RIP Nan Kempner

Another fashion icon gone.

nan-kempner-2.jpg The original Park Avenue Princess has died aged 74 from emphysema. Nan Kempner was famed for her non ironic fashion dictums – ‘Spend the money’, ‘Never forget your gloves’, ‘Dress for lunch, ‘Make the effort’ – and for her loyal support of hideously expensive fashion couture. She said in 1977, ‘At first, clothes were a facade, but as my personality evolved, there was a merger. I’m a plain-looking female, so it’s comfortable for me to dress well and present my best-side.’

To less kind observers, the extremely rich and extremely thin Kempner was the definitive ‘social x-ray’ but she herself hated the label socialite. She said, “I’m not rich enough to be a real philanthropist. And I loathe being called a socialite. So I write ‘housewife'”

In a piece written for New York magazine, Nan Kempner bemoaned the lack of decent ballrooms these days. A fitting epitaph.

See also Vogue’s obituary.

Photo: Nan Kempner wearing Jean Paul Gaultier couture, courtesy of US Vogue.

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2 Responses to RIP Nan Kempner

  1. David Childs says:

    I had the pleasure of being Nan Kempner’s ski instructor for almost 18 years in Vail. I must say, riding a thousand chair lift rides, wining and dining with royalty like Ross Perot, the Wyatts, Henry Kravis, Shieka and Pepi….crashing the Gerald Ford Parties and ah yes the back bowls with Nan and the kids. I shall never forget her and how much I will always love her. Oh… if chair lifts could talk! That little tiny skinny stick of a body going down Seldom or Chicken Yard (an avalanche shoot that most would shy away from) never missing a beat and I swear, never falling. Oh if you all could have seen the outfits both on an off the slope! My God! I skiied with the Diva of all Divas! The lunches, the dinners, the giggles and the balls out skiing. We smoked like choo-choo trains and drank great martinis and wine. Why even in 40 below zero, winds a blowing 60 up the back bowls we would light up a Marlboro together. We both had the same horsey voice. God I loved her! Tom, the boys, Leila, I loved them all. Certainly a glorious time in my life. Nan was all of New York rolled into one ball of “Hello Darling” and air kisses. I truly regret her passing and hope that anyone who knows her family will pass on the word from someone who will always think of her fondly. I will do a run in the bowls for her! She was my queen!
    David Childs, Vail Colorado
    Presently working in China

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