Diana Vreeland might be one of the most recognized people in the history of fashion, but she made sure that her life kept a certain amount of mystery to it. Even her so called tell-all autobiography was so embellished that she referred to it as “faction” – a combination of fact and fiction.
We do know some details of her life, however: she was born in Paris to parents by the name of Dalziel in July, 1903, and moved to New York City with her family in early 1094. Diana always had a fascination with beautiful things and was constantly trying to reinvent herself to become the epitome of style. She didn’t fit the conventional definition of beauty, but she had a certain attraction that the French would refer to as jolie laide (or “ugly pretty”).
She was a very social person, which led to her career in fashion. Harper’s Bazzar editor Carmel Snow offered Diana (now married to Reed Vreeland) a job after seeing her at the St. Regis. In 1937 she started a quirky column in Harper’s called Why Don’t You? in which she encouraged readers to have fun with their style by doing things like “wearing violet velvet mittens with everything.” She received lots of scrutiny for her ridiculous ideas, but those in the industry were able to recognize her as truly original thinker.
In 1963, after almost 30 years with Harper’s, she moved to Vogue where she eventually became editor in chief. As lifestyles radically changed during the decade, so did the direction of Vogue, aiming towards a more cutting edge audience. Vreeland was also responsible for launching the careers of talents like Lauren Hutton and Veruschka.
She left Vogue in 1971 to work as a consultant at the Costume Institute at the MET. Her autobiography (the one of faction) came out in ’84.
Vreeland passed away in 1989. Her funeral was attended by the likes of Lauren Bacall and Richard Avedon. While there have been attempts in paying homage to Diana Vreeland (she has been imitated by Ileana Douglas in 2006’s Factory Girl and by Sarah Jessica Parker in the March 2009 issue of Harpers Bazzar, alongside many other interpretations) she remains inimitable.