09 March 2010

Elsie x 2


Sir Charles Mendl and  ELSIE

  take a look at this cosmic decorating time warp.

I do!

 the pair assembled at the British Embassy in Paris
to say their vows of undying? love?
(note the beloved Blu Blu attends the ceremony)

Passing the Elsie test

 ah! the gifts- one can only imagine the loot Elsie collected-
& banished if it did not meet her de Wolfe aesthetic.

"I believe in plenty of optimism and white paint." EdW
 (some things One can not paint over.)


the couple selecting rings
(note Blu Blu's french high chair)

Holland Taylor recreates the one and only Elsie de Wolfe, and of course,that is, indeed- Mario Buatta posing as Sir Charles Mendl. Elsie was the blushing bride at age 57! or more. (Yes there's HOPE.)  The groom was 55, Elsie purported to be a young 57, (at least) according to sources.

Love Match
After All

Elsie with Blu Blu
(and Mendl propping up the fireplace)

"He looks so wonderful against the fireplace." EdW

Holland Taylor studied de Wolfe as all good actresses would and came up with these observations: 'Elsie de Wolfe hated her Looks, so her face is quite guarded.'

Keeping it loose

"In my struggle to lift myself out of the rut of ugliness and mediocrity, 
I did everything I could to keep fit."
(this mantra- at age 10, little Elsie swore off candy for life)

Taylor again- "And it's obvious that Elsie really didn't like her hands either. When she wasn't wearing little white gloves, she curled them into the oddest shapes, which only made them look like claws."

always with something up Her sleeve

like little ways to make money
 "Entertaining for Elsie was both an art and a business-" Elsa Maxwell

Mainbocher would give Elsie a tidy dividend for mentioning that-
SHE was wearing Him. 
She also decorated the Chicago born couturier's Paris salon.
always concerned with keeping up with clients (the Fricks)
Elsie could make deals with a restaurants-
hotels, antique dealers- reaping services for those rendered.

Photographs from the NYTimes Style and Entertaining Magazine* story conceived by Brigitte Lamcombe, photographer, Barbara Turk, stylist and Mitchell Owens writer- AT LONG LAST LOVE here .*

resting on her laurels


according to The Power of Style authors, Tapert and Elkins,
Elsie devised the cushiony upholstered bed rest with arms-
(casually known as a husband- I doubt if Elsie came up with that one!)

The Mendl's left Paris, fleeing to the States (Beverly Hills) to sit out World War II. Elsie created a fantasy stage set of a house called After All. She admitted to its impermanence, its temporary chic, knowing Villa Trianon, her dazzling Versailles creation was waiting. She returned and restored the Villa's damages sustained during the War.

Finally giving up her vital lifestyle- for repose, Elsie embarked on her final performance. Cecil Beaton said of Elsie, who held court in bed propped up- wearing evening jackets, organdy, white gloves and diamond bracelets-
  " Elsie is certainly prettier- prettier than she has ever been before.
(at long last-After All)

Spring 2001 issue New York Times Magazine Style and Entertaining
The Power of Style- Annette Tapert and Diana Edkins.

*NOTE: I have not seen these images or story out and about on the internet, if USED-please give the creators proper credit-


  1. What fun! True she is transformed in that last real picture, but I almost don't recognize her. There is a sharpness in her eyes before that really expresses her strength - as with NO CANDY at 10!I swore off Coke at 14, but candy? My mother had one of those bed rest cushions with complete with arm rests in the 70s. A "husband" for support?!

  2. Marvelous posting LA, quite divine. Coincidentally, I am working on a short one myself on the lady about a luncheon she had with my great grandfather in Paris during WWI. I was astonished to learn about it while reading her autobiography several years ago...

  3. Thanks for sharing this - these recreated photographs are so fun!! She was a fascinating lady for sure.

  4. Elsie,Holland, Mario and Mitch in the mix... who could ask for anything more.

    That Elsie... The Museum of the City of NY had a dollhouse that was decorated in her honor and the figures were all her friends including Gertrude Stein. How cool is that?

    Well done.

  5. Le style, reading back thru Elsie things- I was reminded of how up to date she would be, a lady that keep up, and was ahead of her time! a real trailblazer. pgt

  6. Cynthia and AD- hope you read the article linked- superb!

  7. Reggie Darling, You have some wonderful stories about family, friends and brushes with our favourite persons of the day. According to the sources- blu blu was her real One and Only! pgt

  8. Elsie de Wolfe was a disciplined modern woman that defied society to judge her. Some of her personal life story would have become fodder for her critics, but I think those detractors were a bit afraid of the gal.

  9. This is one of the best parts about the Internet in general & blogging in particular: the way it can give new life to excellent (and amusing) pieces like this, things that, sadly, might otherwise never see the light of day again. I mean, a hundred bloggers gushing in unison over the same feature in the newest issue of--well, in the old days, it would have been Domino--is great and all, but it's even better to see something fresh, even if that something is almost a decade old. Mitchell Owens is a wonderful writer and I love Mario's playing along. Excellent archaeology, Little Augury.

  10. What a delicious treat. And, I agree about the look in her eyes. A bit of a Cuisinart in them that could shred and turn you into puree in a heartbeat. But I also admire her strength to be what she wanted to be. I don't she would be one to rely on polls, do you?

  11. Anon- I agree. Elsie was blazing trails in all areas. I still go back to the Power of Style book to read the essays about these ladies often. pgt

  12. Home, What a woman she was-as mentioned the Power of Style gives a good synopsis of her life-as it was and as she imagined it to be. She must have been extremely disciplined to give up candy at 10. There is also the story that her teeth were perfect and as a child when she chipped one-her father said- unfortunately her only good feature was gone. Parents-will they ever learn. This brought about a sort of obsession with her lack luster appearance for most of her life- Of course she managed to over come it! pgt

  13. Magnaverde, I so agree with you on this. I loved these stories, some of the best things are still coming from the NY Times magazines special editions.I have many tucked back. I do get exhausted from seeing the same thing rounding the blogs, I may be showing my age-but I am completely uninspired by much of what I see in the design mags these days. If nothing else- I can find inspiring old ones to share. pgt

  14. hmmm, but isn't 'I believe in optimism and plenty of white paint' almost at odds with her dictum in my post yesterday that 'bare walls are the refuge of the artistically destitute'?

  15. DownEast, Me thinks you've got something. I do think Elsie loved to sling the white paint on furniture-something I don't think necessary on everything. I love the wood patina and a mix. I am sure whatever the lady meant-it was what SHE MEANT-at the moment! pgt

  16. Fabulous shoot...and great post, xv.

  17. I have just begun to read about her, so found your post fascinating. What a wonderful character. They just don't make 'em like they used to. Or maybe they do, but I don't find them in my circle. haha.

    Great post and I shall go read the links.

    xo Terri

  18. Love this post; what a gal......lots of gumption and grit!!!
    We could use a little more of that these days.
    Thanks for sharing a little of Elsies world with us!

  19. So glad to finally have come to your blog. So many have raved & now I know why. Looking forward to following you.

  20. I absolutely love this! I own a copy of the last photo because of the Cartier Clock on the night stand, it almost eclipses Elsie. Did you read "The one I love the Best" by Bemelmans, it is very droll, the bit about Blu Blu is the best.

  21. What a great post! You have such a great eye for finding the most wonderful images and stories!

  22. This post came up and I kept looking at the picture and thinking, "I don't remember Elsie de Wolfe looking so much like Holland Taylor!"

    Once again, Elsie and Holland -- how fun is that. I'm thinking bio pic.

  23. Oh my! What a wonderful post! I have been a decorator for 41 years (egads)! I started rearranging the furniture at around 5; and when I was 13 my mother gave me the book; "A House in Good Taste", and said: "This is what you might want to do" !

    I love doing it, still!

  24. thank you Penelope! I have been doing the same for about 30- and I was always doing around the house-My parents built a house when I was about 8 and from there on I was hooked. pgt



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