For those in the know, Diana Vreeland is a huge source of inspiration. But she’s not exactly a household name. Not a traditional beauty, but her style is enduring & continues to influence fashion in fascinating ways. She had style in spades.
“There’s only one very good life, & that’s the life you know you want & you make it yourself.”
Mrs. Vreeland was born in Paris in 1903, & moved to New York at the outbreak of the first World War. She was discovered at a dance & started out as a columnist at Harper’s Bazaar. She later moved on to be the editor of Vogue. She coined terms like youthquake, & was chock full of witticisms. She brought many a fashion trend into the spotlight, most notably Yves Saint Laurent’s animal prints. She celebrated the uniqueness of the 1960s, discovered Edie Sedgewick, & wrote a brilliant autobiography, D.V. (quotes of which are featured prominently in the film To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar, which was my first introduction to Diana Vreeland!).
“Fashion is part of the daily air & it changes all the time, with all the events. You can even see the approaching of a revolution in clothes. You can see & feel everything in clothes.”
She was brilliant, with all the eccentricities that go along with that. She changed the pronunciation of her name—no Diana for her, it was to be “Dee-ann”. She obsessed over finding the right red. In fact, her apartment was completely decorated in lacquer reds, with scarlet floral wall coverings, & crammed head-to-toe with knickknacks & books everywhere.
“Style—all who have it share one thing: originality.”
She wasn’t a flashy dresser, but was always dressed impeccably & stylishly. She loved simple, elegant clothing & beautiful accessories. There’s even a fashion legend that she asked Charles Revson to duplicate a bottle of her red Parisian fast-drying nail varnish, essentially becoming the driving force behind creating Revlon Cosmetics.
“I believe you see, in the dream. I think we only live through our dreams & our imagination. That’s the only reality we really ever know.”
She is perhaps best known for her column Why Don’t You, which was published in Harper’s Bazaar. Some of the “why don’t you”‘s are completely ridiculous & over the top (“Why don’t you… own, as does one extremely smart woman, twelve diamond roses of all sizes?” Because who doesn’t own diamond roses?!), but the whole point of Why Don’t You… wasn’t a to-do list, but rather a way to help women just emerging from the Depression look outside of themselves & approach the world creatively. She didn’t just talk about fashion—Diana Vreeland spun a web of fantasy & inspiration.
Why don’t you…
- … tie black tulle bows on your wrists?
- … wear a bowler?
- … stick Japanese hair pins in your hair?
- … give someone an enormous white handkerchief linen table-cloth, & in different handwriting & colors (black, acid green, pink, scarlet & pale blue) have embroidered all the bon mots you can possibly think of?
- … turn your old ermine coat into a bathrobe?
- … wash your child’s hair in champagne?