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Photographer: Slim Aarons/Getty Images
Photographer: Slim Aarons/Getty Images

The Slim Aarons Guide to Dressing Down in Style

Jeans. T-shirts. Running shoes. Those were the three items of clothing that postwar society photographer Slim Aarons refused to shoot, even though most of his work was of the international jet set at play. The result of this policy is a 50-year record of casual dressing with class.

Slim Aarons started his professional photography career after World War II, at the dawn of commercial air travel and the birth of the jet set. Over the next half-century, he photographed titans of business, Austrian princesses, society decorators, heiresses, dukes, actresses such as Marilyn Monroe and Marlene Dietrich, ranchers, race car drivers, big game hunters, philanthropists, opera singers, socialites like C.Z. Guest, and political royalty ranging from Jackie Kennedy to the Duchess of Windsor.

The photographer who documented the breadth of postwar high society had a number of rules that, he felt, gave him this kind of access. In a book set to arrive on what would have been Aarons's 100th birthday, his longtime assistant Laura Hawk recounts his mantra: "No assistants, no props, no stylists, no lights, no problems." The photographer's rules for Hawk herself were no less strict: "No heavy suitcases, no tennis rackets, no hairdresser appointments, no minibar tabs, no shopping, no dry cleaning, no days off, no boyfriends, no sightseeing, and for God's sake—no cameras."