item 56 - Sally Kirkland and Nancy White discuss the life of Vera Maxwell

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Sally Kirkland and Nancy White discuss the life of Vera Maxwell


  • 1979 April 4 (Creation)

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(1912 1 July -1989 1 May)

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Sally Kirkland was a chronicler of fashion for more than 30 years. From 1947 to 1969 she was the fashion editor of Life magazine, making that general-interest weekly influential in international fashion. She stopped traffic in the Place de la Concorde in Paris to get a fashion picture. A cover photograph of Sybil Connally, the Irish designer, put Ireland on the fashion map. She received the Order of the Star of Solidarity in 1954 from the Italian Government for her reports on Italian clothes. ''I was secretly pleased,'' she told a friend, ''because the medal was green and gold and looked well on an orange evening dress I had to whip up for the affair.'' Along with Grace Kelly and Vera Maxwell, she received a Neiman-Marcus award in 1955 for contributions to fashion.

Kirkland was born in El Reno, Oklahoma in 1912. After graduating from Vassar College in 1934, she worked in the college shop at Lord & Taylor, then the headquarters for the best casual American clothes. In 1939 she became an assistant editor of Vogue magazine, leaving nine years later to become the fashion editor of Life. She was the first fashion editor to do multiple-model sittings, recalls Nancy White, the former fashion editor of Harper's Bazaar. A dozen or more models would stretch across one or two pages for a dazzling presentation that was widely copied. After she left Life magazine, Mrs. Kirkland wrote a book about Claire McCardell, her favorite designer, and contributed articles to the RAM Report, a monthly trade journal.

Kirkland died of emphysema at 77 years of age in 1989.

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"...Nancy White was born in Brooklyn on July 25, 1916. Her father was in publishing and became general manager of Hearst magazines. She attended the Madeira School in Greenway, Va., where she and Katharine Graham, who was to become publisher of The Washington Post, became lifelong friends. She left Madeira to work during the Depression, her daughter said. At 15, she worked as an errand girl with a magazine, according to an interview with her in The New York Mirror in 1957. (She did not name the magazine.) She returned to the boarding school, and after graduation became an editorial assistant, or ''glorified errand girl,'' in her words, with the magazine Pictorial Review. Her next job, which lasted 16 years, was with Good Housekeeping magazine, where she started as an assistant in the fashion department and left as fashion editor. She joined Harper's as an assistant editor in 1957 and was appointed editor at the beginning of 1958. She was chosen by the previous editor, Carmel Snow, who happened to be her aunt. Diana Vreeland had been another candidate for the top job; she promptly quit. In 1962, Mrs. Vreeland joined Vogue, becoming a legend in the fashion world, and not incidentally Miss White's principal competitor. Under Miss White, Harper's was aimed at stylish women in Des Moines and Omaha as well as in New York and San Francisco. In one issue, 14 pages by Hiro showed models' bodies seeming to disintegrate beneath colorful prints. Yet in the same issue, there was page after black-and-white page of elegantly understated suits and coats. Her comments on pantsuits in a 1964 interview in The New York Times reflected the balance she sought between modernity and moderation. Although she would not wear one to the office herself, she said, pantsuits would be all right for her staff members if they wore ''perfect accessories.'' Miss White resigned in 1971 after James W. Brady, formerly publisher of Women's Wear Daily, was appointed publisher and editorial director of Harper's. Mr. Brady said it was Hearst's decision for him to modernize the magazine....After her resignation, Miss White advised Bergdorf Goodman on fashion for two years and devoted much of the rest of her life to charities, including Lighthouse for the Blind and the public television station WNET. She was first married to Clarence Dauphinot, founder of Deltec International, then to Ralph D. Paine Jr., publisher of Fortune magazine, and then George K. Thompson, her high school sweetheart. The first two marriages ended in divorce, and Mr. Thompson died in 1996....Ms. White had two daughters, Ms. Paine of Durham, N.H., and Gillette Piper of Coral Gables, Fla.; a stepdaughter, Mimi Thompson of Manhattan; a sister, Carmel Eitt of King George, Va.; a brother, John Michael White of Delray Beach, Fla.; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren."

At Harper's Bazaar, Ms. White edited a book celebrating the magazine's 100th anniversary. It was entitled "100 Women of Accomplishment" and was published by Hearst Corporation in 1967. She was a member of the National Council of the Arts (1966-1972) and is a member of the board of directors of General Mills.

Ms. White was born to a fashion and editorial career. Her father, Thomas J. White, was a power in the Hearst publishing empire, which included Harper;s Bazaar; while her aunt, Carmel White Snow, was the creative and authoritative editor of Harper's Bazaar for many years.

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Director of the Library at FIT in the 1980s who played an integral role in the development of the institution's oral history collection.

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Sally Kirkland and Nancy White discuss the life of Vera Maxwell.

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Legacy audio ID no: AOH189_01 and AOH189_02

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