“The Swans of Fifth Avenue” / Vintage High-Society Tablescape and Lunch

“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”

                                                                                  ~ Truman Capote

High Society / Swans of Fifth Avenue tablescape

Another gal hosted my Book Club a few weeks ago for our very lively discussion of the book, The Swans of Fifth Avenue.  She (like me:) loves to entertain, and said she “had a ball” putting together her tablescape for our lunch.

Her fabulous tablescape was truly Theatre of the TableHere’s a look at it and our lunch.

We were greeted at the door with her witty sense of humor – getting us into the spirit of the book.

Swans of Fifth Avenue book club lunch


Truman Capote met “his Swans” in the mid-1950’s, and they continued their ‘unique friendship’ for the next 20 years.  Her table really captured the essence of The Swans’ lifestyle back then.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue book club table ideas

tablescape blog


You know I love details, and my friend did not disappoint!  Let’s take a closer look:


Unlike today, smoking cigarettes was part of everyday life back then (think Mad Men, Marlboro Man, Virginia Slims…)

Swans of Fifth Avenue tablescape ideas

Swans of Fifth Avenue book club ideas

Yikes, this pack of cigarettes cost our host (who doesn’t smoke) $10.25!!


A stack of books for our Book Club lunch ‘written by’ Truman Capote – our host actually mocked-up her own covers and put them on existing books of hers.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue book club lunch ideas


Headwear played an important role in a socialite’s wardrobe….

vintage 1950s/1960s lunch ideas

19502 / 1960s theme table ideas

Jewels/Fashion Accessories

How cool is this vintage “Couple Dancing” pin!

Pearls are always a must in a woman’s closet…

vintage theme luncheon ideas

Even the flowers were dripping with jewels…

Swans of Fifth Avenue book club lunch ideas

La Côte Basque

La Côte Basque was a NYC restaurant with a French cuisine that opened in the late 1950s and didn’t close its doors till 2004.  The Swans, along with other high-society people, were frequent diners there (although no one ever really ate; they just pushed their food around on their plates).

Truman Capote published “La Côte Basque, 1965” as a chapter in his unfinished book, Answered Prayers. It eventually led to the self-destruction of Truman Capote.

Our hostess did some online research and found some old images of the actual restaurant and menu.

Swans of Fifth Avenue book club ideas

The Swans of Fifth Avenue book club ideas

No, our host did not cook French cuisine for our lunch that day, but she always prepares an excellent meal.


Our host found old images of The Swans and inserted the photos into existing picture frames…

On the back of each photo, she wrote a brief narrative of some of the more interesting tidbits from each person’s lives.  We used the photos and the information when we discussed the book after we dined.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue book club lunch ideas

The Swans of Fifth Avenue book club

Ladies Who Lunch…

Grab your handbag, white gloves, and put on some lipstick…

1950s/1960s vintage theme table ideas

Who’s ready for lunch?


Any good Swanabee would enjoy a glass of champagne before dining…

For this occasion our host adorned the bottle of champagne with jewels and a mini boa…

high society table theme ideas

swans fo fifth avenue book club ideas


Place Settings

Pretty pink china…


As usual her hutch coordinated with her china…


Ham and cheese strada served with green beans and a side salad with French dressing…

book club lunch - ham and cheese strada

But of course, her raspberry galette dessert had to match her china…

book club lunch - raspberry galette


The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

The Swans of Fifth Avenue book

We all LOVED this book.

We really enjoyed Melanie Benjamin’s previous historical fiction book, The Aviator’s Wife, but loved this one even more!  Both of Ms. Benjamin’s books inspired several of us to further research more about the books’ characters on our own.

  {If you haven’t read my previous post about our book club lunch and discussion about The Aviator’s Wife, & another terrific tablescapeCLICK HERE}.

Comments on the Book

This book was a fun, entertaining read filled with gossip, dirty little secrets, & betrayal.

We were thoroughly enthralled by Ms. Benjamin’s descriptions of the characters, their (fictionalized) conversations, lifestyles, etc.

   Most of us were immediately smitten with this book from the first few pages.  Of course, all of us were quite familiar with Truman Capote but, at least half of us never had heard of “The Swans” before.  And these ladies including Truman were ahead of their time – they certainly could have been the first to have a “Real Housewives of …Show”.


Truman Capote

Photo credit:
dailymail.co.uk via google images

After Truman Capote becomes part of Babe Paley’s inner circle of high-society girlfriends, he nicknames them “his swans”.   In case you don’t know, the official Swans of Fifth Avenue were Babe Paley, Slim Keith, Gloria Guinness, Marella Agnelli, and C.Z. Guest.

Truman Capote and Babe Paley Photo source: google images

Truman Capote and Babe Paley
Photo source: google images

Truman Capote uses his charm and fun personality to become The Swans’ confidant.  They love his sympathetic ear for each of them and his tendency for juicy gossip.  The Swans even call him the pet name of “True Heart”.

Photo source: google images

Photo source: google images

 Truman Capote eventually causes his own demise with them by exposing many of The Swans’ dirty little secrets when he writes the publication, “Le Côte Basque, 1965”.

Some Fun Facts I Learned From Reading This Book:

~  Babe Paley was married to Bill Paley, the founder of CBS Television

~  Babe Paley was inducted into Vanity Fair’s Best-Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1959.

Babe Paley Photo source: google images

Babe Paley
Photo source: google images

~  Truman Capote and Harper Lee were childhood friends.  Who would have thought the small town of Monroeville, Alabama would have produced two such famous authors??

Harper Lee and Truman Capote Photo credit: nytimes via google images

Harper Lee and Truman Capote
Photo credit: nytimes via google images

~ Truman Capote not only wrote, In Cold Blood but Breakfast at Tiffany’s too.  He wanted Marilyn Monroe to play the lead role of Holly Golightly instead of Audrey Hepburn.  Capote was disappointed in the film adaptation of the movie, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.

~  Supposedly, both Gloria Vanderbilt and Lee Radziwill (Jackie Kennedy’s sister) were also Truman’s Swans – although Ms. Benjamin does not include them as part of her “swans of fifth avenue” in the book.

Source: google images

Source: google images

About inspirationaldetails

Passionate about: Entertaining Tablescapes Decorating, and a love of Books!! I find inspiration in the details of life...
This entry was posted in Books, Entertaining, Food and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to “The Swans of Fifth Avenue” / Vintage High-Society Tablescape and Lunch

  1. Barbara Mills says:

    OMG: this is amazing! Providing me with soooo many ideas for hosting my book club’s discussion on The Swans of Fifth Avenue. THANK YOU.

  2. Sandra Close` says:

    Our Book Club will be discussing this book in a few weeks, and even though I have yet to read it, these pictures are quite an interesting introduction to it! Thank you so much!
    Sandra Close
    Raleigh, NC

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s