In the Air

Legends of the Jet Society

From St. Moritz to the deck of the Christina, a look inside the book ‘Swan: Legends of the Jet Society.’

TimeLife Pictures/Getty Images; Courtesy of Assouline

Bert Morgan/Getty Images, Courtesy of Assouline

Swans: Legends of the Jet Society (published by Assouline, available October 15) offers an insight into the exclusive "jet set" with more than 200 illustrations of that glamorous and luxurious lifestyle. The term emerged in the late 20th century to describe a certain elite  who spent time travelling the world via jets and yachts, and threw decadent parties. (The predecessor term, café society, represented the rich and famous that would unite in cafés and hold private dinners.) Journalist Taki Theodoracopulos depicts the excess and insouciance of the time in his testimony: "We took a Caravelle from Rome to Nice. Onassis then gave us a ride in his helicopter. We jumped out of the helicopter into Gianni's swimming pool. Onassis shook his head and said, 'Why?'"


Vacationing on the French Riviera

British model/actress Nina Dyer is seen vacationing on the French Riviera in the summer of 1950 wearing a sexy swimsuit. A year later, she would meet the Dutch industrialist and art collector Baron von Thyssen-Bornemisza and transform him into an internationalite.

Doug Pearson/Corbis; Courtesy of Assouline

The Setting

Is there any better place than the chic and beautiful small towns of Saint Jean Cap Ferrat and Ville franche-sur-Mer, set between Monaco and Nice, to spend the summer? The answer is no. Their blue waters, small ports, and luxury hotels make the ideal setting for cosmopolitan socialites.

TimeLife Pictures/Getty Images; Courtesy of Assouline

No Winter Blues

Mid-day cocktails are served at a bar created from snow on the ice rink at St. Moritz's Palace Hotel in January 1947.

Slim Aarons

Italian Decadence

Italian Princess Pia Ruspoli left Rome to spend holidays on the exclusive Moritorio Island in Sardinia in September 1978. Ruspoli is shown wearing a tiny blue bikini that coordinated perfectly with the boat's pillows.

Bert Morgan/Getty Images; Courtesy of Assouline

Partying and Living Freely

The American Hearst columnist Igor “Ghighi” Cassini is shown dancing and doing the twist at the Bourbon Ball, held at the Plaza Hotel in New York on Nov. 2, 1961. "Mr Cassini claimed credit for coining the term "jet set" to describe the free living, free-roaming international rich," The New York Times said in a 2002 article following his death.

Slim Aarons/Getty Images; Courtesy of Assouline

A Closed Circle

Talk about a great crowd! The snapshot of a sunny afternoon in Acapulco in February 1966 features fashion-savvy guests including Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Oscar de la Renta, and Emilio Pucci. At right, T. Reed Vreeland stands behind the host, agent, and movie producer Pat de Cicco, in a white and red polka-dot shirt.

The Mustique Company/Courtesy of Assouline

Carissa Villa

Carissa Villa, on the small private island Mustique in The Grenadines, was build by and for architect Arne Hasselquist. The villa resembles a French plantation house with many open windows and ideal views of the Caribbean Sea.

Bettmann/Corbis; Courtesy of Assouline

Political Parties

Naturally,  political families were part of the "jet set" scene, including Jacqueline Kennedy, who is shown arriving at the National General Armory on Jan. 20, 1962, in a white silk gown with an embellished, cropped jacket.

Bettmann/Corbis; Courtesy of Assouline


Cue jet-set mania! Aristotle Onassis's colossal yacht, Christina, shown here on Oct. 19, 1968, among a slew of paparazzi. A horde of journalists and photographers waited on small boats to cover the news of Onassis and Jacqueline Kennedy's wedding.


Getty/Courtesy of Assouline

Flying in Style

Passengers are seen at London's airport boarding a BOAC de Havilland Comet, the first jet airliner, for the inaugural flight, bound for Johannesburg on May 2, 1952.

Badrutt’s Palace Hotel/Courtesy of Assouline

Skiing in Switzerland

The Palace Hotel in St. Moritz, Switzerland, photographed in 1959, offers a panoramic view of the Swiss Alps.


Swans: Legends of the Jet Society is available on pre-sale at