The duchess of Alba, the richest woman in Spain, died today at the age of 88. The duchess (full name: Maria del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart) was known for her many titles: According to the Guinness Book of World Records, she had more than any other aristocrat. But it was her eccentric sartorial sensibility and flamboyant spiritedness that truly distinguished her as a royal. In 1959, she hosted Yves Saint Laurent’s Dior runway show at her palace in Madrid. In 2011, she wore a pink dress to wed her third husband, Alfonso Diez Carabantes, a Spanish civil servant 25 years her junior. After the Seville ceremony, she kicked off her shoes and performed an impromptu flamenco dance.
Often characterized as a “rebel noble,” the duchess’s style was anything but prim. Rather, her aesthetic conveyed a childlike whimsicality: She was fond of barrettes, known to wear boldly patterned leggings, and generally gravitated toward bright colors. Her uniform was a dress paired with tights, flats, and sunglasses all of matching hues. She loved the beach and wore color-coordinated bikinis without giving a thought to her age. Her quirky indulgences — from feathered fascinators to green tights and anklets — were a model of dressing for oneself.
Click through the slideshow for a look back at the duchess’s self-assured, eccentric style.BEGIN SLIDESHOW