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Gloria Vanderbilt: June 17th, Death of an Icon

On June 17th, Monday morning, the legendary fashion designer, artist and socialite, Gloria Vanderbilt, breathed her last at the age of 95.

Ca. 1953 — Mrs. Leopold Stokowski (aka Gloria Vanderbilt) wearing a polka dot dress with a lifting collar. — Image by © Condé Nast Archive/CORBIS

Gloria Vanderbilt, born in 1924 in New York, grew up in France, daughter of a railroad heir who died when she was a baby. Being the sole heir of a vast fortune, she was dragged into a custody battle between her mother and her father’s sister. It was dubbed as “the trail of the century,” and she remained the focus of media’s unwanted attention. Her aunt won the custody battle, and she grew up cared by a nanny, who was more of a mother figure than her aunt.

Vanderbilt wanted to be known as herself, not in her material existence. So she went out in search of herself and love. She became a model for the Harper Bazar, Vogue and Vanity Fair, worked with renowned photographers. She married four times, had two sons with Leopold Stokowski from her second marriage, and two more sons with her last husband, Wyatt Cooper.

Gloria vanderbilt
Ca. 1967, Gloria Vanderbilt (aka Mrs. Wyatt Cooper) wearing the dotted cotton dress by Anne Fogarty; coiffure by Miss Duval of Kenneth; leaning backward in a rowboat. — Image by © Condé Nast Archive/CORBIS

She acted in the romantic drama, The Swan, her debut which later became the symbol or impression on her famous jeans. Her son, Anderson Cooper, the CNN television anchor says, “If you were around in the early 1980s it was pretty hard to miss the jeans she helped create, but that was her public face — the one she learned to hide behind as a child… Her private self, her real self — that was more fascinating and more lovely than anything she showed the public.”

Losing her husband and her elder son made for a difficult period for Vanderbilt, but there again, she found the strength to deal with it all she turned to write poetry- words- to find comfort.

In a very heartfelt piece, Anderson Cooper shared his thoughts about his beloved mother. He says, “I always thought of her as a visitor from another world, a traveler stranded here who’d come from a distant star that burned out long ago.”

May her soul rest in peace.