Thursday, March 03, 2011

Entertaining with Eleanor Lambert

Those 1970s House Beautifuls that my friend Barry gave me are the gifts that keep on giving. While flipping through the October 1977 issue, I found this charming article on Eleanor Lambert's style of entertaining. The late, great fashion publicist (she died in 2003 at the ripe old age of 100) not only had style in spades; she must have had boundless energy as well. She was responsible for creating the International Best-Dressed List in the early 1940s, started the Coty Awards in 1943, founded the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 1962, and organized the still talked about fashion show at the Palace of Versailles in 1973. It was at this show that the American designers- Halston, Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, Stephen Burrows, and Anne Klein- stole the spotlight from France's cream of the crop couturiers including Givenchy, YSL, Ungaro, Cardin, and Bohan. Now that was a triumph!

When it came to entertaining, it sounds as though Lambert was no less energetic. In the article, she said that she hosted seated dinners for 8 to 20 guests as often as eight to ten times a year. In addition, she also gave numerous buffets throughout the year. But it was the sit-down dinners that Lambert liked best because she loved "antique silver and china and a sit-down dinner lets me show off my treasures." Those treasures included Imari plates, Ming lacquer trays used in place of place mats, silver flatware and candlesticks, and fresh flowers. The dining room itself was equally as elegant with its salmon colored walls, Turkish rug, antique porcelain displayed in the niche, and a stunning Chien L'Ung porcelain screen hung on the wall.

In terms of food, Lambert mentioned billibi being a favorite dish of hers. In case you're wondering (and I was), it's a French soup made from mussels and cream, although Lambert used clam broth in place of the mussels. She also liked to cook with liquor, although she didn't drink. One salad that she served was composed of mixed fruit, each type marinated in a liqueur of the same flavor. She also like to put gin in her stews and bourbon in her chili. I've never tried flavoring my chili with bourbon, but I must say that I'm intrigued.

All images from House Beautiful, October 1977.


  1. Beautiful, quite the legacy!
    And not forgotten! She reminds me of my grandmother!
    A stylish lady, full of energy and great style!
    Look at this table, timeless, you could set it up today...

  2. How wonderful!! I certainly remember her! How I would have loved to have been a guest at one of her parties! And my husband as well since billibi is one of his all time favorites!!

  3. Great Post!

    She was a powerhouse of PR.


  4. This is fascinating!!! Of course, I know of all the awards that Ms. Lambert created, but had never heard her name before. She sounds like she was quite the woman in her time.

    So glad to have learned aobut her today!!!
    ~ Elizabeth

  5. Anonymous11:24 AM

    i heard there was a book coming out about her this fall...

  6. What a concept-bourbon in chili Hmmmm sounds unusual+tasty. Great Post xxpeggybraswelldesign

  7. anon, there is indeed a book coming out about elanor lambert this fall, authored by fashion historian (and my good friend), john tiffany.

    john also has a blog dedicated to miss lambert, though due to the impending demands of the book schedule, it isn't getting updated quite so often of late. still, it provides a fascinating glimpse into the woman who almost singlehandedly put american fashion on the map:

  8. She was a class act.....and a real trailblazer on several fronts, great post and informative too! Please visit me, doing an unreal giveaway, a pair of Murano handblown glass lamps from Swank lighting!

  9. Anonymous6:48 PM

    A great table, I love it's old-fashioned style--all close together--the better for real conversation, and using the best service pieces you own. Why not? I approve. The legs of the table in the way of sitting though can be problematic, but great true WASP never worried about something like that.