The Power of the Perfect Façade
Reviewed in the United States on 3 January 2015
The first time I read it was from cover to cover, within a couple of days. That was 20 years ago! The internet was taking its first steps, cellphones were a novelty and social networks......were in a different format.
Yes, the social networks of the ladies described in "The Power of Style" consisted of a: telephone (not cellphones), letters (not emails), and face to face interaction (not Skype, etc.). There were no "selfies", "instagrams" or "tweeters". There lives and styles were followed by reporters, journalists, professional photographers and the paparazzi.
Although they lived in the 20th century, their lives seem to belong to another era, where the dirty laundry was kept in-house.
What the world saw was beauty, elegance, chic, style - an immaculate, perfect façade.
Recently, I moved to a new home. As I unpacked, the book resurfaced - I read it again, cover to cover, over the weekend.
20 years ago I was a university graduate, and read these women's lives with awe, admiration and a pinch of envy. 20 years later, with a career, family and home, I find myself having mixed feelings towards a few of them.
Some of these stylish women were pioneers in their field: Millicent Rogers introduced American-Indian jewelry and made it fashionable. Diana Vreeland - as editor at Harper Bazaar and Vogue - revolutionized the way fashion is covered in journalism and its cultural impact. Jackie Kennedy was a book editor. Elsie de Wolfe had her own interior decorating firm. C.S. Guest wrote on gardening. Chanel ran her own fashion house. These women worked, at a period of time they were not expected to work or were wealthy enough to stay in bed till noon. I deeply respect them.
The other women were either born into wealth or married very wealthy men. Their daily lives consisted of dress-fittings, shopping, luncheons, dinner parties, entertaining, matching the color scheme of the food to the tablecloth & napkins, the chinaware and the flatware. Decorating their homes and themselves with clothes and jewelry. If as little girls we played "princess", they were actually busy - day & night - living this game, maintaining a dreamy environment. With all their wealth and international visibility, they did not leverage it to any worthy causes.
I found it rather pathetic, that for many of them, the summit of their lives was to be listed in the annual "best dressed list" and (not 'or') "The International Fashion Hall of Fame". Well, if it made their husbands proud, who am I to argue....
I gave a 4-star score, because the book is pure guilty-pleasure reading. Filled with photos, tidbits of gossip and the revealing truth: sometimes behind the glamorous façade there was pain, anxiety, stress and a restrictive deal. As Wallis Simpson (Duchess of Windsor) once said: "You have no idea how hard it is to live out a great romance".
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