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Betsy Bloomingdale died on Tuesday night at age 93, a family source confirmed to Pret-a-Reporter. The nonagenarian succumbed to an illness she had been battling for an undisclosed period of time.
The Los Angeles style icon and socialite was the wife of Bloomingdale’s department store heir Alfred Bloomingdale. She was friends with an elite crop of women of the 1980s “Ladies Who Lunch” era, including Nancy Reagan, Joan Collins and Lauren Bacall. The L.A. native was known for her hosting skills, often throwing elaborate soirees at her Holmby Hills homes. She earned the nickname “Good Queen Bets” and even landed a book deal in 1994 for Entertaining With Betsy Bloomingdale: A Collection of Culinary Tips and Treasures From the World’s Best Hosts and Hostesses.
“She has romped in Morocco with the Kissingers, the Cronkites, La Liz and the late Malcolm Forbes. She has frolicked with Princess Di, Princess Caroline, Ivana Trump, Karl Lagerfeld, et al … She’s frightfully rich and even the most established socialites call her ‘friend,'” the Los Angeles Times wrote of Bloomingdale and her style in 1991.
For each lavish event she attended, Bloomingdale had a haute couture gown to wear, preferring Oscar de la Renta, James Galanos, Marc Bohan for Dior and Valentino. Her extensive collection of over 100 dresses was the subject of a Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising exhibition in Los Angeles in 2009 titled, “High Style: Betsy Bloomingdale and the Haute Couture.”
In 1970 she was inducted into Vanity Fair‘s International Best-Dressed Hall of Fame.
L.A.-based designer and stylist Mary Alice Haney recalled the icon’s timeless style: “I remember when I first moved to Los Angeles seeing Betsy Bloomingdale at lunch with Nancy Reagan at the Bel Air Hotel. They reminded me of my very chic grandmother who always ‘dressed’ for lunch. I saw her again at the Balmain show in Paris when I was a young fashion editor and was struck my how glamorous she looked. I loved that Los Angeles had its own style icons who bought couture and loved fashion.”
Said Los Angeles fashion guru Cameron Silver, founder of Decades and fashion director of H by Halston: “She was the last of the iconic American socialites, or as I like to call them, the owners, because now we live in a culture of loaners.” He remembered Bloomingdale for her “effortless elegance that came from being a product of American style.” Silver added, “The way she bought French couture had an American sensibility. It wasn’t complicated or too studied.”
Wanda McDaniel, executive vp of Giorgio Armani’s entertainment relations, remembered Bloomingdale as a “West Coast swan.” “She commanded a room with her towering height, irreverent humor and fashion flare,” she said. “I was on the show Nightline with Sally Quinn and Helen Thomas the night of the first Reagan inaugural ball. The D.C. reporters were buzzing about the glamorous California Kitchen Cabinet, all replete in designer gowns and mink stoles. After the show, the veteran reporters turned to me and said, ‘Do you know Betsy Bloomingdale? She’s the one we like the best … great taste.’ And indeed, they were right.”
Bloomingdale leaves behind three children, Geoffrey, Lisa and Robert.
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