Saturday, December 25, 2010

she looks quite delightfully stoned, she's the darling of the discotheque crowd, of her lineage she's rightfully proud

I've had this collage for about over a year just sitting in my folders, but for some reason this seemed like the right time to write about it. Sometimes you just have a feeling about when to do certain things...

Despite the list of resolutions (and decisions and revisions, as T.S. would say) I have already compiled and will surely post here for the new year, all I really want in 2011 is to become Talitha Getty. While I'm not particularly eager to adopt the 'live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse' ideology that has come to define Talitha's short life, I do admire her sense of savoir-vivre and free-spiritedness. 
Talitha was an original in so many senses: the original Poor Little Rich Girl (she was born three years before Edie, after all), bohemian goddess, socialite-turned-actress (then turned socialite again). 
Nowadays terms like 'bohemian queen' and 'rich hippie' are tossed around like the latest Matthew Williamson bag on the shoulder of whatever It-Girl with a paycheck to burn, but Talitha was true bohemian royalty. The daughter of Willem Jilts Pol, a painter, and the grand-daughter of painter Augustus John (himself a leading art figure in the world of Bohemianism), her DNA assured that she would have a creative life, at the very least. 
She married oil heir John Paul Getty Jr. in the mid-sixties and, with him, became the toast of Swingin' London. The duo hung out with Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull, Celia Birtwell and Ossie Clark. Yves Saint Laurent described the young couple as a living, breathing Fitzgerald novel. And indeed, no other couple besides F. Scott and Zelda themselves embodied "the Beautiful and the Damned" romantic relationship like the young Gettys.
An amazing thing about Talitha is that a singular photo has come to define not just her life, but an entire life style. And I'm sure you know the photo I'm talking about - Talitha, crouched down almost clutching the wall, in a brightly colored caftan and otherwise white outfit on a Moroccan rooftop with her husband John, a hooded figure in the distant background. The photo has remained timeless, encapsulating the glamour and privilege of a certain class: the gypsy jetsetters, decadent artists and their glamorous muses, the children of the aristocracy who chose to hang out with drug dealers and gangsters rather than the House of Lords. Though Talitha and John are both dressed in styles common among the streets, their clothing is immaculately designed and more detailed than the average tunic off the street. Talitha is able to wear an essentially all-white outfit, which for me means classy (probably because of a scene in Maid in Manhattan, a movie I saw once in sixth grade and never care to see or discuss ever again, that linked white pants to the upper class). 
I read an article that likened Rachel Zoe to the 21st century Talitha, which I very much disagree with. But hold your horses if you think that this is just an anti-Zoe rant - I love RZ (I own her book and I cheered her on in her reality show whenever she found a dress that Anne Hathaway loved and I swooned when ever she and Brad made fashion googly eyes at each other ... I really adore Brad, too). That being said, I really don't see Rachel and Talitha being at all alike. Beyond the penchant for thick gold bangles and rings, and maxidresses, caftans and various other ethnic-inspired garb, there is little connection between these two women that I can see. For me, it isn't just what is hanging in someone's closet that can relate them to a previous style icon, but they also have to share the same style ideology. Rachel is first and foremost a stylist - over years and years, she crafted her signature look of Studio 54-meets-Eastern adventurer. She talks a lot about making herself into a brand, and her look is a conscious part of that. Not to say that it isn't a natural part of her, but it's her job to look that way as well. 
Talitha, on the other hand, was part of the age of wealthy Londoners who were privileged enough to adventure and discover things on their own. She was able to party in London with Mick and Marianne, and live in Marrakech with her husband. Fashion was part of that discovery. We forget how fast the fads, fashions, and beliefs of the sixties changed for the youth dictating the movements. Though its her luxe hippie look that she is best known for, Talitha wasn't running around in harem pants all her life. When she married John Getty Jr. in December 1966 she was decked out in Mod finest: a white mini skirt trimmed with mink fur and go-go style boots. Within two years she was total boho mama. Her death in 1971 at the age of 30 solidified her image as decadent and exotic. Forgive me if I sound insensitive discussing her death in purely how it affected her status as a fashion symbol, but her death in mid-'71 trapped her in that image. Whereas Zoe has had the time to adopt and eliminate different influences in order to understand what works with her aesthetic, we don't really know if Talitha would have moved on in the seventies from the look she is so synonymous with. She was never allowed the chance to change with the times; she will forever be the young woman in the Morrocan threads posing on a rooftop. We can only imagine the woman she would have become - style-wise (fabulous club gal like Bianca or total 'Little House on the Prairie' chic like Stevie?), professionally and personally. But 'what ifs' are dirty words - there's no use pondering what can never be. All we can really do is think about what we know, and celebrate the life of a great woman like Talitha Getty, who was gone far too soon.

*Update - Oh yeah, AND she was in "Barbarella" ... which means she's pretty much golden.*