style icon | babe paley


photo :: lord snowdon, 1958
Babe Paley, age 43, in her suite at the St. Regis, decorated by Billy Baldwin and photographed by Lord Snowdon in 1958. Mrs. Paley is wearing a pair of “black and white” pearl bracelets and a pearl and diamond necklace, both designed for her by Fulco Verdura

“Babe Paley had only one flaw; she was perfect.  Other than that, she was perfect.” — Truman Capote


Born Barbara Cushing in 1915, she was known as “Babe, — the daughter of a prominent brain-surgeon, she and her two sisters were raised to “marry well.”  Babe was working as a fashion editor at Vogue Magazine when she met her first husband, oil heir Stanley Grafton Mortimer in 1940.  Babe had two children with Mortimer before their divorce in 1946.

photo via getty images


Mrs. Stanley Grafton Mortimer Jr. (Babe Paley- formerly Barbara Cushing), world’s best dressed woman at her home in Hobe Sound, Florida, 1947

Her work at Vogue gave her access to designer clothes and designers were eager to dress her because of her high profile and glamorous image.

50558143.jpg image via getty images


Wife of CBS Board Chairman Mrs. William S. Paley (C) attending dinner party at the Plaza Hotel following opening concert of the Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall. (Photo by Yale Joel//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)


Babe met William S. Paley, the chairman of CBS Television in 1946 and were married in 1947.  Mr. and Mrs. Paley were avid art collectors and their collection included Picasso, Cezanne and Jackson Pollock.  Babe’s influence in the art world helped ensure the success of many leading modern artists of the era.

Babe’s style said that she was rich, but didn’t need to flaunt it.  She was widely known for her beauty, manners and kindness — qualities that unfortunately are in short supply of late.

She was able to start a fashion trend without even trying — have you ever tied a scarf to the handle of your purse to emulate a look you saw in a magazine or on a celeb?  Well, you have Babe to thank for that — she was in a rush to get out of the house one day and hurriedly tied her scarf to her purse handle.  She was photographed with the scarf on her purse and boom! The look was picked up by fashion editors and a trend was born.