The first best-dressed woman

Mona, Countess of Bismarck was the first American to be named ‘Best Dressed Woman in the World’ in 1933 and she won again in 1934 and 1936.

Mona in Capri in the 1960s   IMAGE: The Cecil Beaton  Studio Archive at Sothebys.  .

Born in Kentucky in 1897, Mona went on to become a globetrotting socialite and a style icon of the mid 20th century.

Mona was to marry five times.  In 1926 she wed her third husband, Harrison Williams who was reputed to be the richest man in America.  Their unrivalled wealth and style ensured they became the most glamorous American couple of the twenties and thirties, elevating Mona to the highest levels of New York society.

Mona von Bismarck wearing Balenciaga in her Parisian Hôtel Particulier by Cecil Beaton, 1955

Vogue in 1936, wrote, “Her dressing is high art.”

Mona was known for her love of pearls and exquisite jewellery.  She was famous for popularising the double pearl strand.  For three decades she was a feature in the top magazines Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Town and County.  Her elegance and beauty as well as the decoration of her residences in New York, Palm Beach and Capri were endlessly written about.

Mona Bismarck Photographed by Cecil Beaton

Cecil Beaton wrote:   ‘She’s a rock crystal goddess with aquamarine eyes.’

Mona has been credited with popularising halter necklines, asymmetric bias-cut dresses and colourless nail polish.

Mona Bismarck Photographed by Cecil Beaton

Her go-to colour was ivory or white for evening  wear when black was the choice of most.  This approach to her evening clothes in particularly, provided a perfect background for her amazing jewellery.

Mona captured at The Metropolitan Opera IMAGE: Pinterest

A world-class designer shopper, Mona’s go-to designer was Balenciaga.  When Balenciaga retired it was reported that Mona retreated to her bedroom for three days, after which she became devoted to Givenchy.

Mona Bismarck Balenciaga mantle coat  IMAGE:  Irving Penn

Her glamour and style captured the attention of Cole Porter who wrote a song about her and Salvatore Dali painted her.

Mona von Bismarck. IMAGE: Cecil Beaton. Vogue, October 1, 1936

Mona’s hair was permanently silver, her eyes an aquamarine blue, her skin glowed and her figure and posture were perfect.  She was described as being a ‘flawless symbol of elegance’ – a fitting tribute to the first ‘Best Dressed Woman in the World’.