March 5, 2011

Paris Days | George's Friends

Model, Joan Olson
It will be two years on March 11th that I lost my godfather George. He had many interesting friends and was part of a circle of American expats in Paris after WWII—which included Tennessee Williams and many illustrious characters. Through his friend Jacques Rheims, my godfather met a beautiful young model, Joan Olson. I've been thinking about Joan during this Paris Fashion Week. But Joan's Paris was during the time of true haute couture, and her family thinks she would lament what has become of Dior, Balmain, Chanel and Balenciaga. Joan was with the Ford Modeling Agency, and made the cover of every women's and lifestyle magazine in the US except LIFE, according to her son and my friend Charles... "because MacArthur bumped her when he was fired by Truman in Korea."

Joan with Emilo Pucci, 1952
Joan was married to Charles Buchet Sr., the dashing French executive who brought the Citröen to the US. They met in Capri on vacation—she, after a shoot and he, there with Marzotto—the Italian textile company that at the time sold to all the important Parisian houses. Apparently, half of Paris was at their wedding and Jacques Fath was their best man. Fath sadly died of Leukemia just a year later. I asked my friend Charles what it was like being the child of a model during the 1950's and he said, "As a little kid in the 50's, I wasn't aware of anything extraordinary—certainly all boys believe their mother is the most beautiful woman in the world, except that we knew it for sure!" Joan continued working until the birth of her fourth son in 1959. Before that, the boys had a full-time nanny because Joan was working every day. Paris was her base in Europe but she also shot a great deal in Italy and Germany.

"I remember even in the late 50's when we would visit on vacation, a well-dressed woman really stood out. At least in the more down-to-earth neighborhoods of Paris—the cut, the colors, and an air of great confidence, especially wearing the New Look. This was the time most people consider the golden age of Paris fashion." ~ C.B.

Joan at Place Vendôme, 1952
As I learn more about my godfather George and his friends, I have an even greater appreciation of why he was such an arbiter of style. I miss the stories about his days in Paris, and all the parties and who was wearing what. He once draped a fabulous curtain around a friend who needed a dress for a party. Another time, he and a Dior model were invited to a party at the US ambassador's residence in Spain. His friend was wearing the true Dior {unbuttoned to her waist with Grecian sandals}, and their hostess was wearing a quite staid, off-the-rack version of the same dress! George got such a kick out of these stories and my, how I miss hearing them. He gave me a list of people to call in Europe when I went to London to study art in 1977. This is how I met Joan's son Charles. The list is priceless. Some day, I'll share some of it with you! If you are new to my blog, you can read more about my godfather here.

Photo from Joan Olson Ford Model Sheet

Thank you to my dear friend Charles Buchet, Jr., for his recollections!

Fashion Week Note: To see the Ready-to-Wear Collections from New York to London and from Milan to Paris Fashion Weeks, click here.

Photographs by: Regina Relang


  1. I think I would have loved George too. What a marvelous circle he traveled in. And what a wonderful era - "the golden age of Paris fashion" - so chic and yet seems so much easier and less complicated somehow. And Joan is so lovely! Look forward someday to hearing about "the list"!

  2. You know I am intrigued by George. I love his elephant drawing-wasn't it? I can imagine the scenes-and doesn't it sound perfect? I suspect Your friend Charles was right about the lives your subjects led too-they must have just taken it as the norm. Joan was high wasp-a beauty on the CZ Guest order- though a very sensuous Joan at Place Vendôme,(Kim Novak)- a model of perfection. (I can only imagine her despair of Balenciaga today) More of these special posts please Barbara. pgt

  3. So chic. So purely another time with which we have lost touch. So nice to experience through your memories, images and scribes. Merci beaucoup!


  4. Oh what stories, so exciting and what an elegant time to have lived in.

    Joan looks so chic and beautiful.

  5. This was a pleasure to read. I love discovering your blog.
    Warm regards,

  6. Q! Yes... certainly less complicated - somehow! The list will make it here soon ; )

    Pgt... yes, George's elephant! Joan is quite Kim Novak at the Place. And, what about the BEE!!!

    Catherine, I'm so happy you enjoyed this. I was thinking that George would love it too.

    Dustjacket, yes... THE time, I think! Joan is a beauty. She looks quite taken with Signor Pucci!

    Philip, I'm delighted you liked this. You and Little Augury should join forces in a book! I get lost in most of your Facebook posts.... and inpired, too. Thank you.

  7. Barbara you are such an amazing writer. I can't think of a more enjoyable evening (every evening) than sitting with your Godfather George, and you and talking about those days in Paris. Those kind of experiences are what dreams are made of. I specifically remember your previous post about George. You were so blessed to have such a remarkable man in your life. I'm not sure who my Godparents even are? I can understand why you miss him so, especially this time of year.

    Wonderful post Barbara xo xo

  8. I think that was a time of true elegance.
    Your Godfather George truly must have had so many stories to delight.

  9. Hello Barbara, your Godfather Bob was obviously a very special and highly cultured gentleman. After the austerity of the war years, Paris must have been a very exciting place to inhabit in the fifties.

  10. Hi PVE, yes... his stories were great and his opinions many!! I always enjoyed every minute we were together. ; )

    Hi Dash, I know you meant to type George... and yes, he was cultured and persnickety and a lot of fun! I agree about that time in Paris. Great to welcome you here. Have a lovely weekend ; )

  11. 'Bob'...? Many apologies, have no idea why I wrote Bob, perhaps some kind of Freudian slip!
    Hope you have a lovely weekend too.

  12. Dash, funny! I do that ALL the time ; )

  13. Chiming in a bit late, but what a wonderful piece. One aspect of the 1950s that I do wish would become in vogue now is the true sense of style that required that one dress for an occasion.. whether it is a cocktail party or travel on an airplane. The style did not simply apply to dress, but also in attitude. I recently read an article about how the 'it girls' of the past had to have style and an intellectual side. Joan and your godfather sound like they certainly had both. Let's hope we can return to such a sentiment in the 21st century.

  14. Shani, Yes, to style + intellect! I'm happy you enjoyed meeting Joan and George. They certainly did have both! ; )

  15. What a very handsome style of reminiscence.

  16. Laurent, Thank you so much for stopping by and for commenting, too. ; )

  17. Wow. She certainly was a stunning woman.

  18. Barb I'm re-posting this!
    You are so kind to share your memories of the fascinating people that have enriched your life in the past & continue to this day.
    You are a wonderful writer who always moves me to a time & place that I so adore. Surely in a previous life I was wandering around doing "I don't know what" amongst all these stylish & interesting people & places.
    Thank you for these gifts so beautifully written.
    xo Lisa

  19. HC, thank you so much for reading!! ; )

    Lisa, Of course you were wandering around with all of these stylish people! What else would you be doing?! ox b

  20. Joan is my grandmother (I'm Charles' daughter). Sadly, I never got to meet her, since she died so young, and I love hearing stories about her. My father talks about George quite a bit, he sounds like a great man. Thank you so much for posting this! It was a truly wonderful find!
    (I actually own the top picture!)

  21. Hi Zazou! I am delighted you are here and read this post about George and your grandmother. I met you on Long Island when you were a baby! I hope to see you again soon, so we can chat about George and Joan. Hugs to you, Barbara


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