The City Magazine Since 1975

Hey, Babe

March 2018
Hey, Babe
WRITER: 

When it came to style in the 1940s, no one held a candle to Babe Paley

When it came to style in the 1940s, no one held a candle to Babe Paley. Hers was a face people knew, even dolled up for a Vogue shoot on location at Charleston’s Heyward-Washington House. The magazine’s riff on the Southern belle, shot by celebrated fashion photographer Toni Frissell, was just one of her many appearances in its glossy pages. But the New Yorker, born Barbara Cushing but always known as “Babe,” was more than just a pretty face—she was the It Girl of her time, calling the shots on trends and rubbing elbows with the likes of Slim Aarons and Truman Capote. During her career from 1938 to 1947 as fashion editor at Vogue, a gig she landed at just 23, Time magazine named her the second-best dressed woman in the world, dubbing her an “arbiter of style by instinct and by nature.” After nearly 10 years, a divorce, and another high-profile marriage (her first was to advertising executive and oil heir Stanley Mortimer; her second to CBS founder William Paley), Babe left Vogue for life as a full-time socialite, gracing New York’s cafe society and the pages of numerous publications with her signature crimson smile. Her influence was wide-reaching, and women in all corners of the country adopted her tasteful yet innovative approach to dressing. As one-time friend and confidant Capote once said, “Babe Paley had only one fault: she was perfect. Otherwise, she was perfect.”

Resources: 

Photograph by Toni Frissell/courtesy of LOC.gov