Gloria Vanderbilt

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Gloria Vanderbilt, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1958.

Gloria Laura Vanderbilt (B. February 20,1924) is a member of the prominent United States Vanderbilt family and an accomplished artist, actress, and socialite most noted as a spokeswoman for designer blue jeans.

The only child of American railroad heir Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt (1880-1925) and his second wife, Gloria Laura Mercedes Morgan (1904-1965), a beautiful Swiss-born socialite of American, Chilean, Spanish, and Irish descent, little Gloria became heiress to a four million dollar trust fund on her father's death when she was 2 years old. The rights to control this trust fund while Gloria was a minor belonged to her legal guardian, her mother, and Gloria therefore became the subject of a custody battle in a famous and scandalous trial in 1934, in which testimony was heard depicting her mother as an unfit parent, charges which included Gloria Sr.'s intention to marry a German prince. A maid testified to seeing the glamorous widow Vanderbilt bathing her feet in Champagne and gave evidence of an apparent lesbian relationship with a member of the British royal family, the marchioness of Milford Haven (née Nadjeda, Countess Torby, who married a nephew of Queen Mary); her mother eventually lost custody to Gloria's aunt Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney but litigation continued.

Vanderbilt married Hollywood agent Pasquale DiCicco ("Pat" DiCicco) in 1941; they divorced in 1945. Her second marriage, to conductor Leopold Stokowski on April 21, 1945 produced two sons, Leopold Stanislaus Stokowski (born 1950) and Christopher Stokowski (born 1955); they divorced in October 1955. Her third marriage took place on August 28, 1956 to director Sidney Lumet; they divorced in August 1963. Her final marriage to author Wyatt Emory Cooper took place on 1964, ; they had two sons, Carter Vanderbilt Cooper (1965-1988), and newsman Anderson Cooper (born 1967). She also has had close relationships with the photographer Gordon Parks and the cabaret singer Bobby Short.

Vanderbilt studied art at the Art Student's League in New York City, and became known for her artwork, giving one-woman shows of oil paintings, watercolors, and pastels. This artwork was adapted and licensed, starting about 1968, by Hallmark (a manufacturer of paper products) and by Bloomcraft (a textile manufacturer), and Vanderbilt began designing specifically for linens, china, glassware and flatware. During the 1970s, she licensed the use of her name on lines of fashion eyeglasses, perfume and clothing. Initially, her involvement in clothing consisted of putting her name (in place of the previous brandname, "Lucky Pierre") on a line of blouses produced by the Murjani Corporation. In 1979, Murjani proposed launching a line of designer jeans carrying Vanderbilt's brand. They were very successfully marketed as "Gloria Vanderbilt designer jeans". They were more tightly fitted than the other jeans of the time, with her name in script on the back pocket: Vanderbilt appeared in a series of television ads promoting them. The designer label flourished, with the Gloria Vanderbilt swan logo eventually appeared on dresses and perfumes as well.

She is a great-granddaughter of Union general Hugh Judson Kilpatrick and a niece of Thelma Morgan, Viscountess Furness, the mistress who preceded Wallis Simpson in the affections of Edward VIII of the United Kingdom.

Author of:

  • Once upon a Time : A True Story
  • A Mother's Story: telling the story of her son Carter's death
  • It Seemed Important at the Time: A Romance Memoir

Subject of:

  • Trio: Oona Chaplin, Carol Matthau, Gloria Vanderbilt, Portrait of an Intimate Friendship by Aram Saroyan
  • Little Gloria...Happy at Last by Barbara Goldsmith
  • That Vanderbilt Woman by Philip Van Rensselaer
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