Monday, June 13, 2011

A Lesson in Style from Ann Bonfoey Taylor

By now, you have probably read at least a few articles on the late, great Ann Bonfoey Taylor. (In fact, Charlotte Moss wrote an interesting article about her in the WSJ a few weeks back.) Just in case you've missed any of the coverage, I'll brief you quickly on Taylor. She was a Denver grande dame, a champion skier, an athlete, a ski wear designer in the 1940s, an aviator, and one of America's most stylish women. In fact, her family recently gave Taylor's impressive collection of couture and ready to wear to the Phoenix Art Museum, where much of the collection was recently exhibited.

I just finished reading the exhibit's accompanying book Fashion Independent: The Original Style of Ann Bonfoey Taylor, and I urge you to read it too if you get the chance. This woman was utterly fascinating. Oh, and fearless too. Fearless when it came to skiing (she was known as "Nose Dive Annie" for much of her adult life), and fearless when it came to fashion. Only a confident woman can wear a Scottish sporrans and a Civil War soldier's hat while skiing- and pull it off with aplomb. Actually, I think it takes more than confidence to wear an ensemble like this. And her shooting clothes? Some of the chicest outfits that I have ever seen. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you might have read my breathless exclamation that her Hermès sporting outfits made me want to get SPORTY! Trust me, that is saying a lot.

But I don't really want to focus on her clothes in this post. Rather, let's take a look at both her Denver and Vail homes. Her houses were obviously well-appointed and just what one would expect from one of America's most fashionable women. The rooms are proper and formal, but more importantly they look quite comfortable. That takes flair, you know, to achieve just the right balance between high style and comfort. And flair was something that Ann Bonfoey Taylor had in spades.

I love this twilight shot of the Taylors' Denver home circa 1967.

Taylor lounging in ski wear in her Vail home.

I told you she was into all kinds of sporting endeavors.

Don't you admire that marbled paper on the walls?

Taylor's collection included stunning evening gowns.

A detail shot with a Ginori "Fiesole" cachepot.

The table set with charming lily of the valley napkins and mats.

Her potting room filled with flowers, including carnations. I feel vindicated seeing the number of carnations that Taylor used around her home.

Taylor also had a yen for military jackets and uniforms. Doesn't that tea look delicious?

A 1967 photograph of Taylor wearing a silk satin Madame Grès gown with chinchilla cuffs. She is standing in the hallway of her Denver home.

These two images were actually taken at photographer Toni Frissell's home in Long Island. I couldn't resist including them because of the pretty Porthault cloth, the lettuceware salad plate, the ceramic lemon used to serve sorbet (so terrific!), and of course Taylor's safari outfit.

I can't improve upon the caption that accompanied this 1965 photograph of Taylor that ran in the New York Herald Tribune: "Wearing a little gray Balenciaga suit and quite marvelous eyelashes she is eating a quick breakfast in her suite at the Carlyle. Since she is lighting there only temporarily- she just flew in from Paris the night before- there are eleven pieces of elegant, Vuitton luggage in the background, Vuitton is so sturdy and it was wonderful in Uganda last summer, she says." Does it get any better than that? Not a chance.

All images from Fashion Independent: The Original Style of Ann Bonfoey Taylor.


  1. Very interesting person - I love her style, her homes and I too love carnations! She was so pretty as well so she looked iconic especially in that Madame Gres gown. Thanks for sharing...:)

  2. I am embarrassed to say that I missed EVERYTHING relating to this post - the Charlotte Moss piece, your tweets etc. I am totally entranced by every aspect of her inimitable style - the fashion, the decor, the fearless joie de vivre!! You are most certainly right - doesn't get any better!! LOVED this!!!

  3. Anonymous9:27 AM

    Ha! Delightful images and the original caption is perfect - thank you for the first genuine smile of my day - KDM

  4. Fabulous overload! I would say this post sums up your blog name...the essence of "Peak of chic"...beautiful!

  5. So glad you all like these photos as much as I do! I'm now obsessed...

  6. Jennifer if this isn't style and class, then I don't know what is. I would love to read a book on her life!

    Art by Karena

    I have an amazing Giveaway from the Artisans at Novica. You will love it!

  7. Jennifer…really terrific post. I feel so nostalgic when I look at photos of style figures like Taylor, Paley, and Hutton, Hepburn and of course Jackie.
    Most of the shots I've always seen play up heavy smoking and afternoon cocktailing…it's refreshing to see someone like Taylor who looked amazing whether skiing or shooting!

  8. It is a wonderful book and I too first heard about this from Charlotte Moss. I love the pictures you've highlighted-the interior shots show a relaxed elegant woman and home.pgt

  9. Black candles in the candelabra! I so prefer black candles to beige, but my mother-in-law thinks they look like a Satanic ritual. I need to send her this link. :-)

  10. maven8:16 PM

    Wow! How did I ever miss hearing about this great lady? They sure don't make 'em like they used to, do they?

    Love, love, love this article. There needs to be a book done about this gal - pronto!

  11. Margaret7:59 AM

    Yep, that Madame Gres gown is a stunner.

  12. Margaret8:06 AM

    PS Looking at the Balenciaga suit - the most beautiful of all the magnificent clothes on display from the Grace Kelly exhibit I saw last year in London was the last - it was a Balenciaga suit. When I first looked at it I thought it was dowdy. Then I kept looking and saw what a masterpiece it was. Understated, simple, self-confident. It let the wearer shine. Exquisitely constructed, of course.

  13. Anonymous6:08 PM

    she was my aunt. She was very elegant and so interesting. What a glorious life she led.

  14. We salute you Ann Bonfoey-Taylor her designer's Gres/Balenciaga/James/Givency/Galanos....she had the best sense....

  15. "...her Hermès sporting outfits made me want to get SPORTY! Trust me, that is saying a lot."

    This made me laugh, as I had the identical reaction when I saw the exhibit this summer at the Georgia Museum of Art (at Univ. of Georgia). Wonderful clothes!

  16. First of all, i JUST read about you and your new book on StyleBlueprint yesterday. Congrats! I have long enjoyed your blog and it was nice to discover more about the person behind it.
    But the real reason I had to stop and comment is because, you posted a picture that has haunted me for years that I couldnt find anywhere! Years and years ago, I was in the periodical archives at our public library and going through issues of Vogue from the 60s doing my usual studies as a young fashion designer. I came across the picture of Ann Bonfoey Taylor above in the yellow gown and opera coat and was mesmerized. It was as though she were a swan who just floated into the gorgeous wood paneled room. It stuck with me as much as Pauline de Rothschild on her footstool at Mouton or Babe Paley smoking under the clock chandelier at their St. Regis pied a terre. But unlike those, and many more indelible images of ineffable style, I could find it nowhere else and couldn't remember which of the many volumes of Vogue I had seen it in to find it again. Until today.
    Thank you so much Jennifer!

    1. I'm so glad that you found this photo again! If you don't have this book, you should try to buy a copy. It's really fabulous!

  17. Did these pictures come from the book or other sources??

    1. Yes, all of them came from the book.

  18. And to Amazon, I go..... LOL!

    1. Good decision! Enjoy the book!