a socialite’s sequin
Paula Gellibrand by Cecil Beaton, 1928
Paula Gellibrand was like a Modigliani come to life. Rooms framed her. She dressed to the strict diktat of avant garde decorator Baroness d’Erlanger: for example, very plain nurses coifs or her nun’s habit wedding dress; otherwise, a hat trimmed with wisteria for the Ritz, or a coat of honey beige summer ermine to match the pigskin upholstery inside her Bentley. She married the Cuban-Castilian Marquis de Casa Maury, a Bugatti-driving Grand Prix ace. He owned the first Bermuda-rigged schooner in Europe, lost his fortune during the Wall Street Crash, and then remade it running the Curzon cinema in Soho.
Baba d’Erlanger, daughter of the Baroness, was Paula’s best friend, and another exotic addition to London nightlife. She grew up in Byron’s old house in Piccadilly, attended by a robed and turbaned marmaluke; her parents held magnificent children’s parties and dressed her up in gold. A distinctive belle laide, Baba’s black bob was hard and glossy like Chinese lacquer; she rimmed her eyes with thick khol, and painted her lips scarlet and the tips of her nails maroon. Her black robes and suits were very severe to contrast the prevalent chiffon plunge and emphasize her razor-shell figure. On the Riviera she wore swimsuits threaded with jewels, bunches of artificial fruit and a tarbush cap; in the late 30s she opened a shop in Paris selling Tyroclean beachwear. In 1923 she married Prince Louis de Facigny-Lucinge.