Louise’s Bons Mots

On the occasion of our dear Countess’s retirement, W looks back on three decades of her wit and wisdom.


ON DESIGNERS The thing about old fashion designers…is that they don’t just fade away—they die alone. —April 2002

Karl Lagerfeld: Does he wear gloves because his fingernails are dirty, or because he bites (his nails, I mean)? —February 2006

[Stefano Gabbana is] the tall one with the hair, which is now a white-blond crew cut that makes him look like a woodchuck from Miami. —May 1994

ON SOCIAL LIFE Who today would rather read about society ladies like Nancy Cunard and Gloria Guinness, fast as they were for their times, when they can read things about Roseanne that once would have been confined to gynecological offices? —November 1995

It was a challenge to walk out [of Hubert de Givenchy’s 30th-anniversary party] with my dignity…after being called to a fashion show by a security guard with a bullhorn, hurried down a tunnel to dinner and having entrées hurled like baseballs, in a crush of more than 900 people.… The dinner was a culinary tragedy. Thank God we could wash it down with champagne. —May 1982

ON THEATER I turned on WQXR for some soothing classical music, but the announcer was reviewing a play downtown—a monologue about the vagina. I think I blacked out momentarily from the shock. When I came to, the reviewer recounted how the biggest laugh…comes when a lady goes swimming and loses her clitoris in the sea. Ha-ha-huh? —April 2000

[Les Misérables] was the most wretchedly boring experience I’ve ever had in the theater. —September 1987

ON MARRIAGE Don’t hesitate to marry for money. It’s as acceptable in modern New York as it was in Renaissance Italy. And don’t be afraid to marry often. —September 1987

[My husband,] Mousey Esterhazy, as he was known, was the cutest little thing. He stood a little more than five feet tall, without his lifts, and he had this wonderful waxed mustache and high squeaky voice. He wasn’t my first choice, but he wasn’t my last either. —December 1986

ON CELEBRITIES If I made clothes, I’d be embarrassed if the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Madonna, Sharon Stone or Formerly Prince wore them. —January 1995

Donald Trump…can make even a Savile Row suit look cheap. —November 1995

To me, [Nicole Kidman] looks like an overdressed kangaroo. —March 2004

ON STYLE I say, let’s have happy clothes. You could reply that’s frivolous in this troubled world, but do you really think dressing like an existential nun with suicidal thoughts is going to solve Bosnia? —February 1996

Fashion editor Suzy Menkes—jogging in a repulsively shimmering jogging suit, tons of jangling bracelets and bloated sneakers in the Hamptons—really ought to know better. —January 1995

ON TRAVEL If you want a snapshot of fashion today, just look at the way people dress on airplanes—shorts, sweatpants, T-shirts, sandals. And I’m talking about business and first class.… Soon people will just arrive naked and slip right into one of those fold-down beds. It will make it quicker to join the mile-high club. —May 2001

As a foreigner, I’m now required to be fingerprinted by Mr. Ashcroft’s security forces every time I enter the U.S. But I’ve never, ever given my finger to anyone—and since I have to take off my Manolos anyway to go through security, I give the agents my big toe. —October 2002

I once flew down to Santo Domingo with darling Oscar de la Renta in a plane he’d borrowed from a jeans manufacturer that had no facilities.… You should have seen the rush to the toilets as soon as we landed; a man in uniform there said he thought it was the U.S. Marines, until he saw me. —January 1994