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Always Those Smart Little Suits

Dressing Mrs. Astor.

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She loved Chanel suits,” said Astor’s longtime tailor, Elizabeth Corbett, owner of Chez Ninon. “I’d buy the rights, then the material, the buttons, the lining, and everything, and make them for her. The buttons were $25 apiece then, so that’s an investment. And she loved evening clothes. We had Givenchy, Balenciaga, Pertegaz, Balman, Dior. I would go to Paris twice a year to the couture shows” and order the samples. “Mine were better-made than theirs, because they’d have three or four fittings with me instead of one.” How often did she shop? “She’d buy three or four things a season. We used to have a fashion show every afternoon at three o’clock from Tuesday to Thursday, and she would come in, then call and come and try on the clothes she was interested in. She was a size 6 or 8—that’s 2 today—and you know, I read in the paper she left her daughter-in-law the mink sable—this girl is a good size 18!” Corbett retired in 1996, closing her atelier. “We did see her often. And one of the most wonderful things: She paid her bills right up front.”

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