Ann Bonfoey Taylor was a gifted sportswoman and had a discriminating eye when it came to fashion. She graced the pages of Town & Country, Harper's Bazaar and Vogue throughout the 1950s and '60s. Nicknamed "Nose Dive Annie," she was an alternate on the Women's Olympic ski team, a flight instructor for the Navy in WWII and an accomplished equestrian and tennis player. Ms. Bonfoey Taylor, who died in 2007 at age 96, also possessed an amazingly focused collection of couture clothing that she wore between her estate in Denver, chalet in Vail and ranch in Montana. After reading about an exhibition on her at the Phoenix Museum, I wondered how Ms. Bonfoey Taylor's name could be absent in the lineup of constantly referenced 20th-century style icons. Intent on learning more about this elegant and athletic woman, I flew to Arizona to tour the show. "Fashion Independent: The Original Style of Ann Bonfoey Taylor," which closes this Sunday, includes couture from Balenciaga, Givenchy and Charles James along with Ms. Bonfoey Taylor's own skiwear designs. Here are some snapshots that pull back the curtain on a life well lived.
Ms. Moss is an author and interior designer in New York.
Belle of the Ball
Ms. Bonfoey Taylor's son, Vernon III, remembers coming home from school to find his mother all dressed up simply because she felt like it. Wearing a chinchilla-trimmed silk-satin dress by Madame Grès, Ms. Bonfoey Taylor pauses in the hallway of her Denver home in 1967. Green was her favored palette for evening. The paint colors she selected for her house are reflected on the walls of the museum's exhibition, including an ash violet and obi lilac lifted from her ballroom.
Near the exhibition's entrance awaits an enormous photo of Ms. Bonfoey Taylor dressed in a Balenciaga evening coat and dress that was already 10 years old when the photo was taken by Toni Frissell. The look is classic, poised and confident—just like the woman herself.
The stylish sporting life was the only one Ms. Bonfoey Taylor knew. Here, at Vail in the '60s, she accessorized her skiwear with Courrèges-like sunglasses and a coordinating fur hat and mittens. She preferred to wear black and white on the mountain because of the beautiful contrast it created—so modern, then and now.
Ms. Bonfoey Taylor in a custom Brooks-Van Horn military costume. She skied in uniforms from the Civil War (from both sides) as well as in her own tailor-made creations, including a matador cape and hat.
Annie Get Your Gun
Ms. Bonfoey Taylor was a skilled hunter. Here, she wears an Hermès ensemble with a Gucci satchel in Denver, 1967.
Hostess with the Most
Ms. Bonfoey Taylor was an enthusiastic and flawless hostess. Before throwing a dinner party, she would read up on her guests' interests. For china, she used a range of styles, from Royal Copenhagen's classic blue-and-white pattern to Dodie Thayer's iconic leaf ware—also a favorite of the Duchess of Windsor and C.Z. Guest. For her arrangements, Ms. Bonfoey Taylor favored yellow and white flowers. She also had an entire room dedicated to arranging, and almost exclusively preferred simple blooms like geraniums, marigolds and Colorado carnations.
Wherever Ms. Bonfoey Taylor traveled, sports were part of her daily routine. Pictured here at Box Elder Ranch, the Taylors's Montana spread, she adopted classic Western attire for riding. She was authentic, original and she always dressed to suit her lifestyle. One of her guiding principles, as her granddaughter Ashley recalls: "Your look isn't complete unless your hair is done."
Photographed here by Toni Frissell for Vogue in 1967, Ms. Bonfoey Taylor enjoys a post-fox-hunt drink in the library of her Denver home. A Marc Chagall painting hangs over the mantel in a room lined with 18th-century pine panelling from a country house in England. The wing chair is upholstered in yellow damask and trimmed with moss fringe. A pair of white porcelain ducks bracket the mantel edges and an English peat bucket holds extra logs—charming details she painstakingly attended to.