The dictionary definition of a legend is “a person whose fame or notoriety makes him or her a source of exaggerated or romanticized tales or exploits.” That can certainly be said about both Truman Capote and his famous “swans” – the legendary beauties of a long gone New York who constituted his friends, muses and sometimes later enemies.
Adored by Capote for their grace and wealth, they were style icons and social butterflies alike who were featured on magazine covers and the ‘International Best-Dressed list’ many times over.
Famously photographed by the likes of Slim Aarons and Bert Morgan, they included among others: Babe Paley (“Swan numero uno”), Gloria Guinness, C.Z. Guest (“the cool vanilla lady with champagne hair”), Marella Agnelli (“the European swan numero uno”), Lee Radziwill (“a special friendship”) and Slim Keith. Keith — who was born 95 years ago on July 15, was seen as the original California girl because of her tall, slim, athletic build and thus was considered an originator of American chic.
Images in slider include:
1. American socialite Mrs. Winston F. C. Guest (aka C. Z. Guest, 1920 – 2003) with a poodle and a Great Dane at her ocean-front estate, Villa Artemis, in Palm 2. Beach, Florida, circa 1955. (Photo by Slim Aarons/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
2. February 1975: Gloria Guinness climbing a staircase in Acapulco, Mexico, where she owns a luxury beach house. (Photo by Slim Aarons/Getty Images)
3. Lady Keith steps onto her porch in Lyford Cay, New Providence Island, April 1974. (Photo by Slim Aarons/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Editor’s note: Helene Gustavsson works with picture research at Getty Images and is one of the editors for the ‘Of the Moment’ blog. With a particular interest in fashion and social history she edits the weekly Getty e-mail feature “Style Now and Then,” looking at both contemporary trends and the inspiration from the past behind them. She also put together this lightbox of Capote’s swans, which piqued our interest and had us thirsting for more NY socialite scenesters – this list from New York Magazine has all the greats.