It has been my observation that when fashion magazines extol advise. They can be very uniform and frankly driven by whatever is most acceptable at the very moment. Not usually progressive, however sometimes the mould is broken. That’s where Diana Vreeland enters.
Born Diana Dalziel on 29th September 1903 in France. Her world was high society (her mother was a descendent of George Washington and she a distant relative of Pauline de Rothschild). Her family migrated to New York with the outbreak of WWI. Ironically her first brush with the fashion elite was in a feature of Vogue magazine. Concerning socialites and their cars, the magazine described her as ‘one of the most attractive debutante’s of the winter’. 1st March 1924 saw Diana Dalziel become Diana Vreeland when’s she wed Thomas Vreeland, a banker. For the next five years, the couple stayed in NY to raise their two sons. Befitting a jet setting sophisticated couple, the Vreeland’s spent time in London (where she set up a lingerie boutique) and later Paris. It was in Paris where Vreeland would procure her clothes. Mostly from Chanel, even becoming friends with Coco Chanel.
In 1936, after just arriving in New York with her husband. It is here that she had a chance encounter with Carmel Snow, the editor of Harper’s Bazaar. Snow was so transfixed by Vreeland’s style that she offered her a job. If only recruitment worked that way! While too many fashion columnist offer ‘safe’ rule with which to play within. Nothing too daring for the masses. Vreeland on the others hand was the polar opposite. With her ‘Why Don’t You….’ Vreeland offered outlandish advise for both fashion and lifestyle. One luxurious yet eccentric example was recommending that one should wash theirs child’s hair in ‘dead’ Champagne! In addition to discovering Lauren Bacall. Rising up the ranks, Vreeland became fashion editor. She stayed until the early 60’s when she joined Vogue magazine in 1962, though she did break from her job to advise the First Lady, Jackie Kennedy. Part of Vreeland’s gift was being able to predict trends (such as the bikini). A talent anyone in the fashion business would sever all their limbs off for. How some are able to do this, I am not sure. Yet as much as Vreeland liked fashion, she clearly played by her own rules of style. Choosing to snub scrappy high heels and crepe de chine dresses.Vreeland stayed on at Vogue until 1971.
Fashion had not left Vreeland ‘s veins, choosing instead to curate exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. One especially famous aspect of Vreeland’s ‘unconventional’ taste was her choice of decor. The third image down, is of her famous ‘red room’. Not the same red room in Twin Peaks I am afraid. No dancing dwarves. Normally when people with money decide to derogate edit homes, their will often employ someone else to give them the illusion of taste. Not Vreeland. She chose an almost blinding red chinoiserie set up. A bold choice that could so easily become garish and naff, become impressive and iconic.
In 1984 Vreeland released her autobiography ‘DV’. Vreeland passed away on 22nd September 1989. What I believe make Vreeland vital to the history of irregular style is that she was an advocate of self empowerment. The bottom picture is on of my favourite quotes of hers. So the next time you feel pressured to look a certain, to please everyone else. Just remember one thing. That you don’t owe anyone prettiness.