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a monthly look at the faces that have made history

Francine du Plessix Gray

He was the éminence grise of Condé Nast; she was a majestic blonde and milliner to the haute monde. Russian émigrés Alexander Liberman and Tatiana du Plessix fled Nazi France in 1941 and became New York City's grandest power couple, entertaining Dietrich, Dalí, and Dior at their East Seventies townhouse. Francine du Plessix Gray inherited her mother's fair skin, apple cheeks, and voluptuous shape, but not her flamboyance. As a teenager, she found solace in books, earned a Spence scholarship, and studied philosophy and religion at Bryn Mawr and Barnard, where her "antiparental cycle" included strip poker, motorcycle jackets, and a punky haircut. At 26, after a brief Paris fashion career left her anorexic and depressed, she married artist Cleve Gray and traded the glamour of Manhattan (photo shoots with Cecil Beaton and Irving Penn were de rigueur) for a Connecticut farmhouse. There, she raised two sons and wrote many books, including the Pulitzer Prize-nominated At Home With the Marquis de Sade: A Life. Published this month, her powerful memoir, Them, chronicles "the chimeric world of couture" her parents inhabited, but which the grown-up du Plessix Gray chose only to visit.

—Nicole Phelps

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