Nan Kempner the Anti-Paris Hilton: Classy, Dignified, Relevant

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Nan Kempner grew up in a wealthy family, and she married rich. Like many women of her generation and background, the socialite occupied her time with charity work and fashion, but no one could accuse her of dabbling. Over thirty years, she raised $75 million for cancer research. In many ways, her collection of designer clothing and accessories is even more impressive.

Kempner, whom Diana Vreeland famously called the one chic American woman, had an eye for detail and she knew how to make the most of her body (flat chested, flat bottomed, leggy). She got her first couture dress for her debutante ball in 1949 and never really stopped shopping. She liked Dior and Valentino; she loved Madame Gres and Yves Saint Laurent. Chanel bored her.

A small portion of Kempner’s Imelda Marcos-sized collection has traveled from the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute to the de Young Museum in San Francisco. Arranged by Harold Koda, “Nan Kempner: American Chic” opened June 18 and closes November 11.

—Ellen Charles

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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