NEW YORK — According to the old adage, you can never be too rich or too thin. Nan Kempner was never excessively rich (although she was well-off enough to live in a 16-room apartment on Park Avenue for almost 50 years and to buy couture clothes, as she said herself, she wasn't wealthy enough to be a philanthropist). But she was skinny enough to wear clothes beautifully and become the prototype for the social X-ray. Kempner, who died at home here Sunday of emphysema at the age of 74, divided her time between her Manhattan duplex and her country house in Purchase, N.Y.
Kempner said that her father once told her, "You'll never make it on your face, so you'd better be interesting." She found her way into the city's social whirl originally through the Junior Council of the Museum of Modern Art. Soon, she was noticed for her style.
In the late Fifties, she was part of a group of young socialites that included Babe Paley and Jacqueline Kennedy who became known for their relatively understated look — softly shaped hair and geometrically cut clothes — that Jackie popularized when she got to the White House.
Last fall, New York Magazine did a feature on Kempner called "How to Be a Park Avenue Princess," photographed in her apartment and featuring her rules for living in style: "Spend the money," "Always wear fur," "Never forget your gloves," "Dress for lunch" and "Make the effort."
Kempner grew up Nan Field Schlesinger in San Francisco, studied art history at Connecticut College, then married banker Thomas L. Kempner, now chairman of the firm Loeb Partners, which, as Loeb Rhodes & Co., was cofounded by his maternal grandfather.
In 2002, the Kempners celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a lavish dinner dance for 476 guests at the Bronx Botanical Garden, which many said resembled the great balls of earlier decades. Nan and Tommy had three children, Thomas Jr., James and Lina. Both her sons went to Yale like their father, and each gave her three grandchildren. Her daughter attended the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts, and is an artist living in the East Village.
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