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Bettina Ballard’s Busy Day

by habituallychic

02 . 18 . 11
New York Fashion Week has ended and now the editors are on their way to London if they are not there already.  After that, they will cover fashion week in Milan and finally Paris. In March 1951, Life magazine featured an article about  Vogue fashion editor Bettina Ballard entitled Bettina’s Busy Day that followed the editor around Paris during fashion week in February 1951.  What amazed me is that except for a few details and midnight photo sessions, the life of an editor hasn’t changed much in 60 years. 
In the above photo, Bettina Ballard arrived at Balenciaga at 9:15am to select clothes while wearing a Balenciaga suit.  In the car are the coats and hats of the other fashion houses she will visit that day.

At 10:15am, she arrived for the Schiaparelli opening and wore a Schiaparelli coat over her Balenciaga suit.  She also greeted Bergdorf Goodman buyer Jessica Daube before finding her seat.
At Schiaparelli, Vogue editor Bettina Ballard sat next to Carmel Snow, the editor in chief of rival magazine Harper’s Bazaar.  That definitely doesn’t happen today!
After another change of clothes, she attended the Dior show wearing a black Dior suit.  She sat next to Michel de Brunhoff the editor of French Vogue.  There is also an ashtry next to the runway since everyone in those days smoked especially in Paris.

Bettina Ballard dined at the home of designer Jacques Fath with among others that included Duchesse de Brissac and Countess de Rosenberg.

Bettina in a belted hotel robe holds a morning conference in her room at 8:00am with photographer John Rawlings and Vogue assistants Babs Simpson and Mary Haas.

Designer clothing can be borrowed and sent around the world for photo shoots today but in 1951, night studio sessions were the only way clothes could be obtained from the fashion houses who also needed them to show buyers. At midnight, Bettina and photographer John Rawlings direct models at a shoot.
A photo taken in Paris.

In the studio at night, Bettina poses models in pale pleated shantung Fath dresses.  The photo was rushed into the March 1 issue of Vogue.
At 2:00am while most of today’s editors might be at a party, Bettina checks photos taken during the day and eats a late dinner.  She will decide what to send to Vogue editor Jessica Daves in New York and then will finally go to bed. In 1960, Bettina Ballard published a memoire In My Fashion whichfurther chronicles her life in fashion.  It’s one of the only vintage books I don’t own but I can’t wait to read it!  Bon Weekend!

Comments Closed

  1. Renée Finberg February 18, 2011 | 6:11 pm

    wonderful research in this
    and a great story.
    you are the best.

    and the images are fantastic.

  2. Brittany {Gallery No. Eight} February 18, 2011 | 6:15 pm

    So neat to read how it was back then!
    Great post!!

  3. sharon February 18, 2011 | 7:35 pm

    Great post, times have changed ! All the detail is wonderful

  4. Amber February 18, 2011 | 8:48 pm

    What a wonderful feature! I always enjoy the treasures that pop up in old issues of LIFE…love the late dinner shot, especially.

  5. La Maison Fou February 18, 2011 | 8:51 pm

    Loved this day in the life of……really great Heather!
    I like those true to life stories…days before the assistant no.1,no.2 and assistant to the assistant!

  6. Reggie Darling February 18, 2011 | 9:17 pm

    This is a delightful post, and much fun to look at the photographs. It is very nice to see everyone featured dressed so beautifully, and like ladies rather than escapees from a “Housewives” show on Bravo, which many of the attendees at today’s shows unfortunately bring to mind. Reggie

  7. The enchanted home February 18, 2011 | 9:32 pm

    So glamorous..even in black and white! Love those shantung dresses, fabulous….nice job. I love some of the nods to the “old days’ in the ladylike structered dressing we are seeing….beautiful!

  8. the pedestrian February 18, 2011 | 9:32 pm

    So very cool! Thanks for posting.

  9. cailen ascher February 18, 2011 | 9:34 pm

    i just love these old photos! thanks for sharing them. i especially like the shot of the seated models for the vogue shoot – their dresses are awesome : )

  10. AlwaysMe February 18, 2011 | 11:02 pm

    Loved this post. Thank you!

  11. BC February 19, 2011 | 2:03 am

    heather, i am in love with this post!!!!


  12. Brillante Interiors February 19, 2011 | 2:28 am

    Heather, this is a dream post, congratulations for finding always new, exciting stories and old charming ones. I would stare at those images for hours, examining every single detail.

  13. jones February 19, 2011 | 9:13 am

    Magnificent post!!! I can’t believe that any human being could survive a day like that and then get up and do it all over. Of course, there weren’t any computers, cell phones, iphones, digital cameras, etc. Everything had to be done by hand and carried by human. Bettina must have been an amazing woman.

  14. the GOLD book d'Odette February 19, 2011 | 12:24 pm

    I Just Adore your Posts!!!

  15. Layers and Layers February 19, 2011 | 4:08 pm

    another great post Heather. I get your posts everyday and am always impressed at the quality & sophistication of your publications. Sometimes, I like to stop and tell you how much I enjoy them and thank you.

  16. phoebes in santa fe February 19, 2011 | 4:24 pm

    Enjoyed the post and the pictures. But what I was particularly taken with was the difference – seemingly so, anyway – between the women involved in 1951 and those in 2011, shown in the post directly below it.

    When I look at today’s post and the pictures that accompanied it, it seems to me that the women all look so much OLDER than those today. But, were they? I wonder how old Bettina Ballard was in 1951? She looks like she’s in her 50’s or, at least, her 40’s. And so do the women in the pictures with her. Even the models look older.

    Now, maybe she and the other fashion mavens WERE older than those today – excepting, of course, Wintour and her group – but the mass of today’s fashionistas look much younger. Did the ones from 1951 – my birth year, incidentally, – simply dress and photograph looking older? I don’t know but it’s a question I’ve long wanted to ask.

  17. Splenderosa February 19, 2011 | 5:05 pm

    Awesome post, Heather. So interesting & I love the photos. I love the glamour of the ladies during this time, and absolutely hate what “street style” fashion is today. It’s not my age either, I just prefer elegance. Love the post. xx’s

  18. Hannah February 20, 2011 | 5:15 pm

    These are such wonderful pictures that tell so much. I have really enjoyed looking at them. The pictures you posted from Derek Lam are priceless!

  19. theladyfromwwd February 20, 2011 | 10:07 pm

    I am reading Bettina Ballard’s memoir “In My Fashion.” I’m working on my own fashion memoir set in the 80s and was curious to see an example of the genre. Her book is a must read for anyone interested in the fashion and cultural history of the 1930s-50s. Her chapters on Paris just before and after WWII are incisive and moving.
    I googled BB and that’s how I found your blog. I’ll visit again.

  20. Jennifer Powell February 21, 2011 | 3:06 pm

    Amazing to see the similarities to today’s job as an editor. Except for the last photo.. is that a french fry?? Great post!

  21. NYC, Style and a little Cannoli February 21, 2011 | 6:53 pm

    what a great vintage post! everything looks just so classy….really wonderful. a great look into the fashion world of an earlier era….
    Thank you !!

  22. Long Island Style February 22, 2011 | 12:45 am

    love these images — not much changes does it? thanks!

  23. My Dog-Eared Pages February 22, 2011 | 1:02 am

    I love the final photograph. She still looks so well put-together at the end of a long day. What a great post!

  24. Carmie of the Single Nester February 22, 2011 | 11:13 pm

    What fun! Thank you for the blast from the past.