickname, which followed her into adulthood. Her childhood occurred during the early twentieth century, which was a time where the occupation of an interior designer was not realized. Instead, it was a set of duties based on societal rules to be taken on by a wife or female relative. Sister came into her own appreciation of the craft through both genuine interest and designing her first marital home with her husband, Albert. In 1933, Sister began her interior design business in a small one-room office in Far Hills, New Jersey. The fact that she was a married woman owning a business was considered scandalous and resulted in her husband losing his inheritance.
Sister established herself as an interior designer by designing for her friends, which led to one project after another. By 1962, the business was so successful that Sister needed a partner. She found a then-young interior designer named William Hadley who specialized in combining classic and contemporary styles. Together the duo designed rooms for some of the top names in American society, which included the Astors, Paleys, and even the Kennedys.
Sister is credited for creating and popularizing the American Country look, an interior design aesthetic that was described by a 1999 profile in Architectural Digest as, “…a certain kind of cozy old-money look, part opulent, part hand-me-down.” This upscale ‘lived-in’ feel was created by using antiques and assorted furniture that was complemented with wicker accents, graphic rugs, and handmade textiles. She also liked to include artistic details like scenic panoramas, which elevated the rooms to suit the needs and societal lives of her clients.
Dressing as Sister Parish There is not much text on Sister’s wardrobe, but she was frequently photographed during the height of her career. By analyzing her wardrobe in these photographs and comparing them with her work, a greater understanding of her own aesthetic is revealed.
Sister’s first identity in American society was of a wife. However, her passion for interior design created a new path that let her use her own name and voice. She reveled in this new identity with an outgoing personality and a matching design aesthetic. This passion did not translate into her own professional wardrobe, which was based on darkly-colored outfits with small touches of white neck collars, pussy bows, or jewelry. Constructed, conservative silhouettes channeled her aristocratic upbringing through variations of pencil skirts with jackets or knee-length dresses in crew or V-necklines. Sister’s mainstays were a blonde coif, a flash of red lipstick, and pearls in either a necklace, earring, or brooch form. This personal appearance was that of a diligent professional whose clothing choices were direct and chic, which left the interior design as the focus.
Edith Windsor was a fashionable woman who understood color, proportion, and the power of a flipped bob. When describing her style, Edith sounds like a Hollywood actress or a Manhattan socialite, but she was more than just another pretty face. Edith used her fashionable appearance to fight against discrimination towards LGBTQIA Americans and normalize the face of same-sex marriage.
A Fashionable Lady, A Fashionable Couple
Edith came from a working-class background, attended Temple University, and worked a career in computer programing. She found success in the field despite it being in a heavily male industry and worked her way to the role of Senior Programmer. Early in her adult life, Edith followed tradition by marrying a man, but the relationship didn’t last due to her accepting her sexuality. She later found a partner in Thea Spyer, a Dutch immigrant who worked as a psychologist.
Edith’s famous relationship with Thea began after an encounter at a party. Their connection was so intense that when dancing, Edith tore a hole in her stockings. Together they continued their careers and had the opportunity to travel the world, which the couple documented through photography. Through this, people viewing the photographs have been able to see the love and joy between the couple. What’s also apparent is the couple’s sense of dress. In a famous picture of them sitting in The Cloisters both of the women appear fashionable, but differ in styles. Thea’s look is masculine by way of a pair of slate-colored slacks and jacket that is worn with loafers. Edith’s style is feminine and young. In the photograph, she wears a white turtleneck, a green wool coat, and a pair of high water jeans that are accented with white chunky socks and tennis shoes. Her hair is full and curled at the ends, which frames a bright red lip.
Throughout their relationship, Thea favored clean lines and classically male silhouettes. She often wore suits or button-ups shirts with slacks. Edith opted for colorful and ladylike looks, like wrap dresses, strings of pearls, and oversized sunglasses. Their opposing yet defined styles continued throughout their relationship until Thea’s death in 2009.
First Comes Love and Then Comes Marriage
The expectations of women’s clothing during the mid-19th century were to appear feminine. This related to the social standing of American females at the time, who were expected to be cisgender and straight with a mission in life to marry a man and produce children. Having a career was discouraged and virtually impossible for those who also wanted a family. For lesbians, marriage was not recognized in United States law and was considered suspicious behavior. Because of this, Edith and Thea were forced to hide their engagement in 1967. Instead of a ring, Edith wore a diamond circular engagement brooch that wouldn’t cause attention from her co-workers. The couple eventually married in Canada in 2007.
After years of activism, Edith became an American icon in 2013 when she won a Supreme Court case that demanded same-sex marriages in the United States to be federally recognized in relation to benefits and rights. This wasinspired by a hefty tax bill that Edith was required to pay shortly after Thea’s death, which was caused due to their marriage not being federally recognized.
As a result of her bravery, Edith made numerous appearances in both gay and mainstream media. She no longer had to hide her identity, instead, she was expected to embrace it. She often appeared in public in a t-shirt that read “Nobody knows I’m a lesbian.” And of course, she accented this shirt with her signature blonde bob and a string of pearls.
An American (Style) Icon
Edith lived a fascinating eighty-eight years. It was filled with challenging stereotypes by being her most authentic self, whether it was through her clothing or her relationships. She was a brave, daring, and smart woman who happened to be fabulous. For more on Edith’s mission and her life, visit EdithWindsor.com.