DATE: 4/6/2011 | BY AVERY LOZADA
Who was Ann Bonfoey Taylor? Like Amelia Earhart, Nan Kemper or Jackie Kennedy, she was an American style icon. During her lifetime (1909-2007) she was regularly featured in publications such as Vogue, Town and Country and Harper’s Bazaar.
Taylor was photographed many times from 1939 onward by the pioneering fashion photographer and photojournalist Toni Frissell. Image above is from a 1971 photo shoot at Frissell's estate in Long Island.
Born and raised in Illinois, she fashioned a life of adventure; in the 1920s, at the age of 12, she began taking flight lessons; in the 1930s, she competed in tennis at Wimbledon; in 1939, she was invited to compete for U.S. Olympic Women’s Ski Team, and when World War II intervened, she became a flight instructor for the Army and the Navy instead.
Ann Cooke, instructor of army air cadets, featured in the February, 1943, issue of Harper's Bazaar.
Widely known and complimented for her stylish looks on the ski slopes (she invented the fanny pack!), she started her own line of innovative skiwear in the 1930s (called Ann Cooke, which was her name during a brief marriage to James Cooke). Her designs appeared in many of the day's most prominent fashion magazines, and even graced the cover of Harper’s Bazaar in 1946.
At left, Ann Cooke skiwear on the cover of Harper's Bazaar, January, 1946. At right, Ann Cooke ski racing while wearing her signature fanny pouoch, 1930s.
In the 1940s she married oil man Vernon "Moose" Taylor, Jr. and moved to Denver, Colorado. The couple maintained several homes, and were legendary around the world for their graciousness and expertise as hosts. Their Vail, Colorado, ski chalet was one of the first to be built in the area, and the couple did much to promote the town to other affluent investors.
Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Taylor, Jr., at Box Elder Ranch near Lewistown, Montana.
In Montana, they owned a working cattle ranch where Bonfoey Taylor "enjoyed a combination of entertaining, riding and flying over the wide-open countryside in gliders." She was also an avid fox hunter, and traveled regularly to Virginia to participate in the sport.
Taylor collected Hermès sportswear in depth. She and Moose "participated in shooting expeditions in England, Ireland and Scotland with their circle of friends. Taylor shot with a 20-guage side-by-side and also owned a matching pair of Purdey guns..." Picture above is from the late 1960s.
Ann Bonfoey Taylor was truly part of the international jetset, and she had an amazing wardrobe with set pieces for every practical function by designers such as Charles James, Madame Grès, Balenciaga, Givenchy and Fortuny. Her collection was significant for both the quality of the designers and its depth.
At left, Taylor wears a riding jacket and vest by H. Huntsman and Sons; breeches by Harry Hall; hat by John Cavanagh; collar by Wentworth; shirt by Bernard Weatherill; gloves by Fownes; boots by Henry Maxwell, 1967. At right, Taylor had Mabel Furs custom design many items in her wardrobe from Mongolian sheep pelts. Photograph by Toni Frissell.
She collected couture over time, so when one looks at the work collected in the Phoenix Art Museum's new exhibition catalog, one gets a sense of how each designer's artistic process developed over the years. She also collected by genre, and it's equally fun to look at her wardrobe through sport or social function, such as riding, shooting, military, ski, evening, etc.
At left, custom-made cape and skirt with fox pelt applique by Hermès. At right, Hermès cape and trousers are fabricated in leather with cashmere lining and metal fixtures. Both ensembles are from the 1960s.
Bonfoey Taylor's clothing collection spans from the 1940s through the 1970s. Upon her death at 96, her family donated her wardrobe to the Phoenix Art Museum, which is exhibiting the collection through May 22 of this year.
Evening dress and coat by Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1962-63.
My favorite pictures in the book are of Bonfoey Taylor herself: theatrically posed, long blonde hair poufed further out than anything you'd see on Jersey Shore, ice blue eye-shadow playing off of the fiercest false eyelashes ever seen on a working cattle ranch.
Fashion Independent: The Original Style of Ann Bonfoey Taylor
PHOENIX ART MUSEUMClth, 9.5 x 12 in. / 140 pgs / 130 color / 15 b&w.$60.00 free shipping