Daily Style Phile: Babe Paley

by M.J. Koury · April 14, 2011

Nostalgia for the glamour women of decades past is a reliable go-to for fashion inspiration, and Babe Paley is one of those retro socialites who sometimes goes under-the-radar, largely because of the subtlety of her style and her quiet class. When she does get the recognition she deserves, though, she's wildly lauded as one of the most graceful and stunning beauties that ever lived.


Full Name: Barbara Cushing Mortimer Paley

Born: 1915

Died: July 6, 1978

First Job: Vogue editor

Marriages: Stanley Grafton Mortimer, Jr. 1940-1946. William S. Paley, 1947.


The Look

Recently featured in Town and Country, and number 7 on New York Magazine's "Top Twenty Socialites of All Time" list, Paley had a simple, understated style that turned heads all through the sixties. She went to the best parties decked out in the best combination of crisp staple pieces, and was one of Truman Capote's beloved "swans." The rest of his swans were Slim Keith, Gloria Guinness, and C.Z. Guest, and as a lovely posse they'd travel through the upscale New York City social circles.


Heather Clawson of Habitually Chic writes:

"In an age where reality stars like Snooki are the new style icons, I long for this ladylike look.  Bill Blass once observed, 'I never saw her not grab anyone’s attention, the hair, the makeup, the crispness. You were never conscious of what she was wearing; you noticed Babe and nothing else.'  Those were the days."


Paley was good at winsome poses and fitting her outfits with the just-right cuts to her body. A muse for some of New York's greatest artists and designers, here she poses for a George Platt Lynes photo:

[Elle Decor]

How To Mimic Her Style

John Lannuzzi has a guide to imitating Paley's revered look on fashionista.com, featuring beige and off-white tailored suits and embellished winter jackets. The key designers include Para, Ralph Lauren, and Valentino.


The one thing about dressing like a socialite is that to be accurate, you have to have the pocketbook of one.