Every era has an “It” girl.
She isn’t the most beautiful woman in the room, she isn’t the richest woman in the room nor is she the woman with the most glamorous outfit.
She is the one women aspire to. She has more style and ingenuity in her little finger than her circle of friends put together.
She isn’t a slave to fashion but 10 paces ahead – collecting the creative and the unique as she goes.
In the Jazz Age, this lady was Daisy Fellowes, described by Karl Lagerfeld as the “most stylish and wicked woman in fashion”.
Daisy was the daughter of Duc Decazes and Isabelle Singer. As heiress to the Singer fortune, she was brought up by her aunt Winnaretta de Polignac, following the suicide of her mother.
Daisy married Prince Jean de Broglie in 1910, whom she had three daughters with, Emmeline, Isabelle and Jacqueline. But it was during her second marriage to the banker Reginald Fellowes that she became the “goddess” of Cafe Society.
Daisy spent most of her time in Paris, but summered in Venice and frequently visited the US, in her yacht, Sister Ann, with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
In her book Allure, Diana Vreeland noted, “There’s an awfully chic comment, “somebody said to the devil ” I like your style” – that was Daisy. She had the elegance of the damned. When I speak about her, I’m speaking of those extraordinary eyes, the roundness of her cheeks and the aliveness and glow of the face…that face!”
Daisy knew the effect she had around her, as Cecil Beaton put it:
“Daisy Fellowes enjoyed making other women appear foolish, and would wear plain linen dresses when everyone else was dressed to kill. These linen suits, though simple in tailoring and often of identical shape, were ordered in dozens of different colours and complemented by barbaric jewels – handcuffs of emeralds, necklets of Indian stones, or conch shells of diamonds. She even wore jewellery with her beach suits”.
Daisy commissioned Cartier, in 1936, to make her a necklace which was to be called “Tutti Frutti”.
The necklace was designed as ”a flexible collar of rubies, emeralds, sapphires and diamonds set in platinum, with, in the center, a removable clip brooch composed of two huge sapphires. The necklace was almost certainly based on one made in 1935 by Cartier for the Maharajah of Patna, using his own diamonds, emeralds and rubies. Curiously, Daisy Fellowes’s jewel places significant emphasis on sapphires, considered an unlucky stone in the Indian tradition.”
Fashion wise, Daisy played the part as muse and as a major client. Her desire to shock made her the perfect partner in crime for a certain designer called Elsa Schiaparelli – she who enjoyed designing the daring and she who enjoyed wearing the daring.
It was indeed Daisy who first wore the Dali inspired “Shoe Hat”, which Dali sketched for Elsa in 1937.
It ‘s not too difficult to believe then, that at the age of seventy, Daisy was still commissioning Givenchy to make her a Somali panther coat, shaped like a smock, with a drawstring waist and a panther tail belt, accessorized with gold kid cycling shoes and a necklace of topaz flowers! ( I just wish I had a picture)
Daisy didn’t wear clothes for the sake of wearing clothes. As the Metropolitan Museum of Art puts it. she “was not an acquisitive clotheshorse and was known for wearing the same dress for day and evening. She wore this empire-line dress to at least two official functions: a reception given by the King and Queen of England at the Palais de l’Élysée on July 19, 1938; and the court presentation of her daughter in March 1939.”
Daisy was not only daring in her attitude towards fashion, but also in her attitude to men and relationships. She was claimed to be more than a little predatory and ruthless with other people’s husbands.
She was also notorious for her addiction to opium and for her acid tongue. She allegedly once described her own offspring as: “The eldest is like her father, only more masculine. The second is like me, only without the guts. And the last is by some horrible little man called Lischmann.”
Caustic comments aside, it is no wonder that Karl Lagerfeld paid the ultimate compliment by photographing his own “daisy shoot” for Harper’s Bazaar, a couple of years ago.
Let the party continue – long live Daisy:
All photographs, unless otherwise stated, Cecil Beaton.
Text taken from Cafe Society, Socialites, Patrons and Artists 1920 – 1960, Thierry Coudert