Books – D.V. by Diana Vreeland

Everybody defines Diana Vreeland as “Legendary editor in chief of the American Vogue” even if they haven’t the slightest idea who they’re talking about. So, I’m asking you, what’s the meaning of the word “legendary”, conventionally used as a crossword clue?
The answer is more complicated than expected, but you can solve the riddle by reading her entertaining autobiography D.V. published in 1984.
Diana Vreeland photographed by Arnold Newman, 1974
Diana Vreeland photographed by Arnold Newman, 1974

Since the first pages of the book, the former fashion editor of Harper’s Bazaar (1936-1962) and former editor in chief of American Vogue (1962-1971) seems speaking to a lifelong friend in front of a cup of tea in her office at the Costume Institute Office in New York.
She’s frank, funny and hands out a lot of anecdotes on anything she can think of, just like the stream of consciousness of a James Joyce character.
The book is a sort of Stargate on past eras that everyone would like to live in, and as the Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis, Vreeland is our master key to the high society between the early twentieth century and the 70s. Despite the intrigues, the secrets, the rules and the obligations of society, she’s free from every kind of prejudice and this makes her an unbeatable heroine to our eyes. Her stories are very funny and full of dreamy detailed descriptions, but be careful not to call them memories, Diana herself explains she isn’t a nostalgic old lady, but a person who always looks ahead.

Diana Vreeland in her Office at Vogue
Diana Vreeland in her Office at Vogue
Her world is made of coronation ceremonies, elephants, diamonds, maharajas, Schiaparelli clothes, deep red nail-polish, heavy make up inspired to the Japanese maikos, ballet lessons from Michel Fokine, Balenciaga fashion shows alongside Audrey Hepburn, film premieres in the company of Josephine Baker and her cheetah, ball at the White House as guest of Jacqueline Kennedy, late nights at the Studio 54 with Andy Warhol and chats with Coco Chanel.
Daring a comparison with the exciting experiences of this woman, it seems we all just survive, trying to cope with the problems of today’s society, and it’s almost a relief discovering that Diana has such a great imagination that many episodes and anecdotes have been totally invented or just “embellished” according to her taste.
Diana Vreeland editorial for Harper's Bazaar
Diana Vreeland editorial for Harper’s Bazaar
Maybe, after reading the book, you would describe Diana Vreeland as “Crazy” instead of “Legendary”; but have you ever heard about a creative person who doesn’t go beyond the boundaries? I don’t think so.
Diana Vreeland was imaginative, intuitive, instinctive, charismatic, confident, sometimes reckless, but only in the name of curiosity. If the combination of these features suffice for labelling a person as “crazy”, I would like to be considered crazy like her.
Diana Vreeland photographed by Richard Avedon, June 1977, Rolling Stone Magazine
Diana Vreeland photographed by Richard Avedon, June 1977, Rolling Stone Magazine
Alessandro Masetti – The Fashion Commentator


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