By Alexandria Symonds
Most of us got our first real glimpse of Grace Coddington in the 2009 doc The September Issue, which portrayed the Vogue creative director as the mag’s secret HBIC -- and the only person with the stones to stand up to Anna Wintour. But there’s leagues more to Coddington, whose new memoir, Grace (Random House, $35), chronicles her days as a model in the swinging ’60s, her career at Vogue and Calvin Klein, and her exploits with her famous fashion-elite friends. (Yes, including Anna.) Here’s a taste of what we learned.
1. Twiggy copped her style. In her modeling days in the ’60s, when she was known as “The Cod” (a nickname that complemented Jean Shrimpton’s “The Shrimp”), she began drawing doll-like eyelashes under her eyes. “Later, I discovered my crazy new eyelash look being called ‘twiglets’ and credited to the young British model Twiggy,” she writes. “I was probably doing them before she was born!”
2. Coddington has had an epic romantic history: She left one fiancé when she found out he was having an affair only after his mistress, Catherine Deneuve’s sister, died in a fiery car accident. She’s been married to famed restaurateur Michael Chow and photographer Willie Christie, but has spent the last three decades with French hairstylist Didier Malige. Oh, and she once made out with Mick Jagger.
3. Her pet peeves? “I was absolutely never the blue jeans type,” she declares, also noting her aversions to “sappy blondes,” South Beach in the ’90s, and email (her assistant prints hers out for her).
4. She was no stranger to gay clubs in the ’70s, thanks to friends Robert Forrest, the fashion director of Browns, and hairstylist Kerry Warn. “They were always warm and chatty, although it sometimes seemed as if I were eavesdropping on some secret, impenetrable language based on gender change,” she muses. “President Gerald Ford would metamorphose into ‘Miss Geraldine Ford.’ ”
5. In 1975, she traveled to Russia for British Vogue—the first time fashion photography was allowed to be taken there -- and, on her way out, ended up being detained at customs on suspicion of possessing anti-Russian propaganda.
6. She has some insight into how photographer Bruce Weber always seems to coax male models out of their clothes: “All I could hear was Bruce saying things like, ‘Oh, gee, you look so handsome. Could you take off your shirt?’ And then the shirt would flutter down. Then it was, ‘Wow, that’s so great. Now can you take off the trousers?’ And down would come the trousers. Finally, it was ‘And the underpants?’ This was where I averted my eyes, just as the Y-fronts came tumbling down about my head.”