Far from a ‘frivolous’ life

Ms. Edmonde Charles-Roux died last week in her hometown of Marseilles at the age of 95.

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For Edmonde Charles-Roux, once a writer at the French edition of Elle and the editor-in-chief of French Vogue from 1954 to 1966, “Fashion has never been frivolous.”

Nor, does it seem, was her life.

Ms. Charles-Roux died last week in her hometown of Marseilles at the age of 95. Her many years reveal a well-woven life, one rich in beauty, bravery, intrigue, and endurance.

After a childhood spent moving between the capitals of Europe with her diplomat (and one-time French envoy to the Vatican) father, she served in World War II—volunteering for the French Foreign Legion and joining the Resistance at Provence—garnering both injuries and medals. In her years at Vogue, Edmonde Charles-Roux discovered fashion-photography legends such as Guy Bourdin, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, and William Klein, and committed what many felt were “too many” pages to cultural subjects, according to her New York Times obituary. The cultural subjects, along with her pushing for a black woman to appear on the cover, were rumored to have brought about her dismissal.

Edmonde Charles-Roux, in evening gown

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After leaving Vogue, Edmonde Charles-Roux wrote books that delighted and infuriated, winning the Prix Goncourt for her novel To Forget Palermo and causing Coco Chanel’s nostrils to flare with fury with her unauthorized biography of Ms. Chanel.

She met her husband, Gaston Defferre, then mayor of Marseille, when he awarded her with a medal of honor. They were married until his death in 1986.

Through it all, Charles-Roux was a woman of style and substance, a woman who risked safety for the love of her country and losing a dream job to do the right thing. Indeed, there’s nothing frivolous about that.

Caryn Rivadeneira
Caryn Rivadeneira
Caryn Rivadeneira is the author of five books and is a columnist for Her.meneutics and ThinkChristian. She lives outside Chicago with her husband, three kids, and one red-nose pit bull. Visit her at carynrivadeneira.com.

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