Gloria Vanderbilt, who died earlier this week at the age of 95, was so much more than her moneyed name. The New York socialite eschewed uptown conventions, and spent her life realizing brilliant, ballsy visions that made her an iconoclast among peers. Vanderbilt was an artist, actress, author, designer, model, philanthropist and fashion mogul at a time when most women of her station were just wives and mothers. And while she reportedly inspired her friend Truman Capote's famous character Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's, her style went way beyond daytime pearls and smoking gloves.
In the ‘70s, Vanderbilt revolutionized the fashion industry with a collection of ready-to-wear pieces that included jeans, which were created for women at a time when most mass-produced denim was designed for men. The jeans were one of the first cult fashion products, worn by celebrities and regular women alike for whom a Gloria Vanderbilt-stamped back pocket became a symbol of sleazy sophistication and sex appeal. Her eponymous clothing and merchandise line became a multimillion-dollar business, generating more than $200 million in sales at its peak in 1980. Though a private holding company acquired the brand in 2002, her jeans and her name are still associated with a generation of self-possessed women.
Obviously, Gloria wore jeans well. But the "poor little rich girl" (a nickname the press gave her when she was a child split between an ugly, high-profile custody battle), Gloria projected that same independence and enthusiasm for life into every outfit she wore.
Ahead, we revisit Gloria’s impeccable sense of style and the looks that made her one of the all-time fashion greats.