Diana Vreeland in the office of Vogue
Photo courtesy of film, Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, her granddaughter-in-law
“I wasn’t a fashion editor – I was the one and only fashion editor.” ~ Diana Vreeland
My holiday break has been about spending time with my family … and watching movies. Movies like, Hitchcock, Lincoln, Argo, The Silver Linings Playbook, (all wonderful films, by the way), and today a movie just for me: the documentary called Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel. I must confess that I did not know very much about the iconic editor before seeing the film. The woman and the movie are fascinating and I was moved by her life and her story; much of the documentary is told in her own words, in her own voice.
She was born in Paris in 1903, during La Belle Epoque, to a life of adventure and beauty and Le Ballets Russes, where, according to Mrs. Vreeland: “my education was the world,” and to live a happy life, “the first thing to be done is to arrange to be born in Paris. Everything else happens quite naturally.” But it was her mother, who told her that she was the ugly duckling of the family, who may have inspired Mrs. Vreeland to dream her big dreams, spark her desire to stand out from the crowd, and be where the action is. After she met and married the very winning bachelor, Reed Vreeland, she says that her mother’s words no longer hurt her, and “Reed made me feel beautiful no matter what my mother made me think.” Oh and by the way, while living in Paris, she met Coco Chanel, with whom she says she was very close.
Her family later moved to New York, and eventually, as a grown and married woman without any formal education or training, found her first job as a columnist for Harper’s Bazaar Magazine. Her column? Why Don’t You? A sort-of-how-to, way out, eccentric but tried and true fashion Q&A, that represented her first step into a career in fashion, which she continued writing until the onset of World War II. She stopped when she believed the column to be frivolous. But Mrs. Vreeland’s role at Harper’s Bazaar grew and she would eventually become a fashion editor: the first of her kind in a role that she truly invented. Before that, magazines like Harper’s Bazaar didn’t have fashion editors; the role of women and fashion was more about society ladies dealing with the social do’s and don’ts of running a household, including how to make pies. But Mrs. Vreeland revolutionized that: she gave fashion a bigger, exotic life, she took people to new places they couldn’t reach on their own, she launched the careers of actors like Lauren Bacall, and put bikinis and blue jeans on the map. And after 26 years as editor of Harper’s Bazaar, she moved to Vogue, where she would become editor-in-chief during the explosive 1960s and set the world on fire again, turning a sleepy magazine into a global fashion runway.
She did it all her way. She was an original with a vision – always a vision. And I wonder, as I often do, what gives someone that indescribable drive? I am left with a compelling thought; that beyond her success in the fashion world, it is perhaps her personal story of drive and determination to find her own way and step away from the ugly duckling messages that her mother placed on her, to stop at nothing to express who she really was: magnificent. Here she is, in her own words:
“I think when you’re young you should be a lot with yourself and your sufferings. Then one day you get out where the sun shines and the rain rains and the snow snows and it all comes together.” ~ Diana Vreeland
What do you think?
A young Diana Vreeland