Art & Design

Style Mavens & Mavericks: Millicent Rogers

By Nadia Buick - 15 Jul 2013

Millicent Rogers was a socialite, style icon, and avid art collector. The heir to an oil fortune, Rogers' exceptional wealth brought her a level of independence in an era when women frequently married for money (she didn't need to) and an unlimited budget for her creative passions, wardrobe, and interior decorating whims. Rogers is perhaps best remembered for her intelligence, bohemian taste, and as a patron of the arts. 

Born in 1902, Rogers died young, in 1953, having barely turned 51. Ill health plagued her from the time she was a child and, as an adult, she suffered several heart attacks and periods of severe sickness. As a result of this brief life, Rogers has remained preserved in time as a stunning and youthful woman, captured in countless images showcasing her blonde hair, penchant for piles of jewellery and couture garments, pencil thin arched eyebrows, and enviable bone structure.

Rogers' favourite fashion designers all had a flair for drama, which she adored. She loved Charles James (famously purchasing his elaborate and prohibitively expensive couture blouses in large numbers), Elsa Schiaparelli, Adrian, and Valentina.

My love of Rogers stems from her early adoption of Navajo silver and turquoise jewellery in an age when these pieces were not considered fashion items. I have a (small) collection of Navajo jewellery myself, but nothing on the scale that Rogers accumulated (give me time!). In the 1940s, Rogers moved to Taos, New Mexico, and began amassing Native American and southwestern art, textiles, objects, and jewellery. Today, this impressive collection is housed in The Millicent Rogers Museum (I haven't been, but it sits pretty high on my list of dream travel destinations).

After a life of luxury in Austrian mansions, New York townhouses, chauffeured cars lined with sable throws, and countless couture outfits, Rogers' move to New Mexico set a different tone. Her wardrobe in this new and quite isolated environment consisted of peasant blouses, tiered skirts, embroidered shawls, a ton of turquoise, and bare feet. She began dying her own textiles and famously swore off love affairs (of which she had had many—lovers included Clark Gable, Roald Dahl, Iam Fleming, and a handful of princes). 

Despite all of this opulence, Rogers' legacy lives on through her museum collection and inimitable style. Even today, she continues to be listed as an enduring icon of the 20th century. She remains a maven and maverick in my eyes due to the many contradictions her biography and personal style continue to reveal.

millicent rogers style icon

Image Credit: Kootation, The Weaklings

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