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I Got You Babe

by habituallychic

11 . 03 . 10
You must pick up a copy of the December issue of Town & Country.  One of the highlights is a wonderful first person account by Carol Prisant of the six weeks in the summer of 1957 that she spent working for Babe and William Paley.   Barbara “Babe” Cushing Mortimer Paley continues to be a style icon more than 30 years after her death from lung cancer in 1978.  She was one of the famous Cushing sisters who all married well and sometimes more than once.  She was married to her first husband Stanley Grafton Mortimer, Jr. from 1940-1946.  Her daughter Amanda Burden was from this marriage.  It was her marriage to William S. Paley the founder of CBS in 1947 that seemed to really put her on the map.  Someone once said that they “don’t make ’em like Babe Paley anymore” and I have to agree.  She was always impeccably dressed and well mannered.  In an age where reality stars like Snooki are the new style icons, I long for this ladylike look.  Bill Blass once observed, “I never saw her not grab anyone’s attention, the hair, the makeup, the crispness. You were never conscious of what she was wearing; you noticed Babe and nothing else.”  Those were the days.
Babe and William Paley leaving the famous restaurant La Côte Basque.  The New York Times called it “former high-society temple of French cuisine at 60 West 55th Street.”  This is my absolute favorite photo of Babe Paley since it is one of the only shots of her smiling and looking genuinely happy. 
Babe Paley was photographed by Lord Snowdon in her apartment at the St. Regis in 1958.  Her necklace and bracelets are by Verdura. 

The Paley apartment in the St. Regis was designed by Billy Baldwin.

In the Town & Country article, Carol Prisant remembers seeing the room upon her first meeting with Babe Paley. “And just over her shoulder was the world’s most extraordinary room: walls curtained in red-brown print (and, in memory, a tented ceiling), French furniture artfully scattered on a needlepoint carpet stitched with blackamoor heads, and, above the whole, a Venetian chandelier centered by a clock.  I didn’t know what to look at first.”

Jeremiah Goodman’s watercolor painting of Babe Paley’s bedroom.

Fashion illustration of Babe Paley by Kenneth Paul Block.

Babe Paley leaning out of the St. Regis in 1958 by Lord Snowdon.

Babe Paley at dinner in 1960.
Babe and William Paley, date unknown.

Gloria Guinness, William and Babe Paley at Truman Capote’s Black & White Ball in 1966.

Babe Paley in 1946.

Babe and William Paley with the Duchess of Windsor.

Babe Paley being photographed for Vogue in 1946.

Babe Paley looking like she’s on a cruise.

One of the most famous photos of Babe Paley take in Jamaica in 1959 by Slim Aarons.

Babe Paley with William Paley and Truman Capote in Jamaica.

Babe Paley in 1964.

Babe Paley in Capri.

Babe Paley (1915 – 1978)

Comments Closed

  1. quintessence November 3, 2010 | 10:33 pm

    Totally with you on this one – perfect for you – she was the epitome of “habitually chic”! Love the Kenneth Paul Clock illustration. Am dying for my T&C – where is it!!

  2. Christina November 4, 2010 | 12:02 am

    This post is a treasure chest of style. I long for better style icons than snookie.

  3. MaryBeth November 4, 2010 | 12:51 am

    I have always been fascinated by Babe Paley and her family. I wonder how she would hold up with the 24 hour a day paparazzi.

  4. Heidiopia November 4, 2010 | 11:03 am

    Incredible photos, Heather! She looks so at ease before the camera. I will be snapping up this issue for sure!

  5. Tabitha November 4, 2010 | 11:42 am

    They all fit the “you can never be too rich or too thin” mould.

  6. kimberj November 4, 2010 | 12:49 pm

    What a glorious woman living an incredible life. I’d never heard of her until now, thanks for sharing, she was fabulous. Our world is sadly lacking for women like this now.

  7. kimberj November 4, 2010 | 12:50 pm

    I wonder what happened to her wardrobe? I bet the Kent State Fashion School and Museum would love to do a retrospective on her.

  8. Slim Paley November 4, 2010 | 1:01 pm

    Can’t wait! All the photos so divine. You KNOW how I love Babe!


  9. JMW November 4, 2010 | 1:42 pm

    She certainly was a style icon and it’s true, they don’t make them like that anymore. Just found your blog by the way – it’s great!

  10. Alice Olive November 4, 2010 | 1:52 pm

    I hadn’t seen some of these before. The Vogue 1946 shot is simply stunning. Agree – she is supremely elegant. (I enjoyed reading more about her in the Fifth Avenue at 5am book.)

  11. currentlychic.com November 4, 2010 | 2:41 pm

    Seriously, I was just telling my teenage daughter about Babe Paley last night. I will definitely show her your post tonight! If a picture is worth a thousand words, just imagine how little I will have to say if I show her your blog!
    PS I know I keep saying it, but I REALLY do love your blog! It’s fab!

  12. Karena November 4, 2010 | 3:32 pm

    A style so vibrant and impeccable! The epitomy of glamour!


    Art by Karena

  13. Maureen Sullivan Stemberg, Interiors November 4, 2010 | 10:20 pm


    Simply the best…”I Got You Babe.”
    There will never be another Babe.
    If you and your reader’s haven’t read the book: “The Cushing Sisters.” It is all about Babe, and her other beautiful sisters. That I am proud to say were born and bred in my city…Boston, MA.
    Thank you, for another great post.

  14. Kimberly Grigg November 4, 2010 | 11:47 pm

    I featured this blog post of yours on my FAB FRI Top 10 Blog Posts….. click on this link to see it…..
    http://www.knottinghillinteriors.com/blog/2010/11/fab-friday-10-fabulous-blog-posts/ .

  15. Modern Country Lady November 4, 2010 | 11:52 pm

    What a fantastic looking woman- and then – amazing pictures!
    Lovely post.

  16. stacystyle November 5, 2010 | 1:06 pm

    Women were just so much more aware of being chic then. I love how fitted the clothes are! There’s simply no room for error or cheesecake.

  17. E. Lee November 5, 2010 | 2:10 pm

    I started my career as a decorative painter in Washington, DC in 2003 and one of my first jobs was for Babe’s son Bill at the family’s home in Lyford Cay, Bahamas. We had been hired to paint a few bathrooms to look like grasscloth. Needless to say I grew up in New Orleans with a grandmother who was “Babe Obsessed” as well so I was educated about her beauty, style and how she courted the best of the best interior designers of the time. The best part is that the home was just as Babe had left it and the family worked hard to keep it that way, I came across the original pictures of it in a McMillian book several years later. A real career highlight.
    I too, LOVE this blog. I also wish we had more Babes as role models and style icons today but I am thrilled that so many others agree.

  18. morrismore November 5, 2010 | 6:30 pm

    Great post. I love the photograph of her smiling as well. My understanding is that her front teeth were knocked out in an automobile accident and that her front teeth were all false. I wonder if that had anything to do with her not smiling.

  19. Marisa November 6, 2010 | 1:52 am

    Babe is the definition of chic and so are these snaps!

  20. Claudia Juestel November 6, 2010 | 3:28 am

    Great post with wonderful choice of images!



  21. the coolbirth kid February 1, 2011 | 3:50 am

    i really appreciate the title,
    “i’ve got you babe,”
    very humorous.

    for morrismore:
    her front teeth were false,
    and if you notice,
    a bit too large for her mouth.
    she was very self conscious about her smile;
    when she did smile,
    she normally covered up with her hand,
    like a geisha.

    little aside:
    the needlepoint carpet described by ms. prisant,
    was created by babe herself.

    possibly the best quote about barbara paley,
    comes from former friend truman capote:
    “mrs. p. had only one fault:
    she was perfect;
    she was perfect.”