Diana Vreeland makes the interesting remark in the above video that one is born with style, or “of course you could put your shoulder to the wheel to acquire it … but you wouldn’t.”
Do you agree?
I thoroughly enjoyed Diana Vreeland, by Eleanor Dwight. The photographs alone are worth the modest price of a used hardcover copy. I mention this because the biography itself offers only tantalizing glimpses of Mrs. Vreeland the person. Like Chanel, Mrs. Vreeland is an elusive character.
Here’s an excellent summary of the book featuring my favorite photograph of Diana strutting down a Manhattan street just after she started working at Harper’s Bazaar in 1936. This blog post shows the same photo in a larger format.
The New York Times review claims Dwight underrepresents Vreeland’s years as editor of Harper’s Baazar and Vogue, focusing mainly on Vreeland’s 1970s – 1980s direction of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, but I didn’t think so. Diana’s stint at the Met doesn’t start until pg. 190 of 287 pages — so there’s plenty to read about her childhood and the years at both magazines.
I do agree with the NY Times piece that Diana comes alive in the early section of the book chronicling her youth, and after that, once she decides to reinvent herself as a character, less so. As the reviewer William Morrow writes:
There’s a fourth reason Vreeland is such a difficult subject for biography: she practiced on herself the aesthetic that she advocated in her magazine work and her books — that is, the idea that art is about artifice. Vreeland created a highly artificial public persona, with her blue-black lacquered hair, heavy jewelry, brightly rouged cheeks and forehead, her penchant for hyperbole (”You must polish the soles of your shoes,” she once declared), her slouchy ”ballet” walk and distinctive way of speaking (”a cross between Madame de Sévigné and Falstaff,” according to one of her favorite photographers, Cecil Beaton). Her made-up face repels inspection and invites reaction.
This blog post features many of the fantastic photographs in the book, plus more, and this 1982 New York article, The Empress of Clothes by Jesse Kornbluth is worth scrolling down a couple screen fulls to click on the article and blow up the text, if for no other reason than to read about Diana regainig her sight after five years of blindness, then insisting on seeing the film Deep Throat, apparently one of her favorites!
Like my father, Diana freely stretched the truth, so it’s difficult to say which of her pronouncements are true or false, but does it matter? She invented herself as a character and it’s her character that we remember and admire.
I’m more interested in her thoughts on style. Is it something we’re born with or can it be acquired? After her first throw-away comment in the above video, she speaks more thoughtfully about women needing inspiration and imagination, paying attention to “their skin, their posture, their walk, their interest interest in things … in education – education has a great deal to do with everything – that of course you can do for yourself.”
Having just recovered from a pinched nerve caused by poor posture, I had to chuckle.
You have to love Diana, she’s really one of a kind.
I’ll post soon re: other news. See you soon!