Monday, May 24, 2010

Museworthy: Nancy Cunard, 1896 - 1965





As a leading member of the Corrupt Coterie pre-WWI, this Cunard ocean liner heiress ran around London seducing soldiers to make their last days lighter. Later in Paris, Nancy Cunard fell in love with a black jazz musician and edited the compelling, then deeply divisive Negro as a result. Her Hours Press publishing house was the first to publish the work of Samuel Beckett. Nancy Cunard was a journalist and a critic, a model and a muse, but above all a political animal and an idealist, hell bent on making a difference. By all accounts, it drove her up the wall to be judged by her clothes.

When her first book of poetry, Outlaws, was published in 1923, she was devastated when one reviewer focused on her hat, so I am glad she's not around to harrumph at my singling out her angular and exotic personal style. Sure, she was much much more than an armful of Bakelite bangles and a mysteriously Kohled eye, but that doesn't take away from the fabulous drama of her look. I find her inspirational all round - and that includes her sense of fashion. I mean, my goodness, what a great flying jacket! Somebody tell Christopher Bailey. And those sequins. Too good.

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