Before Babe Paley was Babe Paley, Truman Capote's favorite swan, she was Barbara Cushing Mortimer, editor of Vogue. She joined the magazine in 1938 and worked during the war years, when American fashion adhered to the strict guidelines of General Limitation Order L-85 intended to preserve materials intended for the military: hemlines and belts could not exceed two inches in width, clothing could only be 2 inches wide. a pocket, and ornamental sleeves, hoods and scarves were prohibited. She left the magazine in 1947 after her second marriage to CBS founder William Paley. However, she appeared regularly in our pages until her death in 1978. (In 1959 for example, Vogue published a multi-page profile of Babe, titled Mrs. William Paley, More Than Beauty.)
In April 1944, Vogue asked each of its fashion editors to write an essay describing their personal style in the hopes that it might inspire American women to find their own, too. (People often ask us who selects the fashion featured in Vogue, so we thought our readers might like to see our fashion editors in the type of clothes they choose for themselves, the editor-in-chief wrote of the time, Edna Woolman Chase, in the intro. ) In hers, Babe declares that tradition is my taste, before writing an ode to color, beautiful fabrics and large handbags. (Later, Babe would become known for attaching Hermès scarves to her handbags.) She also preached the art of lively, natural style: The appearance of being too deliberately dressed, with everything carefully matched, me always boring, she wrote.
Below, read Babe Paley's 1944 essay, I Like Tradition, in its entirety. Elise Taylor
I like traditions
By Barbara Cushing Mortimer
I love the traditional know-how of Haute Couture, the know-how that is art. I love seeing beautiful fabrics, silk satins, sheer linen, paper shantungs carefully designed, worked and proportioned. In clothes, I look not only for line and movement, but also for delicate stitching, pretty linings and integrity of detail. I like the arbitrary thinness of the L-85 models. Their basic and reduced simplicity admits an infinite richness of manufacturing.
The feeling of being dressed too deliberately, with everything carefully matched, always bothers me. I love the sudden clash of non-sequential colors. In fact, color is my weak point. I love a pale blue coat (even if it spends its life in the dry cleaners). I love the pansy blue of the paper-and-silk shantung suit photographed on this page. I love the bright red of the Flower Show rose blooming on my black and white checkered cotton beret. I love the dizzying dinner hat, with its bright spread of pink cabbage roses and green velvet leaves, dotted with beaded and sequined dewdrops. I love traditional white flattery for black hair. For dinner at home or with friends, I like to wear sheer white.
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