I recently watched the documentary ‘The Eye Has To Travel’, about Diana Vreeland’s extraordinary life in fashion.
The documentary makes much of Diana Vreeland’s looks. There are many references to how plain she was and how this affected her confidence as a woman. She mentions early on that her mother called her extremely ugly. Although the images we see of her as a child don’t bear this out and It is implied that her ‘plainness’ was a driving force in her ambition to be the best and which took her to the top as an editor of Harpers Bazaar and Vogue.
Our eyes haven’t traveled very far if this is what we are thinking.
Like other amazing women such as Dorothy Parker and Coco Chanel she is famous for her witty quotes.
‘A racehorse has a little extra pizazz’
‘The best thing about London is Paris!
One of the most quoted is
‘style is everything’…style is a way of life, without it, you’re nobody.’
Her sense of style was the reason she landed a job at Harper's Bazaar writing a column called -Why don’t you? Why don’t you get a finger -length leopard skin cape to wear over your country tweeds… and other practical information during the Great Depression.
It was Diana Vreeland’s strong individual style that kept her at the forefront of fashion, dictating and predicting style throughout the decades. She is credited with launching the careers of many famous models, including Twiggy, and Verushka, and capturing the zeitgeist of a generation. She called it the ‘youthquake’. It takes a special canniness to predict the look of the moment, encompassing social mores, attitude and posture, mood and look, understanding something much more than hem lengths and widths.
As an older woman, coy phrase I know, my eyes are peeled for professional women who keep working in spite of their age. There is so much importance placed on youth and the insistence of youthful beauty in our society for women.
It is easy to become depressed, as you get older about your working life and the prospects open to you. Like Diana Vreeland I cannot imagine not working. There are many older women working into their 70’s and 80’s but largely they go unnoticed.
Diana Vreeland was passionate and her passion for life and fashion inspired all around her.
At 69 years old after being sacked from Vogue she became the director of Moma’s Costume Institute bringing her style energy and vision to this role.
Diana Vreeland worked with a heady mix of people, some of the world’s greatest photographers, models, stylists and designers. She knew how to direct people to create drama and theatre. Fascinating footage shows her at work interacting with women generations younger than herself without fear of being uncool.
Diana Vreeland’s fashion was the sort that excites with its creativity. It wasn’t about the clothes but how you wore them and in what context.
‘A new dress doesn’t get you anywhere it’s the life you’re living in the dress’
Diana Vreeland reminds me of Dickens’s Miss Haversham, Imperious… a grand Dame to be feared and obeyed. She admired professionalism, talent, creativity and uniqueness. Although she died in the late 80’s she still remains inspirational to many women looking for role models out there in the boring land of the suit and blue tie.