Diana Vreeland, Style Genius

BY: Eugenia PUBLISHED ON: Monday, April 18, 2016 IN: Fashion

Diane Vreeland, Style GeniusMy obsession with Paris isn’t much of a secret. My fascination with the City of Lights is endless. Today, I will continue that conversation with a new series on the blog called, Bonjour, Paris. The first post explores one particular French woman with a certain je nai sai quo: Diana Vreeland.

Diana Vreeland, Style Genius

Diana was born in Paris, France into a privileged family on September 29, 1903. She was the eldest daughter of American socialite mother, Emily Key Hoffman (1876-1928) and British stockbroker father, Frederick Young Dalziel (1868-1960).  In 1914, her parents relocated to New York.

Wearing metallic trench jacket, orange peplum, J. Crew Martie pant in white, Mui Mui metallic gold pump

Wearing metallic trench jacket, orange peplum, J. Crew Martie pant in white, Mui Mui metallic gold pump

Fast forward to1922, she was featured twice in Vogue as a well-dressed socialite, and the next year, was presented to society as a debutante.  Her cotillion ball was perfect timing, while vacationing in Saratoga, Diana met Thomas (Reed) Vreeland (1899-1966), who recently graduated from Yale.

Diana Vreeland age 13 (right), with her father, Frederick Dalziel, and sister, Alexandra. Photo credit: Kate Finnigan via Amanda MacKenzie.

Diana Vreeland age 13 (right), with her father, Frederick Dalziel, and sister, Alexandra. Photo credit: Kate Finnigan via Amanda MacKenzie.

March 1,1924, Diana Dalziel married Reed, a banker and international financier at St. Thomas’Church in New York.  After their honeymoon, the Vreelands moved to Brewster, New York and raised their two sons there until 1929.

Diana and husband, Thomas Reed Vreeland.

Diana and husband, Thomas Reed Vreeland.  Photo credit:  George Platt Lyons

Diana Vreeland Image Order No. JI3747 circa 1955 EXCLUSIVE American fashion editor Diana Vreeland (c.1901 - 1989) wearing a tube top and mini skirt, holding a leopard print purse, umbrella, and a cigarette, Southampton, New York. CREDIT: Hulton Archive/Getty Images ----- 23vreeland

Diana Vreeland circa 1955 EXCLUSIVE American fashion editor Diana Vreeland (c.1903- 1989) wearing a tube top and mini skirt, holding a leopard print purse, umbrella, and a cigarette, Southampton, New York. CREDIT: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Diana Vreeland

 

Thanks to Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Carmel Snow, who noticed her wearing Chanel, Diana began her fashion legacy at the premier women’s fashion magazine, as its first fashion editor.  Diana’s own mother routinely treated her with disdain because of her unassuming looks. Her mother used to refer to her as my little ugly duckling.  Perhaps that treatment by her mother propelled her imagination into that of creating beauty and art beyond what the society ladies could fathom during the early years at Harper’s Bazaar.

Diana Vreeland, Style Genius

During her 25-year tenure at Harper’s Bazaar, Diana forged ahead to inspire and define style as we know it today, by mixing high-end brands with the inexpensive.  She discovered people and personalities, like Lauren Bacall, before she was an actress, she was a model. First appearing in 1943 on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar at the age of 17, Vreeland is credited with discovering the young beauty.
DIana Vreeland: The Legacy Continues

While at Harper’s Bazaar, the divine Mrs. V.  penned an advice column called Why Don’t You?   The quirky and ridiculous suggestions included the following:

Why Don’t You…?
…Wash your bonds child’s hair in dead champagne as they do in France?
…Turn you child into an Infanta for a fancy-dress party?
…Paint a map the world on all four walls of your boys’ nursery so they won’t grow up with a provincial point of view?
…Eat alphabet soup with a plastic fork while reading the Wall St. Journal?

The outlandish and widely popular column ran for almost 26 years.

Diana Vreeland, Style Genius

 

She also advised then First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s personal style during John F. Kennedy’s election and beyond. The Camelot duo was the first-ever presidential couple to appear in a fashion magazine thanks to Vreeland.

February 1961 Phot by Richard Avedon.

February 1961 Phot by Richard Avedon.

While at Vogue, she is responsible for the fame of Barbara Streisand’s nose.

Diana Vreeland. Style Genius

 

After resigning from Harper’s Bazaar in 1963 over a salary dispute and being passed over for a promotion, the empress of fashion sashayed over to Vogue magazine to become their editor-in-chief. Diana continued to discover and develop talent during her tenure at Vogue with the mini skirt, model Twiggy, and Youthquaker model Edie Sedgwick. Vreeland also helped introduce Diane von Furstenberg’s wrap dress to the world in 1972.

 

Diana Vreeland 1970 letter to then Princess Egon Furstenberg, AKA Diane Von Furstenberg regarding her newly created wrap dress.

Diana Vreeland 1970 letter to then Princess Egon Furstenberg, AKA Diane Von Furstenberg regarding her newly created wrap dress.

In 1971, Vreeland was fired for extravagant spending, moving on to become a consultant to the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  She is credited for organizing around 12 exhibitions during her career at the museum.
Diana Vreeland, Style Genius

Diana Vreeland, Style Genius

Diana in her New York City Park Avenue apartment designed by decorator Billy Baldwin.

 

Diana Vreeland, Style Genius

Diana Vreeland’s New York City Park Avenue apartment decorated  by famed interior designer Billy Baldwin.

Her signature color was red, the ever present exaggerated use of rouge, red on her nails and her red apartment. “All my life I’ve pursued the perfect red,” Vreeland said.  “I can never get the painters to mix it for me.  It’s exactly as if I’d said, ‘I want Rococo with a spot of Gothic in it and a bit of Buddhist temple’ —  they have no idea what I’m talking about.”

Diane Vreeland, Style Genius
Diana Vreeland, Style Genius
1984, Diana collaborated with journalist George Plimpton to help her autobiography.

Diana Vreeland, Style Genius

Diana died in 1989 of a heart attack at the age of 85 at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York. Her legacy continues with the help of her grandson, Alexander Vreeland who was entrusted with her estate.  In 2010, Alexander discovered in his grandparents former home in Brewster, New York in the attic, well kept and preserved documentation from his grandmother’s years at Harper’s Bazaar.  From the found materials, Alexander published the book, Diana Vreeland The Modern Woman, The Bazaar Years 1963-1962 with the help of Rizzoli International Publications.

Diana Vreeland, Style Genius

Book, Diana Vreeland The Modern Woman, The Bazaar Years 1936-1962. Cover illustration by Sam Shahid.

To get a real sense of Diana’s persona, a must-see film on DV, Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel. It was released in 2012 by grandaughter-in-law, Lisa Immordino Vreeland.  The fashion documentary is based on her life, on how she became a pioneer in the fashion industry and how her time spent with her husband in Europe made her into a style icon. The film refers to a movie, Who Are You Polly Maggoo?  is said to be based on Vreeland’s life.

Diana Vreeland Smashingly Brilliant eau de parfum and book about her years at Harper'sBazaar.

My DV purchases: Diana Vreeland Smashingly Brilliant eau de perfume and book about her years at Harper’sBazaar.

Finally, the family commissioned a collection of signature scents for the fashion editor that can be purchased from luxury retailers like Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Neiman Marcus. I am supporting her legacy. I purchased the book and the Diana Vreeland Smashing Brilliant perfume last December when I was in New York to see the Christmas windows.

Diana Vreeland, Style Genius

Before major editors like Anna WIntour, Grace Coddington, and Grace Mirabella, there was Diana Vreeland. I hope you enjoyed the intimate look of her life and reign in fashion.  For even more, check out her website:  DianaVreeland.com.  Please let me know your thoughts on DV below in the comments.

Have a fabulous week!

Siggy

  • Loved this post! Makes me want to shop for new clothes to wear to Paris!

    • Arianna,
      Hi! Thanks for stopping by The Age of Grace. I’m always ready to go back to Paris. Perhaps one day we’ll get to travel there again, you never know.

  • We are on the same page with DV. I have her book “Allure” in my library.

    • Terri,
      Hi! I’m glad to see we are on the same page regarding style icon, Diana Vreeland. Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

  • Pingback: The Shoe and Tell Fashion Link Up - Style Nudge()

    • Cherie,
      Hi! Thank you for including my photo on the Style Nudge, so exciting. I plan to purchase Betty Halbreich’s book about her being the iconic stylist @Bergdorf Goodman.