Long before ‘”The Devil (or should I say, editors-in-chief) wore Prada”, they wore white gloves and hats. Though I can’t really claim to have known Nancy White very well- the image of the former editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar, who died on Saturday at the age of 85, is emblazoned in my memory. I had just been hired as a ‘lowly’ fashion assistant – or as she called it, a “glorified errand girl”- at Harpers Bazaar in 1971, when Nancy White was the editor in chief (her tenure spanned 1958 to 1971), and boy, was it a different era back then. She was a very ‘scary’, imposing figure, and even though she may not have been a fashion legend in the manner of Diana Vreeland, to me, she was still larger than life. In her obituary- which ran in today’s New York Times, John Weitz called her “one of the grandes dames of her era…she brought taste, charm and a sense of proportion to the game.” And though she was the last of a dying breed, who didn’t feel pantsuits were right for her, she was modern enough to realize that, if worn properly accessorized, they would be fine for staff members. In the obituary, it was mentioned that when she first got the top job at Bazaar in 1958, she wrote down words that she hoped would describe the magazine: authority, awareness, wit, spirit, surprise, curiosity, intelligence, timing, food for thought, vitality, balance, and youth.” More than 40 years later, these still hold up.
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