Isabella Blow’s Personal Style

posted in: Inspiration | 13

I have been intrigued by the late Isabella Blow for years, but have been stimulated (by the McQueen play) to find out something about her. As I am doing had a mini-series about people who dress stylishly I thought that poor Issie deserved a post. Her personality is summarised by one of her biographers, Lauren Goldstein Crowe:

A wickedly funny, tragically insecure, very vulnerable little girl hiding beneath a painstakingly created fantastic facade that attracted the attention of the world.

Isabella Blow au naturel
Isabella Blow au naturel

Isabella is famous for

  • Being a PA to Vogue editor Anna Wintour
  • Working as a stylist
  • Editing various fashion supplements and magazines
  • Buying Alexander McQueen’s entire first collection
  • Promoting Philip Treacy, hat maker
  • Committing suicide in 2007

“Stylist” is a word that can include someone who runs around for the photographer checking for loose threads, but IB was a proper stylist. A highly artistic individual with a good education and a sense of humour she knew how to put things together beautifully from an early age.

However you have to feel sorrow and sympathy for her. This poor woman, tragically blamed for the accidental death of her baby brother, and by implication for the failure of her parents marriage, was talented and emotionally needy in equal measure. Her dysfunctional family had some upper class credentials but a funny attitude to money so Isabella always worried about not having enough (love or money). Two failed marriages, eight unsuccessful attempts at IVF, ovarian cancer and severe mental health problem, Blow was both embraced and rejected by the Fashion in-crowd. Her funeral was well attended by the rich, famous and stylishly extreme. On her coffin – white roses and an extravagant black galleon-at-sail Philip Treacy hat.

Sadly Isabella Blow felt ugly and was decidedly unhappy about her appearance. As you can see she wasn’t ugly at all – just an ordinary or normal looking girl.  In fact her lovely figure and natural dress sense meant she generally looked sensational. The amazing outfits she was given or bought from modern designers meant she always made a statement, with courage and charm. I love the black and white dog-tooth dress she is wearing with a lips hat. She said she dressed up to prop herself up, so unhappy she was with her own raw material – a woman with a high-profile but crippling low self-esteem.

Always interestingly dressed she liked well-fitting clothes, bare arms, bustier and tremendous hats.

13 Responses

  1. AnnieB

    I love this woman. The Courtauld did a wonderful exhibition, did you see it? Displays of things she had done hard living and hard partying in, with cigarette burns and lipstick stains and rips. She wore the full rig as everyday attire including in the Vogue canteen But her personality is what fascinates me (a psychology blog in waiting!) The clothes and hats were alive with their missing owner

    • fabrickated

      I so wish I had seen it. It wasn’t on for very long, so I hope one day the collection will be shown again. And a psychology blog is a marvellous idea. Yes!

  2. Sew2pro

    I was enthralled by the Somerset House exhibition; the outfits were so theatrical and larger-than-life. What parties she must have attended! And to have always kept the wolf from the door; a real bohemian.

  3. Stephanie

    So sad but intriguing. In the comments to a fashion blog I was reading the other day, someone mentioned that she wore an IB-inspired outfit as her wedding outfit (including trousers instead of a dress), which I found interesting, particularly as the writer said it still felt modern years later.

  4. helen

    I knew she had a terribly sad end but didn’t realize that her early life had also been so tragic (I just read a quick biography on Vanity Fair). She had such great style.

  5. Jay

    They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
    They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

    Just for recognising McQueen at the vital moment, she deserves to be remembered.

  6. rosemary

    Hers was a fascinating life, tragic but she kept trying to be noticed, like trying to keep the depression at bay. I did not realize that she was born in the late 50’s. I’d love to see some of her clothes.

  7. Sky Turtle

    It’s so strange when you meet beautiful people who are either deeply modest or seemingly unaware of their own beauty, and thus waddle a mist of low self-esteem. She looks really interesting and beautiful.
    Interesting post, Kate!

  8. Lesley

    Seriously, you’d think a working life standing next to Anna Wintour would have reminded her that beauty is not everything!
    It’s so refreshing to meet people who exude charm and don’t give a flying … what they look like. But insecurity is so human.

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