Lee Radziwill’s Most Iconic Style Moments

From Truman Capote’s legendary Black and White Ball to Met Galas and ballet premieres, see the fashion moments that solidified Lee Radziwill as a style icon.

Lee Radziwill. Mirrorpix via Getty Images

Lee Radziwill was a woman of many titles during her lifetime: princess (through her marriage to her second husband, Prince Radziwill), actress, interior designer, PR executive, and, of course, the younger sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. But it’s that of style icon that remains one of Radziwill’s most enduring titles; one that’s partially explored through the lens of her friendship with writer Truman Capote in the FX series, Feud: Capote Vs. the Swans.

Sign Up For Our Daily Newsletter

By clicking submit, you agree to our <a rel="nofollow noreferer" href="http://observermedia.com/terms">terms of service</a> and acknowledge we may use your information to send you emails, product samples, and promotions on this website and other properties. You can opt out anytime.

See all of our newsletters

Born in New York City in 1933 to stockbroker John Vernou Bouvier III and socialite Janet Norton Lee, Caroline Lee Bouvier’s life had all of the makings of a trendsetter from the start. From her younger years, Radziwill, who went by her middle name, Lee, attended private schools on the Upper East Side and in Connecticut before heading to Sarah Lawrence College. Radziwill’s professional introduction to the world of fashion came during a brief stint as the assistant to Harper’s Bazaar fashion editor Diana Vreeland in 1950. Her polished style and penchant for French designers like Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy and Courrèges served her well once she was thrust into the spotlight (first as the wife of Polish aristocrat Prince Anthony Stanislaw Albert Radziwill, and, most famously, as the sister-in-law of President John F. Kennedy).

Radziwill counted creatives like dancer Rudolf Nureyev, architect and interior designer Renzo Mongiardino, photographer and costume designer Cecil Beaton and fashion designer Giambattista Valli among her close friends. And Radziwill’s professional pursuits followed a similar creative path. In the late ‘60s, she embarked on a brief acting career that saw her make her on-stage debut as socialite Tracy Lord in the Chicago revival of The Philadelphia Story. In 1976, Radziwill, whose ornate homes in England and New York City (and later, Paris) were featured in magazines like Vogue and Architectural Digest, founded an interior design firm. And from 1986 to 1994, the socialite directed her fashion expertise into a new role, serving as a public relations executive for Giorgio Armani. 

Even after her professional retirement from fashion, Radziwill, who passed away in 2019 at the age of 85, remained a fixture in the industry, attending gala events and fashion shows for designers like Louis Vuitton, Giambattista Valli and Marc Jacobs into her 80s. “I’m a firm believer in not always being a slave to trends and wearing what makes one happy,” she told the New York Times in 2015 during Paris Fashion Week. Ahead, take a look back at Radziwill’s timeless style moments.

Lee Radziwill. Bettmann Archive

1962

Though Radziwill found herself on many “Best Dressed” lists over the years, it was Eleanor Lambert’s International Best Dressed List that solidified her place among the world’s most fashionable. Named to Lambert’s coveted list seven times from 1961 to 1996, Radziwill is pictured here following her 1962 nomination, in a tailored set.

Lee Radziwill Dancing With Truman Capote. Getty Images
Lee Radziwill. Penske Media via Getty Images

1966, Truman Capote’s Black And White Ball

As one of the select high-society women that Truman Capote called his “Swans,” Radziwill was naturally on the writer’s guest list when he hosted his Black and White Ball at the Plaza Hotel. For the now-legendary fête, Radziwill wore a shimmering white and silver gown with a matching coat, diamond jewelry and an embellished mask to adhere to the masquerade theme. The evening dress and coat—both by designer Mila Schön—were later donated by Radziwill to London’s Victoria & Albert Museum in 1974.

Truman Capote with Lee Radziwill. Penske Media via Getty Images

1968, In New York City

The 1975 publication of Capote’s “La Côte Basque 1965” would prove to be the undoing of his friendship with Radziwill (and the other socialite friends whose secrets he revealed in the excerpt from his unfinished novel, Answered Prayers). But before their falling out, the two were pictured leaving a restaurant in New York City, with Radziwill in a belted shirtdress styled with flats and oversized sunglasses.

Lee Radziwill and Jackie Onassis. Ron Galella Collection via Getty

1970, In New York City

For an evening at the theater, Radziwill opted for a pale pink pant and mock neck top set, while her sister wore a long-sleeved dress in black and white.

Andy Warhol and Lee Radziwill. Penske Media via Getty Images

1973, In New York City

Fur coats, like the full-length design she wore while speaking with artist Andy Warhol at a party in New York City, were a staple in Radziwill’s wardrobe.

Lee Radziwill and Rudolf Nureyev. Penske Media via Getty Images

1974, Royal Ballet Opening

Radziwill attended the opening night of the Royal Ballet’s New York City engagement in a white gown with a sheer purple tunic worn over top. A dedicated patron of the ballet, the socialite was pictured with one of the British company’s most celebrated dancers, Rudolf Nureyev.

Lee Radziwill. Penske Media via Getty Images

1975, ‘Beacon Hill’ Screening

For a summertime screening in New York City, Radziwill opted for a flowy printed skirt and matching top with dainty straps, which she paired with metallic sandals and a clutch bag.

Lee Radziwill. Penske Media via Getty Images

1975, In New York City

Fitted trousers, a button-up blouse and oversized sunglasses would become a uniform of sorts for Radziwill.

Lee Radziwill. Penske Media via Getty Images

1976, Met Gala

Radziwill accessorized her taffeta gown and its long-sleeved, sequined bodice with a dramatic red cape when she attended the 1976 Met Gala (co-chaired by her sister, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and showcasing the exhibition entitled “The Glory of Russian Costume”).

Lee Radziwill. Penske Media via Getty Images

1980, Pierre Cardin Fashion Retrospective

Back at the Metropolitan Museum of Art—this time for the Pierre Cardin Fashion Retrospective—Radziwill wore a strapless black and white gown that included a structured, asymmetrical bodice and an ankle-length skirt with pockets.

Lee Radziwill and Peter Sharp. Penske Media via Getty Images

1980, St. Regis Hotel

For a black-tie event hosted by Tiffany & Co. president Harry Platt, Radziwill added oversized earrings, a cocktail ring and a diamond bracelet to complement her asymmetrical evening gown. 

Lee Radziwill. Ron Galella Collection via Getty

1986, Paris Opera Ballet

When the Paris Opera Ballet held its New York City engagement at the Metropolitan Opera House, Radziwill attended the opening night performance in a shimmering gold dress with a waist-defining miniature bow.

Lee Radziwill and Jerry Zipkin. Ron Galella Collection via Getty

1987, Lincoln Center Film Society Gala

For the Lincoln Center Film Society Gala, Radziwill paired a sheer lace top and bandeau with a knee-length skirt and matching navy envelope clutch bag.

Designer Giorgio Armani and Lee Radziwill. Penske Media via Getty Images

1988, Armani Presentation

Radziwill was an early supporter of designer Giorgio Armani, who launched his namesake label in 1975. Nearly 10 years later, she would find herself working for the fashion house, attending a presentation and dinner party for the spring 1988 collection at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art in a cream-colored strapless column dress. “It was about simple, low-key things and a great respect for line and beauty,” Radziwill said of sharing a similar aesthetic with Armani.

Lee Radziwill. Ron Galella Collection via Getty

1988, In New York City

At a benefit dinner held at the New York Public Library, Radziwill wore a classic ivory gown with ruffle detailing along the bodice.

Lee Radziwell and Herb Ross. Ron Galella Collection via Getty

1989, In New York City

Radziwill bundled up in a cropped fur jacket and leather gloves when she attended a gala alongside her third husband, film director and choreographer Herb Ross.

Lee Radziwill. Ron Galella Collection via Getty

1996, Giorgio Armani Flagship Store Opening

During the opening of Armani’s flagship store in New York City, Radziwill made casual wear look impossibly chic in a cap-sleeve red blouse and black pants from the Italian luxury fashion house (Radziwill later told the New York Times that she owned “hundreds of pairs” of similar Armani trousers). “She’s beyond passing trends,” Armani said of Radziwill, noting, “She expresses her personal style through reducing, not adding.”

Lee Radzivill. Getty Images

1996, ‘The First Wives Club’ Premiere

For the New York City premiere of The First Wives Club, Radziwill walked the red carpet in a sheer set that included black pants and a short-sleeved blouse with white floral embroidery.

Lee Radziwell. Getty Images

2001, Met Gala

Radziwill wore a white gown with beaded embroidery when she attended the 2001 Met Gala (the exhibit, “Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years,” was dedicated to her sister).

Lee Radziwill. WireImage

2004, Louis Vuitton Show

A friend and muse to Marc Jacobs, Radziwill was often pictured front row to view the designer’s collections for both his eponymous line and for Louis Vuitton, where Jacobs served as creative director from 1997 to 2014. At the spring 2005 presentation for Louis Vuitton, Radziwill styled a metallic jacket with a classic black skirt.

Lee Radziwill. Penske Media via Getty Images

2004, American Ballet Theatre Gala

Celebrating the American Ballet Theatre’s 65th anniversary, Radziwill attended the company’s fall gala at the Plaza Hotel in a feather-trimmed black skirt with a matching sweater that included a jewel-embellished collar.

Lee Radziwill. Patrick McMullan via Getty Image

2008, Tribeca Film Festival Party

Radziwill swapped the typical evening dress for a tailored white suit at a Vanity Fair-hosted party to kick off the 7th annual Tribeca Film Festival.

Lee Radziwill. Penske Media via Getty Images

2009, American Ballet Theatre Gala

At American Ballet Theatre’s spring gala, Radziwill took a more glamorous approach to the classic black dress by opting for a shimmering number that was entirely embroidered with sequins and accessorized with a crystal brooch and star-shaped earrings.

Lee Radziwill and Reinaldo Herrera. Patrick McMullan via Getty Image

2010, Met Gala

Radziwill added a pop of color to her flowy white gown at the 2010 Met Gala with a beaded statement necklace and sparkling pink earrings.

Lee Radziwill. WireImage

2011, Giambattista Valli Show

Radziwill was a frequent front row guest at Giambattista Valli’s Paris fashion shows. Arriving at the presentation of the designer’s fall 2011 collection, Radziwill wore an animal print coat that was cinched at the waist and styled with a black pencil skirt, black leather gloves and a matching clutch bag.

Lee Radziwill’s Most Iconic Style Moments