Artist and fashion icon Gloria Vanderbilt dies aged 95

Wednesday, 19 Jun, 2019

Gloria Vanderbilt left behind a multi-hyphenate legacy: heiress, socialite, mother, model, actress, poet.

Baby Gloria Laura Madeleine Sophie was left with a multi-million dollar trust fund after Reginald - the descendant of wealthy Dutch and English shipping and transportation barons - drank himself to death slightly more than a year later.

Gloria Vanderbilt, mother to CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and member of the storied Vanderbilt family, has died at 95 years old. The Gloria Vanderbilt brand peaked in 1980 when it was generating over $200 million in sales and pioneering jeans as a wardrobe staple that remains true to this day.

Gloria Vanderbilt on the fall 1976 ready-to-wear runway.

She was also famously at the center of a custody battle between her mother and her paternal aunt that ended with the aunt taking custody of Vanderbilt.

She was not allowed access to the money until she turned 21 and her mother received $50,000 annually.

In 1974, Paul McCartney released the song "Mrs. Vanderbilt" inspired by her life.

Growing up in her aunt's mansions in New York City and on Long Island, with servants, chauffeurs, lawyers, tutors, private schools and trips overseas, Vanderbilt searched for fulfillment as an artist, a fashion model, a poet, a playwright and an actress of stage, screen and television. The form-fitting jeans that featured a swan logo on the back were an immediate hit.

Boosted by their success, Vanderbilt produced an entire fashion line that included apparel, perfume, linens, shoes, leather goods and liqueurs, according to the publication. Instead, the 17-year-old Wednesday Hughes' press agent, Pasquale di Cicco, prompting her aunt to cut Gloria out of her will. Her aunt prevailed in court proceedings. By the time the judgment was rendered, Andrew Thomas had passed away. Still, Vanderbilt made her own mark in the fashion world. Despite winning the lawsuit, Gloria never received any of the $1.79 million. But it's also led to speculation about her fortune.

In addition to stealing her money, her now-deceased lawyer did not pay her taxes for years which resulted in Gloria owing $2.5 million to the IRS.

A regular on the global best-dressed list, in 1968 LIFE magazine called her "an up-to-date and very feminine version of the many-faceted Renaissance man" on account of her work as a "poet, actress, literary critic and artist". She was 85 when the latter made its way to bookstores.

She was forced to sell her properties in Southampton and New York City for $2.7 million to settle her debts.

Heiress: Gloria Vanderbilt's life was chronicled in the headlines.

She'd go on to four marriages, the first at 17, and a host of Hollywood dalliances, dating the likes of Errol Flynn, Marlon Brando, Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra.

In a statement, he added: "Gloria Vanderbilt was an extraordinary woman, who loved life, and lived it on her own terms".

"She was always in love - in love with men or with friends or books and art, in love with her children and her grandchildren and then her great-grandchildren", Cooper said.