Most people know Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald as the wife of famous American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. The two became celebrities after the success of This Side of Paradise, and newspapers couldn’t get enough of the young, good looking couple that seemingly lived for a good time. But Zelda had already cultivated a wild reputation as a young girl back in Montgomery, Alabama where she would dive off rocks in a nude-colored swimsuit that left everyone wondering whether she was clothed. But she was more than just a party girl (thought her husband famously named her “the first American flapper.”); she had artistic aspirations of her own. She painted, wrote magazine articles and short stories — her husband even drew on her diaries for his work. At 27, she became obsessed with becoming a ballet dancer and practiced incessantly, often 8 hours a day. Her quest for a separate creative identity continued well into her later years, and it’s that unique style that we’re honoring here in today’s Style Icon. — Amy Azzarito
Image above: Zelda Sayre via F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum
Image above, clockwise from right: Asymmetrical Cloche, $17.90; Lollia in Love Classic Petal Bubble Bath, $33.95; New French Dictionary, $10; Baltic Amber Earrings, $120; Vintage Tennis Racket, $25; Vintage Small Plate, $53; Edie Velvet Chaise, $649; Ilia Arabian Knights, $24; Geronimo! Balloon Set, 2 for $180
More of Zelda after the jump . . .
As the ’20s progressed, the couple’s partying went from youthful fun to depressing; they fought frequently, and Scott slipped further into alcoholism. In April 1930, Zelda was admitted to her first psychiatric hospital in France, where she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. She was in and out of various hospitals, and then in 1932, while at a hospital in Baltimore, she finished her first novel and sent it to Scott’s publisher. Scott was furious — her novel drew on their shared experiences that he had hoped to use for
Tender is the Night. He went over the book carefully and forced Zelda to remove anything he had planned to use. The book was not well-received by critics, and Scott called her a plagiarist. The experience crushed Zelda. She never published another novel and was in and out of psychiatric hospitals for the next 10 years. F. Scott died in 1940. Zelda, along with nine other women, died in a fire in 1948 at a hospital while she was awaiting electroshock therapy. Though both died believing themselves failures, public interest in their lives increased after the 1950s. Then in 1970, while still a graduate student at Columbia, Nancy Milford wrote a biography
of Zelda that changed the narrative and portrayed Zelda as someone who went mad as a result of stifled creativity. Mitford’s account recast Zelda as a feminist icon.
Image above: French Evening dress, ca. 1925, from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Image above, from clockwise: Peony (Zelda’s favorite flower); Studded Capezio Ballet Slipper, $48; A Tiny Celebration, $6.50; Vintage Ribbon, $8; False Eyelashes, $15; Odette Sofette, $1695; Yayoi Forest, Stars in the Sky Earrings, $350; Perfume Stick Roller, $48; Biscuit Recipe (While living in Connecticut, Zelda especially missed Southern biscuits.); Ahoy Headwrap, $35; Bob Ross Deluxe Paint Set, $99