Gloria Vanderbilt: American Icon

By

Published November 30, 2010

 

PHOTOS COURTESY OF ABRAMS BOOKS

For a woman whose legend largely consists of aesthetics—both her own naturally swanlike beauty and the art and designer denim she dreamed up—a glossy picture book seems like a fitting tribute. Quite an intimate one at that, in the case of The World of Gloria Vanderbilt (Abrams), released earlier this month, which compiles photos of the icon from infancy on up. It includes shots taken by virtually every major photographer of the 20th century, from Cecil Beaton to Horst P. Horst to Richard Avedon.

 

It is through this series of over two hundred photos that the book charts the many incarnations of Vanderbilt: from her birth in New York City to legendary railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt’s youngest son, Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt, and Gloria Morgan in 1924, to being the subject of a bitter custody battle years after her father’s death—Gloria’s mother deemed was unfit to raise her by her aunt, art patroness Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, when she was just 10 years old—to the blossoming beauty of high society. She appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, frequented the famed El Morocco nightclub, and married her first husband of four, Pat Dicicco, then continued onwards to become one of the earliest and most recognizable celebrity designers. Moreover, the book features reproductions of her paintings as well as textile and interior designs. “[Her] life is extraordinary from every vantage point, including her place in American social history, her family’s history, and her own journey as an artist, mother, designer, businesswoman and a survivor of some of the toughest challenges anyone can face,” says author Wendy Goodman.

Opening with a foreword by her son, Anderson Cooper, the book candidly touches on Vanderbilt’s private life, including the suicide of her son Carter, and her self-proclaimed most important role as mother. “My mom comes from a time and place that no longer exists,” he writes. “I used to think of her as an emissary from some distant solar system; a visitor to our shores. In this world but not necessarily of it.”

THE WORLD OF GLORIA VANDERBILT IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM ABRAMS BOOKS. FIND OUT MORE ABOUT IT HERE.