Monday, November 22, 2010

A Tale of Two Bettinas

Initially when starting this post I thought that there was only one Bettina, and was becoming frustrated as I was not getting the information that I was hoping for. I was only aware that Bettina was a top model in Paris in the 1950’s and one of the muses of Jacques Fath. I was a little puzzled when I cam across this quote from Bettina Ballard who dismissed Fath as "a good-looking child prodigy…with slightly theatrical fashion ideas not worthy of the hallowed pages of Vogue or Harper's Bazaar.” I thought “how can this be”. Here is a model who largely owes her fame to Fath and she said that about him! As I delved further I discovered there were two Bettina’s. Bettina Ballard and Bettina Graziani.

BallardBettina Ballard was the American editor of Vogue and really the Anna Wintour of her day. Her lasting legacy was her book “In My Fashion” being her memoirs of life in the fashion world. After working for the fashion bible in New York, Bettina became a Voguette in Paris during the years between the wars before returning to New York. The glamorous tale includes anecdotes about a cast of characters including Chanel, Schiaparelli, Christian Berard, Babe Paley. And sorry people that was about it. Not having read the book I really cannot find much else about her.

However there are lots of photos as there should be. From what I see, she was no great beauty, however she had presence. Extremely elegant she always seems dressed to perfection. She looks to be a force to reckoned with and I don’t think I would like to get on her bad side.

She was definitely ahead her game after viewing Christian Dior’s New Look collection in 1947, when she was quoted as saying ‘I was conscious of an electric tension I had never before felt in couture...We were witnesses to a revolution in fashion’.

Born in Laval, France, she was given the name Bettina by the designer Pierre Balmain. She was a favourite of Balmain, Lucien Lelong, Jacques Fath, and Christian Dior, but most importantly with Givenchy, for whom she worked as a model and press agent. Hubert de Givenchy named his first collection, which debuted in 1952, after her; one of its designs, the Byronesque "Bettina" blouse, became a fashion icon in the early 1950s.

She was then married shortly to Gilbert "Benno" Graziani, a French photographer and reporter. Later she was the fiancée of Prince Aly Khan, She retired from modeling in 1955, after meeting Aly Khan. In 1960, Bettina, then pregnant with their child, survived the car accident that took the life of the prince; the shock of the accident would later result in a miscarriage. After Aly Khan's death, Bettina wrote her memoir, Bettina par Bettina .

Still active today, she is regularly seen at all the shows in Paris and friends with all.

As to Bettina Ballard, I have no idea!

I am sure that the two would have crossed paths in the course of their respective careers, and I wonder what they thought of each other?


  1. David what a great post!
    I would love to read the book of the first Bettina. Can you just imagine the world that she live in...Paris between the wars.
    I think that that she was supremely elegant in a Dianna Vreeland kind of way.
    The second Bettina was a beauty. Just imagine her life too wiht the Aly Khan!

  2. Goodness, I'd be happy to read both memoirs! Thank you David for this post. I always learn something new from you. Both Betinas are quite fascinating!


  3. Brilliant, as always david!

    so thrilled my initial thought at reading your title was incorrect. bettina arndt + bettina from playschool, would not have made such an interesting read! : )

  4. adore all the wonderful vintage pics David!
    Learn new things once again from your posts!!


  5. ps:
    would be honored to exchange links,
    I've added yours to my roll~merci!

  6. As with many of these Vogue editors the problem is they didn't leave much behind about their lives. I am writing a paper on editors in the twenties and there are no letters, memoirs or biographies. We have to piece everything together. What a delightful post! I have learned so much from your blog already :)

  7. Belle, I am looking for a copy to read, and have found several sources on Amazon. I have the second Bettina's book, however it is in Australia, and have asked my mother to send over.

    Hill House, see above. When I tried to read the second Bettina's book about 10 years ago I kind of found it hard going so am going to give it another try.

    Jules, now there would be a post. Savoir Faire at Playschool!

    Lenore, Many thanks and will do as soon as I work out how.

    Anthea, I am so glad that you have learnt from my humble little blog. I am going to have to get Ballard's book. Good luck on your paper!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin