Jean was “a young American Goddess of Paris Couture”.
This is the official website dedicated to Jean Patchett, Iconic Vogue Model, whose face and figure defined fashion during the highly glamorous era of the late 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s.
The Jean Patchett Tribute is a collaboration of the Patchett & Auer Families. Jean Patchett’s daughter, Amy Auer and cousin, Daniel Patchett; present in this tribute a vast body of Jean’s high fashion photographs from the pages of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Charm, Town and Country and Life magazines. Included are hundreds of images of Jean’s magazine covers and fashion editorial photos and ads for cosmetic companies: Revlon, Max Factor, Helena Rubenstein, Woodbury Cosmetics, fashion design houses: Christian Dior, Coco Chanel, Jacques Fath, Charles James, Adele Simpson, Ben Barrack, David Levine, Hattie Carnagie, Mary Black, Nellie Don, Nettie Rosenstein, Botany, Maximilian, Henri Bendel, Vera Stewart, Mollie Parnis, Ship n’ Shore, Cole of California, department stores: Tiffany & Co., Neiman Marcus, Julis Garfinkle Co., Macy’s, Hudson’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Hutzler’s and corporation: General Motors – Cadillac Motor Cars, Eastman Kodak for Chromspun to name a few. There are several never before seen photos from the archives of fashion photography portfolios, and candid photographs from the Auer and Patchett families.
Jean Patchett modeled from 1948 until she retired in 1963. Jean did model selectively after 1963 and was available to photographers for special assignments through the 1970s.
In the 1980s Jean moved from New York City, to La Quinta, CA with her husband. During Jean’s heyday her accomplishments became legendary, as she was one of the most recognizable and popular models in American fashion couture.
The October, 1950 issue of Vogue Magazine featured Jean Patchett not just on its cover, but on many pages of the feature section! In this publication there were five full page illustrations, 3 partial page illustrations, and 4 full page advertisements! The number and frequency of Jean’s appearances in fashion magazines was amazing. She had become the center of fashion photography, and was in great demand. Jean Patchett was referred to as the “Queen of Fashion Inc.” by fashion editors and photographers during this decade.
“An absolutely stunning creature with a signature beauty mark, Jean was a super model decades before the term ‘super model’ was coined, and, staggeringly, has had more covers than any fashion model in history. Jean Patchett was to Ford what Babe Ruth was to the Yankees.” Said agency owner Jerry Ford of Ford Models, who represented Jean in her heyday during the Fifties. Jean signed on with the Ford Models on May 10, 1948 according to Miss Patchett. In the Sunday News on March 18, 1951 a feature article titled: “There’s Nobody Like Patchett” author Jess Stearn wrote: ” No matter what’s wanted in a model, Jean seems to have it. Because she knows exactly what to do with her hands, head and feet, and takes the right attitude toward her work, Jean has earned the rating of super-model.”
Jean’s distinct features helped define the face of fashion for over a decade, the body of work she did is enormous, and the legacy she and fashion photographers created together is monumental. Jean Patchett was prolific, her date book documented numerous photo sessions each day in New York. The camera loved Jean and Jean loved the camera.
Jean worked in the same glamorous era as cover girls Dorian Leigh, Suzy Parker and Lisa Fonssagrives. Jean Patchett signed with the Ford Model Agency on May 10, 1948, and was the first star model for New York’s Ford Models, a new agency when Jean walked in the door the spring of 1948. ”I’ll always remember what our first great model Jean Patchett went through when I told her she had to cut her hair. I don’t remember everyone, but I do remember her,” Eileen Ford said. “You just had to take a deep breath, even then. She had on a black tent coat that her mother had made with black velvet at the shoulders and a black hat with veil and garnet earrings, bracelet and necklace. She really was a country girl. When she took off her hat and veil I saw that she had beautiful ‘doe eyes’ and a marvelous mole on her face, which she darkened with an eyebrow pencil. Jean was unique.” Impressed with Jean, however Eileen told Miss Patchett: “Loose 20 pounds and come back in a month; you’re as big as a house!” At that time Jean weighed 135 pounds. “Jean didn’t mind the weight part, but her hair was her glory,” Eileen continued. “We took off just one inch, but you’d have thought we’d taken her life’s blood!” Fortunately, she recovered. And when Jean Patchett returned to start work for the Ford Agency she weighed 115 pounds and was 5 feet 9, and measured 34-23-35 inches. “Jean had made more money than any other model in history – until Brooke Shields and Cheryl Tiegs came along. Brooke & Cheryl made more because the pay was better now. In the ’40s and ’50s my girls thought it was fabulous to earn $25,000 a year. Now (1982) it’s not uncommon to make over $100,000.” Eileen Ford said in a Good Housekeeping June 1982 in a feature titled, Eileen Ford: “How I Find Those Fabulous Faces…” by Phyllis Battelle.
In her early career many readers of the slick magazines did not know her name but they knew her face. Jean’s face was startlingly and unconventionally beautiful, with bone structure large slightly delineated chin. But her features, delightful as they were, were not responsible for making her the most sought after, the busiest, and the most successful photographic model in New York. Jean Patchett was a highly paid models because of a blemish. Jean had a mole next to her right eye which she darkened with an eyebrow pencil to make it more prominent. For the mole became her trademark. Manufacturers of every product from toothpaste to fashions, and jewelry to luxury cars insisted on having the girl with the mole in their advertisements.
Jean refused to work before 10 am or after 4:30 pm because she liked to cook meals for herself and her banker husband. And she only worked 3 ½ days a week. In the early 1950s Jean said: “I cut down my schedule,” “because so many photographers wanted me to work for them that I was being booked months in advance.” “That didn’t help, so I had my rate raised to $50. an hour, but that seemed to make them even more eager to have me because they all wanted to pay the highest price.” “I guess that’s why I’m so busy playing hard to get.”
Jean Patchett was born in Preston, a small town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. After unhappy stints in secretarial school and studying voice at Peabody Institute, then attending Goucher College, at 21 years of age, Jean set her sights on a modeling career in New York. She signed with Harry Conover’s agency in 1948, and moved into a Methodist rooming home for women for $13.50 a week, as she told the writer Michael Gross for his book Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women (Morrow, 1995). Jean was unhappy with Harry Conover assignments as she was modeling rain coats, and women’s fashions styled for much older women. It was well know Conover never attempted to coordinate the model types with the fashions they wore in the sets. After a month of disappointments at Conover Jean received a tip from her model friend Natálie Nickerson about Eileen Ford at Ford Models and left Harry Conover for the new Ford Models agency.
Eileen Ford spirited Jean away at The Barbizon Hotel for Women on the corner of 63rd and Lexington Avenue. Eileen Ford kept her beautiful pigeons in the safe haven of The Barbizon where they would meet other female residents like Grace Kelly, Barbara Bel Geddes, Peggy Cass, Ali MacGraw and Liza Minnelli.
That September Jean had her first Vogue cover. In October she was on the cover of Glamour. In that same issue Glamour magazine reported that Jean spent her away-from- the-camera hours “just sunbathing and making her own clothes.” As her career sky rocketed, Vogue assignments with renowned photographers came her way. The March 1952 issue of Esquire featured Jean in the article “Beauty Is Her Business: Jean Patchett is a model in a million.” By the time she retired from full-time in 1963 Jean Patchett had appeared on more than 40 magazine covers, according to Eileen Ford. At the peak of her career, Jean was earning $50,000 a year.
In a period when models could be deliciously snooty, Jean was more modest: not the girl-next-door type, but not as sophisticated as Ms. Parker, either. She was punctual and polite, often saying ”yes, ma’am” and ”no, sir,” according to Eileen Ford of the Ford Agency. When she introduced herself to an editor or a photographer, she said: ”I’m Jean Patchett. You don’t darn it. You patch it.”
In a photograph in profile by Erwin Blumenfeld for the famous Jan. 1, 1950, cover of Vogue, Jean Patchett’s immaculate red mouth, penciled left eye and natural beauty mark became an icon for an entire decade. This cover showed the beautiful detail of Jean’s face and helped create the “Doe Eye” look.
Although Jean worked frequently with the photographers Louise Dahl-Wolfe and John Rawlings, Jean was most frequently associated with Irving Penn, especially after a 1949 photograph he took of her chewing pensively on a string of pearls as she sat in a cafe, a picture that came about spontaneously. These photos were for a photo-spread article for Vogue “Flying down to Lima” a romantic travelogue as lived by the model. Jean was also photographed in a shoeshine stand with an admirer, and rubbing her tired feet; again in a real life and spontaneous moment. In later sessions, Mr. Penn would give her the suggestion of a story — meeting a beau in a crowded theater, perhaps — and as Jean stretched her neck longer and longer in search of the imaginary boyfriend, he would click off image after image.
She was ”a young American goddess in Paris couture,” Mr. Penn said. Jean Patchett was among a handful of photographic models who dominated that era, a sorority that included Dovima, Dorian Leigh, Suzy Parker, Evelyn Tripp and Lisa Fonssagrives, who was married to photographer Irving Penn.
No other photograph has captured so much attention then and now, as Jean Patchett’s image in Irving Penn’s “Girl in Black & White” and no other photographer ever worked harder to bring out the distinctive quality of each model than Irving Penn. For the Vogue Magazine article “The Black and White Idea,” Penn’s picture of Jean Patchett, was the first Black & White specifically commissioned to replace the color illustrations Vogue had used on its covers since 1909. The symmetry is broken only by Jean’s sidelong glance. To help get the contrasts Penn wanted, Jean used black lipstick, improvised from mascara. The results were stunning, creating an image that became part of fashion and photographic art history. In 2008 a signed, initialed, titled, dated in ink copy of the famous photograph by Irving Penn of Jean Patchett was auctioned at Christie’s, New York for a fabulous sum of $266,500.
With stunning use of light, the Horst P. Horst photograph could be seen as a painting. Jean wears a pale pink velveteen bathing suit with a high Empire waist and finished with romper pants. The room is infused with the blush hue, and the floor virtually absorbs its color. Horst P. Horst’s romantic photograph appeared in the December 2, 1955, Vogue.
The photo by John Rawlings of Jean Patchett in an open top golden brown gown with multi-strand rhinestone necklace is one of the most romantic images of Jean. This photograph by John Rawlings is timeless as his use of soft hues of taupe and gray craft a dreamlike quality. Here Jean appears silent, as if in a meditative moment, with a gentle breeze blowing through her hair and gown. This John Rawlings photograph of Jean is a classic for all ages.
When asked how Jean Patchett dressed in that period, Eileen Ford said, with pride, ”We all shopped at Loehmann’s.” Jean was a regular at the legendary Stork Club. “None of us had much money, but we managed to look the part,” Eileen Ford said. “God bless Loehmann’s. We’d go clear out to Brooklyn to shop there.
Jean Patchett was pursued by many men, many of them wealthy. She was seen frequently at the Stork Club, and was a regular at the Friday lunch that the club’s owner, Sherman Billingsley, gave for models.
When Mr. Louis Auer V, a banker who worked on Wall Street, first met Jean Patchett in 1948, he was living at the Yale Club. Mr. Auer had graduated from Yale University just a year before in 1947. “A couple of models I knew who lived at the Barbizon said, ‘We’ve got a girl for you,’ ” Mr. Auer recalled. ”We met at a luncheonette near the old DuMont studios.” Soon after they started going out, Mr. Auer gave Jean Patchett the nickname Pancho, which stuck. Jean Patchett and Louis Auer V married in 1951. Jean & Louis Auer V lived and worked in New York City on the East side where they raised their family; son Bart and daughter Amy.
Jean Patchett was featured on CBS Television on Edward R. Murrow’s show Person to Person on January 28, 1955. In Mr. Murrow’s introduction he said: “Jean Patchett has been the most sought after model for nearly seven years now.” Murrow, an Emmy Award winning journalist whose show was in its 2nd season, interviewed Jean in episode 22. Jean and husband Louis Auer V were broadcast live from their home in the relaxed style of Mr. Murrow’s TV journalism. The innately curious public got a firsthand peek inside the home and could hear and see Jean personally during conversations with Mr. Murrow. The discussions were opened by Edward R. Murrow from his wingback chair in the studio, while several television cameras at different locations allowed Jean and Louis to answer questions, and have conversations from various rooms in their home. When Edward R. Murrow asked Jean what color her eyes were? Jean replied: “Oh don’t you know?” “Why they’re brown; you’ll have to come in a little closer.” The camera moved in close to Jean’s face and focused on her eyes. Jean also spoke about the “Doe Eye” craze and what high fashion was and why models posed with serious expressions on their faces. She laughed and relaxed more for the camera as she then took a tour to show a display of her Vogue Covers. She also demonstrated for the camera how she applied make-up to her eyes and eye brow. The 15 minute program with Jean Patchett was during the 6 year run of Mr. Murrow’s Person to Person.
A close-up image of Jean Patchett’s face was used in the opening credits of the movie Funny Face. The story is about a fashion photographer Dick Avery, played by Fred Astaire, in search for an intellectual backdrop for an air-headed model, played by Dovima. The photographer commandeers a Greenwich Village bookstore for the photo session. While examining the photos, he notices Jo, played by Audrey Hepburn, in the background of a shot. Intrigued by her unique appearance, as is the editor of the fashion magazine, played by Kay Thompson, Jo is offered a modeling contract. She reluctantly accepts only because it includes a trip toParis. It is a whimsical love story centering on the fashion couture of New York and Paris. Several copies of the color photo of Jean Patchett appear in the editor’s office suite. In addition, Jean’s image is seen in a collage with other leading fifties models in the “Think Pink” musical number. Suzy Parker, a colleague of Jean’s, has a credited role as a Specialty Dancer in the same musical sequence. The music was scored by George and Ira Gershwin.
Jean Patchett and Ernest Hemmingway engaged in discussion during a photo session in Mr. Hemmingway’s home for a Vogue Magazine article in 1950. Photographer Clifford Coffin captures this momentary pause in their conversation. Jean is holding one kitten as Mr. Hemmingway is petting a second kitten, while the large Doberman rests at his feet. The photograph is a unique juxtaposition between legendary author and game hunter, Ernest Hemmingway, dressed in just summer shorts while model Jean Patchett appears in a crisply pressed blouse, skirt and shoes.
The engaging interview continued for hours, while Ernest Hemmingway kept Jean’s wine glass full. Being polite, Miss Patchett could not refuse the host’s generosity. According to Amy Auer, Jean later said, “By the time the session was over, I could barely walk and had a headache the next day. And the worst part was that, Mr. Hemmingway smelled bad.”
It is often said that Jean Patchett made a mountain out of the mole to the right of her eye, which became her trademark years before Cindy Crawford was born. “We really made history,” Jean Patchett said of her work withPenn.”To have five pictures of you hanging in the Museum of Modern Art! I didn’t know that I was going to be doing that.” Irving Penn’s work with Jean Patchett helped bring fashion photography to a new level of art. Jean Patchett’s photographs are not only part of a collection in the Museum of Modern Art, New York but also the Boston Museum of Art, Boston MA., the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL, as well as other art museums and galleries. More recently Jean was represented in the “Model as Muse”: Embodying Fashion – Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York with Irving Penn’s Photograph “Girl In Black and White” and on Vogue Covers displayed. Recently Jean was featured along with her model colleagues in the Diana Vreeland “The Eye Must Travel” Harper’s Bazaar Covers 1936 – 1962 Exhibit at the Hearst Tower NYC prior to the exhibits world tour and at The Metropolitan Museum of Art NYC– “Photography Manipulation before Photoshop” exhibit – Erwin Blumenfeld Photo of Jean’s Eye & Mouth on the Vogue January 1950 cover. Jean may not have known she would accomplish this as well, but indeed she did leave a vast legacy.
Jean Patchett was honored along with Suzy Parker and Naomi Sims at the 50 Years of American Women in Fashion ceremony. Robert Riley said of Jean: “One of the most popular photographic models of our time, Jean Patchett has had a career that covered the better part of three decades, from the late Forties to the early Sixties.” “She had that balance of personality and anonymity which never overshadowed what she was wearing. Her face… could look like a thousand faces. She was wonderfully receptive to the demands of the photographer, and if those demands ran dry she had very good ideas of her own.” (Robert Riley)
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Jean Patchett’s pictures are encyclopedic. The number of photographs in black & white, and color are immeasurable. Many have survived in the archives of fashion houses, photographers’ studios, galleries, museums, in scrapbooks of admiring fans, and Jean’s personal collection.
Jean Patchett’s nephew Louis Auer VI was on vacation in London, England in 2003. As Louis walked along the sidewalk, he was drawn into a ladies fashion boutique after noticing several large black & white posters of Jean Patchett’s Vogue Covers hung on the walls of the boutique. Louis Auer VI stood in amazement looking at his Aunt Jean Patchett’s images…from the “Golden Age of Paris Couture”, it was a deeply moving and profound experience. Art and beauty lives forever in the hundreds, actually over a thousand and counting documented fashion photographs that Jean Patchett is featured.
Sadly, we lost Jean Patchett on January 22, 2002, following a bout with emphysema at her home in La Quinta, CA. In the years since Jean passed the Internet has brought web sites that are dedicated to the history and legacy of models and the fashion industry world wide. As well, social networking sites feature groups and fan clubs filled with people who admire and follow careers of certain iconic models like Jean Patchett, Suzy Parker, Dovima, Lisa Fonssagrives, and Evelyn Tripp to name just a few.
“Jean Patchett was my favorite model. Jean worked constantly, I’d book her for every minute of the day if I could. Jean Patchett in my opinion was the best model of the time. Jean could do anything and was versatile. She was tall, could do serious editorial fashions for Vogue and Harper’s and ads for suits, dresses, swimsuits, hats, coats, cosmetics all of it. And if I needed to do an evening shot Jean would be there for me. I just adored Jean, truthfully I loved her. Jean was perfect, I can’t think of one negative thing to say about her.”
Quote: William Helburn, Fashion Photographer
Co-Author of ‘William Helburn Seventh and Madison’ by Robert Lilly and Lois Allen Lilly
Photo William Helburn
“I saw Jean Patchett on the cover of Life Magazine when I was still in school. She looked so glamorous I was inspired to become a model. Jean was always wonderful with a look like no one else, exotic and so elegant. Jean had the best figure of any model with long shapely legs, she was very beautiful.”
“Jean and I were on the cover of McCall’s in 1955 along with other top Ford Models for a feature titled: Eleven Busiest Ford Models. Mark Shaw was the photographer. I was wearing a hat and seated next to Georgia Hamilton, Dorian Leigh and her sister Suzy Parker were to my right, Kathy Dennis and Mary Jane Russell on my left with Jean Patchett, Patsy Shally, Lillian Marcuson, Nan Rees and Leonie Vernet in the front. I didn’t get to know Jean as a friend however a close friend of mine and Ford model Nan Rees was also a good friend of Jean’s. When we did assignments together Jean was incredibly gracious and nice.”
“Later Jean and I did another big photo assignment together with Richard Avedon. Richard was great he always made you feel special. I remember the black dress, we all were wearing the same black dress. The assignment was titled: “A Million Dollars’ Worth of Models” all the top models were there; Jean, Sunny Harnett, Carmen, Linda Harper, Evelyn Tripp, Georgia Hamilton, Dovima, Suzy, Marilyn Ambrose, Mary Jane Russell and me. Dick had us walk toward the camera when he took the photos. The two-page featured was a feature in McCall’s 1959.”
“An assignment for Eastman Kodak brought us together for a big photo shoot in 1955 I believe. They flew us all down to St. Thomas Virgin Islands for this Chromespun shoot. There were eight models; Jean Patchett, Ruth Neumann-Derujinsky, Tippi Hedren, Kathy Dennis, Claire Griswold, Jan Rylander, myself and one other model. We were wearing Chromespun swimsuits on a beach in Magen’s Bay with mountains in the background and a boat. Jean was well shown along with Ruth and I was near Tippi with the other models. The Eastman Kodak Colorama of us in Chromspun bathing suits was mounted on a huge back light billboard in Grand Central Terminal!” Note: The Eastman Kodak Colorama displays were the largest photographic transparencies ever made measuring 18 ft. high and 60 ft. wide. This Chromspun bathing suit ad was Colorama 88, and was the most expensive photo shoot of all the Coloramas, but the investment payed off as it was featured as 2-page spreads in the best fashion magazines and as window displays in big department stores. ©Kodak. Used with permission.
“The last assignment Jean and I did together was for a wonderful Town & Country Magazine feature in 1971. The fashion article was titled: ‘Four Fabulous Faces’ and was a shoot that Francesco Scavullo photographed. There were four models featured Jean, Nan Rees, Sunny Harnett and myself. I was nine months pregnant at the time, therefore explaining the red long flowing dress. Each of us were identified with our married names, Dolores Hawkins Phelps and Jean Patchett Auer. The Town & Country article spoke about modeling, being mothers and classic beauty.”
“Back then we also did lots of catalog work it was our bread and butter. I’d see Jean Patchett arriving in the catalog studios. Jean floated into the studio looking like the queen that she truly was. She treated everyone graciously; models, the girls who fitted our outfits, and photographers. Jean was always professional and wonderful with everybody.”
Quote: Dolores Hawkins Phelps, Fashion Model