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1903 – 1989
“The only real elegance is in the mind; if you’ve got that, the rest really comes from it,” Diana Vreeland once said. For much of the 1960s, Vreeland ruled Vogue – and by extension the fashion world the magazine covered. She was an imperious editor who worked in an office with scarlet walls, a black lacquer desk and a leopard skin-patterned carpet.
Vreeland had moved to Vogue in 1962 from Harper’s Bazaar, where she had been for nearly 25 years as the author of the much-read “Why Don’t You . . . ?” column. Her immense success propelled her to fashion editor at Harper’s, and she quickly became the authority in the world of fashion at a time when that world was in a state of flux. An inspiration for a generation of designers, including Yves Saint Laurent, Issey Miyake and Valentino, she would help launch the careers of some of the top names in the field today: Diane von Furstenberg, Manolo Blahnik and Oscar de la Renta and others. The 1957 movie musical, Funny Face, starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire, was based in part on Vreeland’s life.
In 1960, when John F. Kennedy was elected president, Vreeland gave fashion advice to Jacqueline Kennedy, including tips about what to wear on Inauguration Day in 1961. Vreeland advised Jackie throughout the campaign and helped connect her with fashion designer Oleg Cassini, who became chief designer to the first lady.
Vreeland had an eye for what was new and imaginative and would push fashion photographers to the limit, demanding that they give her “extraordinary pictures.” Her fashion editors worked to exhaustion, trying to please her. “I think I always had a perfectly clear view of what was possible for the public,” she said in her 1984 autobiography, DV.
She was fired from Vogue in 1971, and then became special consultant until her death to The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. By 1984, according to Vreeland’s account, she had organized 12 exhibitions at the museum. A life-size portrait doll of Vreeland by artist Greer Lankton is on display at the Met.
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