portrait of a lady
G o o d Ta s t e by Kaylen
Decorator, author, entrepreneur, jetsetter, and Francophile— Elsie de Wolfe could certainly be the original prototype of today’s Matchbook girl.
The twentieth century’s first interior decorator was born in a New York brownstone in 1865. At the time of her death in 1950, de Wolfe was living at the Villa Trianon in France--her own personal Versailles. It is fitting that two such strikingly different schools of design framed her life. At a young age, she was steadfast in her distaste for the dark and drab brownstone her parents inhabited. Though her parents had little money, de Wolfe was sent to Scotland to live with relatives and complete her studies. From there she was introduced into glittering London society complete with a presentation to Queen Victoria at court. The ambitious, young New Yorker had tasted the finer things in life and there 24
was no turning back. Determined to make the most of her average appearance, the five-foot, two-inch de Wolfe made it her life goal to dress fashionably and remain fit. Upon returning to New York, de Wolfe took a stab at a career as a stage actress and quickly ingratiated herself into the ranks of high society and fabulous parties. She developed a close friendship with J.P. Morgan’s daughter
Anne Morgan, Anne Vanderbilt, and Elisabeth “Bessy” Marbury, the original literary agent. In 1892 de Wolfe and Marbury moved into a house on Irving Place and began hosting one of New York’s most thought-provoking salons. With an impressively diverse guest list that included everyone from Oscar Wilde to Isabella Stewart Gardner, the conversation at Irving House, as they came to call it, was never dull.
"The ambitious, young New Yorker had tasted the finer things in life and there was no turning back. Determined to make the most of her average appearance, the five-foot, two-inch de Wolfe made it her life goal to dress fashionably and remain fit."
Matchbook Magazine, September Issue