10 September 2015

Elsie de Wolfe's Paris

I admit to being an Elsie de Wolfe fan. When I saw that Charlie Scheips had a new book, Elsie de Wolfe's Paris:Frivolity Before the Storm, I couldn't resist.

Scheips, who is a social historian and curator discovered of a cashe of unpublished photographs. Not only were there photographs of de Wolfe's parties with their famous guests, there were also many candid shots of the extensive preparations for the parities. One is rarely privy to such behind the scenes preparation.

In W Magazine, it was reported that Scheips showed the photos to Babs Simpson, a former Vogue fashion editor who was, at the time, 101. Somewhat amazed, she exclaimed,  “Where would one ever wear these beautiful dresses today?”

In fact, where would one ever attend such a lavish party? Even today's 1%ers, don't throw them like this anymore. That is one of the beauties of this book -- it is truly an artifact of a bygone ere.

It is hard to think of de Wolfe, Lady Mendl, at this time as being quite so elderly. She looks very much like someones aged grand-mère, but at 81, she still partied with the best of them!

Elsie and Paul-Louis Weiller in from of her Birthday cake.
The subtitle of Scheips' book, "Frivolity Before the Storm," captures the essence of history. The final Circus Party would take place in 1939. Her home was transformed. Sets were built, caterers commissioned, guest lists made, and orchestras hired.

Everyone would be buzzing about the event, but little did they know that it would be the last legendary ball of the era. Within two months, Adolf Hitler would invade Poland and the world would be forever changed.

The Duchess of Windsor said of Elsie de Wolfe,
"For bringing together all kinds of people in a gay, airy, but flawless setting, I have never known anyone to equal Lady Mendl. she mixes people like a cocktail -- and the results are sheer genius."
Elsie de Wolfe's Paris gives us a peek into that genius and into an era that will never be repeated.


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