One of the twentieth century’s stand-out style icons, Babe Paley epitomized New York jet-set cool in the 50s and 60s. Along with style maven Slim Keith, Paley was one of the original celebutantes and GOSSIP GIRLs to make it big in American culture. Her clique was dubbed THE SWANS by Truman Capote.
Here are some of my favorite Babe looks…
Truman Capote supposedly drew on Babe Paley and the other Swans — his close friends — as inspiration for what was to be his final book, ANSWERED PRAYERS. Esquire magazine printed the first few chapters from the book. The social fall-out was disastrous. The SWANS never spoke to Capote again. Despite a generous advance, Capote did not finish the book. And died soon after.
ANSWERED PRAYERS is my favorite Capote book. It’s unflinching. And snarky. And heartbreaking. I can only imagine how he would have finished the novel. Perhaps Paley and the other Swans receive a gentle reprieve from Capote’s honest, but cruel, words.
Paley died at the age of 63 of lung cancer. Ever the society professional, she organized her own funeral, dictated the lunch menu, and personally handed out her last remaining possessions.
I can only wonder what her last thoughts might have been. Was it a life worth living? A life worth remembering?