15 June 2011

Guinness Stripe: the Classic

ACAPULCO Vogue January 1970, by Cecil Beaton

In an age of swans, she may have been thought of as the Black Swan or-maybe a Shark. Regardless of her reputation-and there is much to consider-but that is another story- another day.  For the moment, I'm looking at her black and white stripe banquette.

Never accuse Gloria Guinness of being tame-she was all about LESS is MORE.

Think about the year-1966- when this photograph was taken by Cecil Beaton. Over fifty years old and still everything is "of the moment." The clothes- the interior- the stripe. For a woman that wanted to be known as "an original"-Gloria Guinness hit the mark.

In W magazine she declared "CHIC? It is absolutely innate, I was born with it. CHIC cannot be taught." 

This may be true- and perhaps in the era of this Swan-when information was limited Guinness' definition of CHIC might have been apt. Today CHIC is everywhere. It can be taught-but one must study, study, study-and Guinness is a great teacher.

Lesson I-Less is More.
Guinness was a Minimalist. It carried over-from her pared down fashion- to her pared down interiors.
It seems when she was poor- and she was-she was able to keep climbing the ladder to marital success in a simple black cardigan and skirt.(period) She took her success with that uniform right to her interiors brilliantly for richer or poorer.  I don't think La Guinness was one to keep hovering about a room with a pillow in hand- of say-red or yellow or both- trying to decide where to toss it and hope it lands like spontaneity.

Lesson II- Less can be More.
It also seems though she married well-very well-on her third outing, her husband was Loel Guinness,  held tightly to the La Guinness purse strings.  Friend and writer Nancy Holmes said, " I remember the drawing room in her house in Lausanne was covered in the cheapest chintz you could buy. But she had everything so exquisitely made that it looked wonderful." So obviously- though it may have pained her to admit it- Mrs. Guinness was on the dreaded "budget."

Lessons III, IV, V, VI
Keep it:
Lesson VII
Keep it:
These must have been the only words in her personal style lexicon. Bold words-those. In another photograph Beaton shot with GG and her bold banquette, she wears-again-always classically stylish-a caftan. Of course we love them- and while it might seem GG would have selected a black or white caftan with some hand embroidery-surely she had one-she side steps the obvious and wore another stripe. That's another sign of the CHIC Gloria Guinness oozed-that's the part that is-"absolutely innate," &  she must have been onto something when she said " I was born with it."

ACAPULCO 1970, by Cecil Beaton

What could be more simple-stylish- than a black stripe- make it a wide one- with graphic pillows?  This is one fabric you can find as GG did for cheap-get lots and lots of it- and let it work for you. My best guess is you may find a good upholstery fabric for as little as 20  dollars a yard (cheaper-probably). Of course, there are fine black and white stripes-not exorbitantly priced ones, like the ones from Pierre Frey, one of my favorite fabric houses.  I gathered a collection of Pierre Frey fabrics to exhibit Lesson VII the power of simple.

top to bottom: THESSALIER NOIR 01,  a painterly linen stripe with two different stripes within the pattern. TUILERIERS NOIR 02,  a woven stripe-still bold, full of nuance. ISOLA VERANDA III ORAGE 7 another bold stripe-it's reversible, designed by Alberto Pinto, more greige than white but its size outweighs the color. Lastly as a the pattern to accompany your stripe-ELLIPSE/NOIR & BLANC, a series of concentric circles in black and greige.

Along with the graphic bold stripe- Guinness simply added some black and white solid pillows and some in a checkerboard pattern-again bold-probably pieced from solid black and white squares. The statement-along with the stripe-is adding a bold pattern-one of the tricks GG uses that I love.
Lesson VIII Be BOLD.

 What fabric GG used-I don't know, though the Marimekko fabric JOONAS from the sixties, puts me in mind of it. Adding a pattern like this to a room is always worth the money and "ups the ante." Marimekko also obliges Guinness stripe seekers with a black and white stripe called Juhla-Raita.

This is the house in Acapulco Guinness dressed in her black & white stripe -the domed "palapa" room of her Acapulco home, photographed in 1972, probably the room we are seeing stripes  in 1966. The  Guinness "palapa" was a thatched-roof, open-sided structure, material to cover the roof of such is usually dried and woven palm-tree leaves.

Her style-CLASSIC. 
Her approach one note-but- played like a virtuoso.

photograph by Beaton

STILL One of the best resources for reading about women like Guinness is  The Power of Style-by Annette Tapert and Diana Edkins. Most of what we read on the internet about great women of style is sourced from the book- and if you are tuning into the subject of style for the first time-get the book. a contributing editor to Harper's Bazaar from 1963 until 1970. She also was a member of the International Best Dressed List.

see JOONAS in Elle Decor here



  1. Absolutely brilliant post! I have followed her all my 40 years of decorating!
    I do think she is right; (sorry to disagree with you.....because you are one of my absolute faves)!!!

    I think "chic" is in your genes. I think you can learn lots of things....in fact..most things. "Chic" aka "style in english??" Is just plain in your genes.

    One can hone the skill; but the raw material is in one's genes!

    Just my opinion!

  2. Love love love your sphinxes.....doing a blog on them soon!

    I have a pair at my front door.........fascinating!

  3. She earned her moniker, La Ultima.

  4. It will be very hard for you to top this beautiful short survey of GG's life and style. It brings back the happiest memories of my own youth and reading through my mother's copies of Woman's Wear Daily, hoping to find something eye-catching and world-opening like this after a dreary day at my dingy junior high school or later on vacations home from boarding school. (WWD arrived in the noon mail; my mother would have read it over lunch and wouldn't have clipped the articles the articles she meant to save yet. That was the routine.) My mother was the same sort of minimalist as GG and seeing this (all of it, including the terrific palapa room) makes me smile (in the middle of the night). It really still is "of the moment." Curtis

  5. A remarkable post - and a good reference for a great book. I am always tempted to buy it for the stylish girls I know, but choices in men are so dicey. I just don't want them to think boorish men are part of being stylish.

  6. Thanks, Gaye, I'll look for The Power of Style - it sounds like very good reading!

  7. I love that book by Annette Tappert--however, for some reason I have never been that captivated by Gloria Guinness. In that book, however, Millicent Rogers, was also featured. Last year, I went to the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos and just loved her beautiful clothes and jewelry.

  8. Gloria Guinness may have been a minimalist in terms of her fashion choices,but when it came to doing up her Paris residence in the 1950s it would seem that minimalism was the furthest thing from her mind. The
    interiors by Georges Geoffrey were richly detailed, at least that is the impression gained by photographs shown in the 1960 publication,
    Les Réussites de la Décoration Francaise 1950-60.

  9. Penelope, As I say-"This may be true- and perhaps in the era of this Swan-when information was limited Guinness' definition of CHIC might have been apt." Today CHIC is everywhere.I do think it can be taught-that is to say copied if the blogs and magazines are to be believed. Are they? We are so flooded with the idea of CHIC- their are very few today that ORIGINATE it. I've tackled the topic before and bloggers don't like it-because they have "laid claim" to the idea that everything they report on their blog is SO- and by that I mean Chic. I citied some examples of women I think are so before-Amy Fine Collins is one that continually comes to mind. The word in today's culture is about as meaningful as LUV.

    Here is a link to the CHIC posts I have dipped my toe into- http://littleaugury.blogspot.com/search/label/Chic
    Let me know what you think-

  10. HOBAC, I didn't know. It seems apt.

    Mark- It is an excellent assemblage. Many good photographs otherwise not seen of the women and their interiors.

    Laurent- Love PF fabrics, They actually now have a wonderful website for research. I have another post that includes one of their wonderfully whimsical and historically interesting fabrics in mind-soon.

  11. Penelope- I've done lots of posts on the sphinx, here is a link to them

  12. Curtis, for me it was Vogue and House & Garden and I have the same memories. I would sit in my GranMa's den closet and there all her HG's were housed on shelves along with scrapbooks of her clippings. We seem to have gotten our start with a little daydreaming. I don't know if you have an interest-but the autobiography of Andre Leon Talley- called ALT is a good one on how the mere pages of a magazine can send one off to the fashion heights. He is originally from Durham NC-just a little way from here. pgt

  13. Mrs Blandings-The book is a good one. As with many of the "women of style" they could be bitches.It is one of those interesting topics---while we can admire one's art, music, design, clothes-- we can abhor the bad manners.It does seem that whether born to it- or to assume the mantel of--- there are people in the KNOW that are not very NICE.As you say boorish-and I would add- down right petty, but as YOU know- I like Ritz crackers too. pgt

  14. Mark, Yes-the book is an enduring one-after its original publication.

    Mrs Olsen-I agree about GG! It's here STRIPE I love! the picture painted of her in the Book-leaves something to be desired. SEE the comment I left for MRS BLANDINGS above with that thought in mind. I have been lucky also to see the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos-fell in love with that area and she does seem to have more "there" there. I love the stillness of that house-almost as if going through a pyramid-now that- I have imagined!but she aptly fits the idea of the Pharoahs don't you think?

  15. Toby, You may be right-I am taking a bit of license to make the point about this particular design idea. And I guess another thought might be-when In Paris do as the Parisians do. How I, and my readers surely, would love for you to share her interiors by Georges Geoffrey in the 1960 publication,Les Réussites de la Décoration Francaise 1950-60.If you have it, please scan some images for us. Again-as many- many a time I have asked, write a guest post for Little Augury and share your ideas,with all your brimming bookshelves of information you can be my resident scholar! As always I am glad you are reading and something here has peaked your interest, glad to know I am still one of your favorites. Gaye

  16. Another interesting, informative, feast-for-the-eye post, Gayle. I blush to admit I was unfamiliar with Gloria Guinness before. (What is the name of CHIC? Gloria, as in Vanderbilt or Guinness, Guinness as in Gloria or Daphne!) LA has prompted several of my recent book purchases, this time I requested a copy of The Power of Style from the library. Which does not mean I won’t still order a copy…

  17. I have to be on YOUR side, 'Chic' is available to be copied ad nauseum - STYLE though is RARE. When the stars collide at one's birth, only those kissed by the Gods can claim that Crown - whether in Architecture, Art or Fashion. Picasso, so many have learned from...Balenciaga, all take a bit from...Frank Lloyd Wright the same.

    YOUR Stylish...a Teacher, A Mentor and A Scholar - others just copy you while wagging their fingers as if they are the last word.
    As I have been told: 'Copying is the SINCEREST form of flattery.'

  18. Diane, Good for you, rarely do I use the Lib here enough! Gloria does have an exalted ring to it.

  19. The Swan, Style is Rare today. I do think style is innate, it isn't the same thing as chic- and the real chic women in the truest sense- are the likes of Diana Vreeland-that we will never see again. Maybe the word stopped ringing true when she died. Perhaps? I always want you on my side! and always great to hear from you. pgt

  20. Very informative, thank you.

  21. Debra, time for a change! It is Anna Pavlova.

    Linnea-thanks to you for letting me know, always appreciate your comments

  22. Fabulous post Gaye. The Pierre Frey fabric is wonderful.

    I love Gloria's style. I was very happy to see after reading
    "sleek and tailored" that the next picture was her wearing a kaftan. I have bought so many this year. I pulled my tailored pieces out of storage a little while and put them in the dry cleaners. I agree less is more xx

    I'm off to the country at the weekend so I shall catch up with you properly then. It's 3.15am here. Have a great weekend xx

  23. I somehow missed this post and am so glad I found it now as I was perusing at this ridiculous hour. I have (and love) the book - my sister gave it to me several years ago for Christmas. I also ADORE Pierre Frey- have you seen the Deyrolle collaboration for fall? SO charming. And GG most certainly had IT - just love her classic, simple, tailored style!!

  24. I took the bait and ordered the book, it looks like good summer fun and reminds me a bit of an old favorite: The Classic Ten by Nancy MacDonell Smith

    Thank you for sharing!



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