Sunday, August 14, 2011

"Is it?? It Was." Weekend Reading 15: Rosamond Bernier

Updated:  Mrs. Bernier has just told me that she wore the 1970s Halston when she lectured at the Grand Palais and wore it numerous times afterwards when she lectured at the Met.  You see, you can have your fashion and wear it more then once!

What to wear when you are 91 and giving a lecture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: a flowing tie-dyed Halston - if you are the ever so fabulous and ever so glamorous, Rosamond Bernier that is.  

Weekend reading for you from RARE vintage about the exceptional and fascinating life of Rosamond Bernier. Read on...

Mrs. Bernier lectured for over thirty years at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and many other places  about her friendships with artists like Picasso, Matisse and Miro.  She gave her final lecture in March of 2008 and this last time she spoke about her life in couture.

"If I hadn't given some of my Balenciaga evening gowns to the Costume Institute, I would wear them right now."   And Mrs. Bernier mean what she says.  On her website,, there is a photograph of her wearing a Zandra Rhodes in 1972 and she writes that she still wears it now.

Rosamond Bernier in Zandra Rhodes lecturing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1972.  
Photograph  from

"I had the excitement of ordering my first couture dress from that first Balenciaga collection in February 1946.  I was to wear it for special occasion for years.   Not long ago I wore it for dinner at the house of a master American couture, Oscar de la Renta.  My host gasped when I entered.  "Is it??" he asked with excitement.  It was."

1946 Balenciaga evening gown in the collection of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  
Gift of Rosamond Bernier.

L'Oeil of Rosamond Bernier

In 1955 Rosamond Bernier and her then husband, Georges Bernier, founded the magazine L'Oeil.  An early coup for the magazine was a tip that there was an undiscovered collection of Picasso paintings in Barcelona.

'Telephoning for an appointment at the Barcelona apartment, editor Bernier got a surprising answer:"  Come at 11 tonight."  Once inside, she found herself plunged into the world of a gypsy encampment.  "The lights burn out all the time here," Picasso's niece Lolita explained.  In the semidarkness, Rosamond Bernier saw a room cluttered with ancient furniture, presided over by Picasso's smiling sister, Dona Lola, wrapped in a sheet held together with safety pins.  "Mama suffers from rheumatism and can't sleep.  None of us ever goes to bed before 6." the family explained and then plunged into the evening's entertainment.  Dona Lola's nephew began plucking out a lively flamenco on his guitar.  Lolita sat down at the piano.  In no time Juanin began a heel stomping dance; Doctor Jaime handed around glasses of sweet Malaga wine while keeping time with a multicolored duster (a present from Uncle Pablo).  Dona Lola swayed happily to the rhythm, urging the dancers on with shouts of "Ole!".  (All sounds very Grey Gardens-ish doesn't it?!  Only this was in Barcelona in 1955!)

A first edition of The Selective Eye (an anthology of the first nine issues of L'Oeil) from the library of Truman Capote.  Available at Bauman Rare Books.

The fashionable eye of Rosamond Bernier.  Pieces from her collection that are now a part of the Costume Institute's collection:

1949 Christian Dior gown (which also was the featured piece on the cover for the catalog of the Dior show at the Met.)

1972 Zandra Rhodes

1966 Yves Saint Laurent ensemble.

1968 Madame Gres silk gown.

1962 Balenciaga silk cocktail dress.  

Now does the dress above look familiar to anyone?

A similar 1962 Balencaiga from RARE vintage:)

In October Some of my Lives: A Scrapbook Memoir by Rosamond Bernier will be published.  You can pre-order it as I did on  And FYI Mrs. Bernier will be signing books at the Met on Wednesday, November 2nd at 4PM.  See you there!

Some text excerpted from Time magazine and a NY Times video from Rosamond Bernier's final lecture at the Met which can be seen in full here.

1 comment:

  1. What a SUNDAY WITH RARE the good old days of Elsa Klensch, BUT BETTER.

    I await eagerly for tuxes scholarly tributes to the World of Beauty that sprinf forth from your Mind and into the Universe for Posterity.

    Then helps to know the Priestess who dwells on the Scholars Mountain like The Seven Immortals!



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