Monday, 10 October 2011

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel

Before Anna Wintour came along and turned fashion editorials and covers into celebrity yearbooks (sigh), Diana Vreeland, the arbiter of style and elegance, was fashion royalty. 

The legendary Harper’s Bazaar and US Vogue editor discovered the likes of Lauren Bacall and Edie Sedgwick, advised Jackie O on matters of personal style and exercised her unique ability to make American women think about themselves, as well as fashion. 
In her "Why Don't You?" column for Harpers Bazaar, which she began writing in August 1936, she asked, "Why don't you . . . Turn your child into an Infanta for a fancy-dress party?". Or "Why don't you own, as does one extremely smart woman, twelve diamond roses of all sizes?". Vreeland engaged women to tune into her own personal thoughts on life and style and encouraged them not to settle for being frumpy, dull or ordinary. "Why don't you... be ingenious and make yourself into something else?" she asked. 
Her observations, comments and wit kept the American public (especially women) wanting more - her most re-quoted dictum being, “Never fear being vulgar, just boring”.

Boring? Vreeland? Never! Risqué maybe. As editor of Vogue, she once created a two-page layout for the magazine featuring a nude female model lying face down in sand, her derrière covered in a large black straw hat. The caption?.... “Spend the summer under a big black sailor", *Ahem*. Referencing the style bibles in which she reinvented pop culture, she once said: “
What these fashion magazines gave was a point of view. Most people haven’t got a point of view; they need to have it given to them-and what’s more, they expect it from you.” 

Vreeland undoubtedly shaped and pioneered US taste through her outstanding vision, and that vision is celebrated in Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, a book which chronicles 50 years of international fashion along with her rich and colourful life. Featuring more than 350 illustrations, including original magazine spreads and iconic photographs, this intensely visual tome is an homage to her work. Not bad for a woman who had no intention of actually working for a living, "Work?... she once famously said, ....what an interesting idea."

Vreeland at her desk at Vogue
Vreeland with artist Andy Warhol


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