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Beautiful & Damned: Vintage Fashion Icon Talitha Getty

By Chantal Brocca

Kaftans. Turbans. Ethnic textiles. They all may seem like Boho fashion fixtures today, but it wasn’t always so. One woman’s incredible style helped push these looks into the mainstream, way back in the 60’s. That woman was fashion icon  Talitha Getty.

Getty’s story is not uncommon for her time – the hippy revolution of the mid to late 60’s unleashed and simultaneously condemned many lives, especially in the realms of music and fashion, where the power of youth ideology was propelled through those few iconic figures who lent the decade it’s infamous reputation in the first place. Timothy Leary’s famous catch phrase “ turn on, tune in, drop out “ became the lynchpin for an ideology based on boundless love, drugs, hedonism and the attacking of any and all pre-existing values and establishments – those were the sixties.

Reflecting this new anarchic worldview, fashion went wild: skirt hemlines crept up to never seen before heights, earrings blew up to the size of chandeliers, art ‘popped’, psychedelic patterns – and you could never ever have too many style icons.

Talitha Dina Pol was one such icon: socialite of the swinging 60’s, she turned heads with her beauty and enchanting charisma. Born into a family of artists and influential figures in the realms of bohemian culture and fashion in the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia), she moved to London to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and pursue a career in acting.

Photo by Hogemboom Maurice 1970

Her appearances in a handful of movies during her short acting career, such as The Comedy Man (1964), The System (1964), and more notably, Barbarella, with Jane Fonda, as well as her notorious affair with a British Cabinet Minister and her friendship with ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev allowed her to enter an elite world of drugs and parties. However, it wasn’t until she met her husband, oil tycoon heir John Paul Getty Jr., that she truly became a part of established high society,  and gained her reputation as a jet setting bohemian-chic style icon.

She didn’t just have the look; between glamorous parties, infinite supplies of heroin and a luxurious Moroccan estate dubbed the Pleasure Palace with regular appearances by the likes of Mick Jagger, Yves Saint Laurent, and Jim Morrison to name a few, Talitha and Paul Getty were predominant personalities  among the fashionable elite, embodying the idealized swinging 60’s lifestyle, as well as really cementing the oriental fashion trend of the decade. Their parties wanted for nothing – and like many of the trends that came out of the hippy decade, the pleasure and freedoms that youth afforded were pushed to the extreme, albeit romantically so.

Amidst the Valentino kaftans, exotic robes, wraps and Moroccan candlelit dinners that had Vogue Editor Diana Vreeland name her the style icon of that period, she is perhaps more widely known for two things: her very short, yet very memorable appearance in Barbarella (1968) alongside Jane Fonda, and a photograph taken by Patrick Lichfield now housed in London’s National Portrait Gallery (below) that made history, showing a sentimental Talitha, crouched on her palace balcony in white harem pants,  looking vulnerable and beautiful.

But nothing lasts forever – and nothing is without consequences. Sadly, a troubled marriage and a heroin overdose led to her early death in 1971, raising her to the ranks of those idealized Sixties legends; the ones that swung too fast, too openly, too excessively, almost as if in a constant search for something more, and all, as Yves Saint Laurent so beautifully quoted, “ assembled as if for eternity where curtain of the past seemed to lift before the extraordinary future “: the magic and curse of the Sixties.

Talitha Getty was found in Rome, amidst Balinese furniture and black and white marble floors, beautiful and damned till the very end.

Get The Look

Ms Getty popularised all things Boho chic, making it possible to get the look without having to travel around the world as she did. All you need to do is click the links!

1. Gorgeous 100% silk kaftans by Holland Street

2. Ethically sourced alpaca turbans by Petite Mort

3. Ethnic prints by All Things Mochi

4. Embroidered shoes by Level

5. Boho jewellery by Pamela Love

Main image: Getty images

Chantal is the girl  behind Underneath My Silk, a thought catalogue on fashion, culture and style. Follow her on Instagram here.

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