Gloria Vanderbilt: An Unhappy and Unusual Childhood

Ariel Bailey
By: Chief Beauty Advisor  |  Ariel Bailey

Right up until her death in mid-2019, Gloria Vanderbilt was an icon, building a powerful legacy in the fashion industry. From almost the moment of her birth, she found herself in the public spotlight. Her railroad tycoon father’s death – which occurred when she was only 18 months old — would set the stage for the rest of her life. Her mother made quick work of Gloria’s inheritance, leaving the young girl’s paternal aunt fretting that Gloria was not being properly cared for. Eventually, a bombastic trial took place, pitting the child between her mother and aunt. It was one of the most sensational trials of its day. The spectacle would have a profound effect upon the rest of Gloria’s life.

Vanderbilt’s Aesthetic and Fashion Sense

With her name recognition and beautiful face, it was no surprise that Vanderbilt was asked to model almost as soon as she hit her teens. But after she got a few big-name gigs under her belt, Vanderbilt was ready for a new challenge. She began painting, which was something that became a lifelong passion for the thoughtful young woman. In later years, Vanderbilt would be pictured painting while doing a documentary with her son, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. But when a company called Glentex used Gloria’s paintings as the basis for some of their scarves, her career in fashion was up and running.

An Inauspicious Beginning in the Fashion Field

After the scarves were a success, Vanderbilt embarked upon yet another endeavor with the Glentex company. She would ultimately go on to create two couture collections with Glentex, though the lines ran into early logistics issues. With these manufacturing snafus, Vanderbilt was unable to get her clothes on the masses. It wasn’t long before she realized that her name held value and that licensing was the way to go.

1976: Gloria’s Jeans Hit the Market

Gloria Vanderbilt was the first to design jeans to fit women
Gloria Vanderbilt was the first to design jeans to fit women

Before Gloria Vanderbilt sat with Mohan Murjani and dreamed up her line, there really was no such thing as designer jeans. Women were stuck with denim pants that didn’t necessarily fit well. But it was Gloria Vanderbilt who changed all of this, with her statement that she made jeans “exclusively designed to fit a woman.” These days, of course, this is expected of denim companies. But back in the seventies, it was considered absolutely revolutionary. With her name sewn onto every pair, these jeans were like a high-profile advertisement in themselves. Women couldn’t get enough, and a high-profile campaign featuring a daring photo of Vanderbilt and her models caused a sensation. At the height of the entire frenzy, it is said that Vanderbilt’s jeans drummed up over $200 million in just one year.

Gloria Widens Her Reach

It quickly became obvious that there was extraordinary demand for all kinds of items made by Vanderbilt. She created a company named Gloria Concepts, which sold accessories and even bed linens. Although every celebrity today seems to have a designer fragrance named after them, Vanderbilt became one of the very first with the launch of her scent, Glorious. It seems that the scion was destined for a life so much greater than being an heiress; people loved everything about her aesthetic.

Gloria Vanderbilt’s Legacy in the Fashion World

In the fashion arena, there is perhaps no greater compliment than longevity. Although many designer jeans brands have come and gone since the 43 years after Gloria released hers, her jeans still remain on the market today, even after her passing in June 2019. Sold through a different company, they highlight the extraordinary fashion sense of a woman who was born into difficult circumstances but managed to sell her vision of beauty to the world. Every time a customer slides into a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt’s jeans, she is referencing the heritage and charm of Gloria Vanderbilt herself. Before anyone had paid much attention to the idea that jeans could provide a slimming effect when constructed correctly, Vanderbilt was already there. Remembered as a true fashion pioneer, she will be missed by many.

From celebrity to groundbreaking pioneer in personal branding, Gloria Vanderbilt was a woman to admire. If you want to learn more about the faces who have changed our world, check out some of our other articles.

Ariel Bailey
Chief Beauty Advisor
Ariel was fed up with all the nonsense information out there. So, she has dedicated over 25 years and written 100's of articles to help millions of people be properly educated from products, to latest innovations, and to anything else beauty related.

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