Viva Diana Vreeland


A new dress doesn’t get you anywhere. 

It is the life that you are leading in the dress.

Diana Vreeland

Diana Vreeland

“I will die young…,” Diana Vreeland foretold.  This unpretty woman completely charmed me in the film documentary “Diana Vreeland:  The Eye Has to Travel.”   She reigns as THE first and unrivaled fashion editor of history, always open to the new and curious of the “Why not?”  With joie de vivre and stoic determination, she lived large in red as a fearless oracle of style and reinvention.

Born in Paris during the Belle Epoque era and educated by the world–not academics–Diana grew up with her mother’s endearment “my ugly little monster.”  This likely fueled her daring to be different and her genius in showcasing the beauty of odd features via exaggeration.  If you’re tall, wear high heels.  If you’re shy about your freckles, bare them.  She made skin and bones fashionable with the model Twiggy, dared to be the first to feature the freaky sexy lips of an unknown Mick Jagger, and insisted on an editorial spread highlighting Barbara Streisand’s big nose.

Harper’s Bazaar readers were introduced to her signature style through her colorful “Why Don’t You?” column in the summer of 1936.   Among my favorite “Why don’t you . . .” lines:

… paint a map of the world on all four walls of your boys’ nursery so they won’t grow up with a provincial point of view?

… tie an enormous bunch of silver balloons on the foot of your child’s bed on Christmas Eve?

… cover a big cork bulletin board in bright pink felt, banded with bamboo, and pin with colored thumb-tacks all your various enthusiasms as your life varies from week to week?

Vreeland’s column was an illustration of her personal credo:  Don’t live (or tell) the boring truth, be ingenious and (re)invent yourself.  Beauty to her was not just in the clothes you wear, but in the life you lead.

Dismissed by Vogue soon after the death of her husband, Diana grappled with finances and sadness.  Little did anyone guess that at 69, she was yet to begin the most successful act of her career resurrecting the Met’s Costume Institute.  Jewelry designer Kenneth Jay Lane remembers: “She made me realize the importance of positive thinking. She would say, ‘Don’t look back. Just go ahead. Give ideas away. Under every idea there’s a new idea waiting to be born.”   Jacqueline de Ribes recalls how she learned self-confidence from Vreeland while posing for Avedon portraits, “She taught me something very important that day.  She said, ‘Whatever you decide for yourself is going to be the right thing.  Don’t get influenced.'”

This style arbiter and feisty lifestyle revolutionary swore she would die young… “Maybe I’ll die when I’m 70 or 80 or 90, but I’ll be very young.”   And a legend.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share how you celebrate your odd or ugly.


Diana at her Harper’s Bazaar office

Diana Vreeland at Harper's Bazaar

Diana painting by William Acton

Diana Vreeland painting by William Acton

Diana Vreeland

Diana’s orientalist style painting by Edward Murray, late 1930s

Diana Vreeland painting by Edward Murray

Diana by Richard Avedon

Diana Vreeland by Richard Avedon

Then a photograph of her living room appeared in a magazine.  Never had I seen such profusion, so much red! Red on the floor, red up the walls, and textures, textures, TEXTURES! Plaid on top of paisley, flowered chintz next to silk stripes, and silver, tortoise, ebony, conch, gilt – a magnificent explosion in the midst of a beige decade, a world in which the worst sin was to ‘clash.’ You knew the moment you looked at Mrs. Vreeland’s living room that you had seen the future. And indeed, it eventually became the great cliché of New York décor.  – Mary Louise Wilson, introduction to D.V. by Diana Vreeland.

Diana Vreeland Living Room

Diana by George Hoyningen Huene

Diana Vreeland by George Hoyningen Huene


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mountain
    Jan 20, 2013 @ 13:33:12

    I’m not sure which photo I like the best. I guess from a male perspective, the red dress. What is it about a red dress?? Ohhh yes a beautiful Goddess in it! Choosing another, I pick the red couch (special love for those) and I had just changed my mind about that choice at the last minute when I noticed the two pillows that have playing cards on them. That’s great! It’s hard to see the Goddess on the red couch as she blends in. Fun room and photo. Mrs. Vreeland is an interesting woman and I’ll bet leads an interesting life in her dresses. Her name if familiar but not knowing anything about fashion (is there something other than Levi’s & cowboy boots?) I did not know her history. Thank you for the introduction, Sharky!

    Mountain, never any odd or ugly here…;)


    • Powerful Goddess Photography
      Jan 21, 2013 @ 09:25:22

      I love the red dress, too!

      And I’m impressed by your eye for detail in the tiniest of photos. Much as I love red, I need the stomach to live with a full dose of it in one room.


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