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A.L.T. by André Leon Talley


A Memoir

by André Leon Talley

Pub Date: April 15th, 2003
ISBN: 0-375-50828-7
Publisher: Random House

Fashion’s eminent Fabulous Person chronicles his metamorphosis from country boy to man about town, moving from the side of his beloved grandmother to his equally cherished mentor, Diana Vreeland.

Vogue editor-at-large Talley has been a scene-maker since the ’70s: noticed by “Empress of Style” Vreeland when he interned at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he moved on to cover the party circuit for Andy Warhol's Interview magazine and never left the center of the New York fashion world. His career-making obsession with elegant detail was come by honestly, he reveals, beginning a discussion of luxury by recalling how his North Carolina grandmother boiled and ironed their crisp white sheets. A cleaning woman, Talley's “Mama,” Bennie Frances Davis, demonstrated the importance of maintaining dignity and dash regardless of financial circumstances; the bulk of his text dwells on the wholly absorbing details of his southern childhood and his grandmother's style. Talley reports on Mama’s elegant church wardrobe, her practice of packing clothing in layers of tissue paper, and her abiding regard for a very fine pair of gloves. Talley finds a similar iron will in his “surrogate mother,” Vreeland, making repeated reference to her insistence on maintaining an impeccable pedicure even as she took to her bed and slowly expired. The tale is larded with fashionista gossip, but far less than one might expect—and that’s not the most compelling feature: when Talley discusses how his hospital room was decorated for a Nest magazine shoot, we wonder when he'll get back to his grandmother's cooking. For a man who makes his living in a world that focuses scrupulously on appearances, the author has a surprisingly passionate affection for faith and family.

Lyrical (if sometimes purple), satisfying, and suprisingly moving.