Barbara Cushing was the daughter of a renowned American surgeon and therefore was brought up in a wealthy environment. In 1934, she was disfigured in a serious car accident and underwent re-constructive surgery that turned her into a beautiful woman. In 1938, she began working as a fashion editor at Vogue magazine and developed her taste and style before she married an oil tycoon and became a member of the International Best Dressed Women. In 1947, she married William Paley and left her job at Vogue, becoming a full-time socialite and influential style icon – when she once casually tied a colourful scarf to her handbag, thousands of women followed her example. With her signature crimson lips, her extravagant costume jewellery and her natural elegance, she inspired numerous fashion designers such as Valentino and Charles James while her features emulated photographers such as Horst P. Horst and Erwin Blumenfeld who compared her to an El Greco painting. In particular a muse to Truman Capote who included her to his closed circle of 'Swans', 'Mrs P., had only one fault' according to the writer, 'She was perfect; otherwise, she was perfect'.