“Chic? It is absolutely innate – I was born with it. Chic cannot be taught.”-Gloria Guinness to W magazine
Once referred to as "The Ultimate" (as in "the ultimate socialite") by Women's Wear Daily, Gloria Guinness might go down in history as just that. She was a friend of Truman Capote, and featured in the book I recently read about the Black and White Call he threw in 1966, but she was first brought to my attention when I was reading Jackie Style. She was such a fashion trendsetter that she was mentioned several times in that book. I began "googling", and read more about her interesting and jet-set life.
Gloria Guinness was born in Mexico in 1912. She was married four times and rumored to have been a Nazi spy during the second world war. By the time she married her fourth husband, Loel Guinness (a member of the Guinness beer family, yet he made his fortune in real estate and banking), she had two children from her second marriage, and apparently, no valid passport nor was she legally a citizen of any country.
She and Loel had seven residences around the world, including homes in Palm Beach, Paris, Manhattan, Acapulco, and a yacht in the Mediterranean. They also owned three planes. She has been quoted as saying, "So many people think it is difficult keeping all these homes, but I believe it is easier to keep five than one. You can’t possibly spend twelve months at any one place.” Well, wouldn't that be nice?
Gloria also contributed to Harper's Bazaar magazine form 1963 to 1971. In one article, she described the new "ruling class" of 1960s society as "original without being beginners, exhibitionists without being pompous, insolent without being patronizing. Immodest but never vulgar, observant but not inquisitive, immoral but not obscene and notorious but not infamous". How can this group not be completely intriguing?
With C.Z. Guest
Acapulco, 1966 for Harper's Bazaar
Arriving at Truman's Black and White Ball, November 1966
Before she was 'the ultimate", Gloria still had a perfect fashion sense, even making dresses from large inexpensive scarves. She would simply cut a hole in the center for her head and tie a sash around her waist. She is also famous for starting the capri trend, which was famously worn also by my beloved JBKO. Both women were big fans of white capri pants and wore them well. Her effortless ability and perfect taste was so well known, it also sparked envy among some her her "friends" Babe Paley (another "swan") was so envious of Gloria that one year she informed Gloria that the cruise on her yacht would be very casual and to pack her jewels and evening wear. The first night on the ship, Babe emerged from her cabin in her finest jewels and gown and announced that the party would be attending a formal dinner off the boat. The next year, Gloria packed all her finest clothing and jewelry, only to find that the yacht's guests never left the boat and spent every evening dining casually aboard.
Gloria died in 1980 at the age of 68- too young. She is said to have died of a heart-attack, but, like with much of her life, there were rumors..... this time that she took her own life. I think she will always be remembered for her elegant, effortless style, the interesting articles she penned for Harper's, her beauty- with her regal long neck and sphinx like looks, and especially for what she described in her own words, simply, “having a marvelous time.”