Gloria Vanderbilt, the “poor little rich girl” who lived a life at the highest levels of fashion, society and wealth as an heir to one of the greatest family fortunes in U.S. history, died on Monday at the age of 95, according to her son, CNN correspondent Anderson Cooper.
The network said Vanderbilt died at home among family and friends. Cooper said she had learned this month that she had stomach cancer.
Vanderbilt became a fashion icon in the 1970s and ‘80s with an eponymous line of tight-fitting blue jeans that bore her signature and trademark swan logo. They were a must-have for any woman with aspirations to style.
“If you were around in early 1980s, it was pretty hard to miss the jeans she helped create, but that was her public face – the one she learned to hide behind as a child,” Cooper said on CNN. “Her private self, her real self – that was more fascinating and more lovely than anything she showed the public.”
Vanderbilt wrote that as a girl she had considered becoming a nun, which would have been an incredible loss to the chroniclers of high society and celebrity tumult. Instead of a nunnery, she went on to a life that could have provided storylines for dozens of soap operas, romance novels, Broadway musicals and tear-jerker movies.
Vanderbilt was born into wealth on Feb. 20, 1924, in New York City. She was the great-great-granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the 19th-century railroad and shipping magnate who amassed one of the greatest fortunes of the time.