Carola Long: 'Diana Vreeland’s deliciously decadent pronouncements turned her into a legendary fashion editor'
Saturday 30 October 2010
"Why don't you rinse your blond child's hair in dead champagne, to keep its gold, as they do in France?" It was this kind of deliciously decadent pronouncement that helped turn Diana Vreeland into a legendary fashion editor. The advice first appeared alongside other grand suggestions in her regular column called Why Don't You...? in US Harper's Bazaar where Vreeland was editor from the mid- Thirties through to1962, when she moved to US Vogue.
Later in her career, in 1980, having left Vogue in the early Seventies and become a consultant to the Costume Institute at New York's Met museum, Vreeland produced the book Allure, which is reissued this month. It features photos of striking, well-dressed or intriguing people by the likes of Cecil Beaton and Irving Penn, and musings on the theme of the book's title. There is a paparazzi photo of a furious Maria Callas, and a paean to her voice, Diaghilev dancers, an Elliot Erwitt shot of an eye lift operation, and Brigitte Bardot and Mick Jagger, both pouting. Her prose has an authoritative whimsy to it, which is probably down to the fact that it was dictated to co-author Christopher Hemphill, and there's an eloquent foreward by Marc Jacobs. Vreeland's view of beauty was unconventional but not exactly cosily accessible as she proclaims "we mustn't be afraid of snobbism" and the extravagantly creative world that the book evokes makes The September Issue look as workaday as an episode of The Office.
Marc Jacobs declares Vreeland to be a visionary and praises her, "ability to see something so far before anyone else." Many of her aphorisms - of which " pink is the navy blue of India," is one of the best known-have since been hijacked. Think of Rachel Zoe's catchphase "I die", well in Allure Vreeland writes that diamonds, " almost make me cry. When I see diamonds in a north light, on a little velvet pillow...I die." Christopher Hemphill's original suggestion for the title was "beyond fashion, " to which Vreeland responded, "Is there anything beyond fashion." Read the book to find out.
Allure by Diana Vreeland, Foreword by Marc Jacobs, published by Chronicle books, £22.95
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