a monthly look at the faces that have made history

Gloria Guinness

Eleanor Lambert, the late style arbiter and founder of the Best-Dressed List, called Gloria Guinness "the most elegant woman in the world." Truman Capote simply called her one of his swans. He wasn't far off: The socialite and fashion plate had black velvet hair, strong brows, and a slender neck that won her comparisons to Nefertiti. Born in Mexico in 1912, she was married twice—first to a von Furstenberg and next to a grandson of the king of Egypt—before she landed Loel Guinness, an heir to the beer fortune. It's said that she didn't have a valid passport when they met, and, even more fabulously, that she was a spy.

With Guinness' kind of money—they had five homes, in New York, Palm Beach, Paris, Normandy, and Lausanne—she could wear any label she chose, but she was devoted to two Spanish designers, Cristobal Balenciaga and Antonio del Castillo. And she wasn't shy about giving either of them direction, saying to the former something to the effect of, "My husband pays for the clothes; you just design them." She died in 1980, but her pronouncements as a contributing editor at Harper's Bazaar live on—as does her influence on fashion. Capri pants? She launched the craze when she started wearing Pucci's cropped slacks in the early sixties. More recently, "Glorious Guinness" was the muse for Michael Kors' resort show.

—Nicole Phelps

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