22.04.2015 - Estelle Marandon

Fashion People

Flaws are a mark of distinction


Diana Vreeland was never a classical beauty. Her mother is said to have called her "my ugly little monster” as a child. Diana later powdered her face white and painted her cheeks and lips red, slicking back her hair into a style resembling a helmet. Despite this look – or perhaps precisely because of it – Vreeland spent over four decades as one of the most dazzling figures in fashion history. She was the Fashion Editor at Harper's Bazaar, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue, dressed Jacky Kennedy, made Twiggy and Veruschka famous and was a consultant at the renowned Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


The story of the legendary fashion editor began in the mid-1930s with a white Chanel dress and a night of dancing at the Hotel St. Regis in New York. Carmel Snow, the then Editor-in-Chief of Harper's Bazaar, saw Vreeland breeze across the room and approached her. Her encounter with the eccentric Vreeland made such an impression on Snow that she offered her a job the very next day.  "But Mrs Snow," Vreeland reportedly said, "I have never set foot in an office in my entire life. I don't get dressed until noon." Snow was not put off and hired her as a writer.


In her famous advice column "Why Don't You?", which still has cult status today, Vreeland gave readers more or less ironic tips about style, such as: "Why don't you turn your old ermine coat into a bathrobe?" or "Why don't you wash your blond child's hair in dead champagne, as they do in France?" Later, Snow made her the Fashion Editor and Vreeland turned Harper's Bazaar into the world's trendiest fashion magazine. Under her leadership, many iconic photo productions were born, including Richard Avedon's "Dovima with the elephants".


Following unsuccessful salary negotiations with her bosses, she left Harper's Bazaar after 29 years to join Vogue and was promoted to Editor-in-Chief of the magazine a year later. Over a period of ten years, she broke with all conventions, especially classic ideas of beauty. She booked unusual models, like Twiggy, and deliberately took profile shots of Barbra Streisand. Her motto was "You don't have to be a beauty, to be attractive." In 1971, Condé Nast dropped her in a surprise move. Her lavish photo spreads and enormous travel budgets had reportedly become too much for the publisher. So, aged 70, she started a new career as a consultant at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, helping the dusty Institute to reach new heights of glamour with exhibitions about Balenciaga and Russian ballet. 

Short Facts


Diana Vreeland once said, "If you have a long nose, make it your trademark." In a style statement, she set her prominent nose against white make-up and bright red lips and fingernails.

Distinctive characteristics

One of Vreeland's famous quotes is, "you're supposed to give them [people] what they don't know that they want yet." Vreeland declared flat shoes to be socially acceptable, introduced a new generation of models with Veruschka and Twiggy, and made fashion photography into an art form.


Diana Vreeland was a workaholic and did not think much of lunch. Her lunches consisted of peanut butter sandwiches, scotch and cigarettes.

Awards & Recognition

1964 included on the International Best Dressed List
1970 awarded the French National Order of Merit
1985 awarded the French Order of Arts and Letters


1903 - Birth in Paris

Diana Dalziel is born in Paris on 19 September, to an American mother and English father. She emigrates to America with her family at the outbreak of World War I.

1924 - Marriage

She marries her great love, the banker Thomas Reed Vreeland, and moves with him to London in 1928.

1935 - New York

The couple return to New York.

1936 - Job Offer

Diana Vreeland meets Carmel Snow of Harper's Bazaar at a party. The next day she receives a job offer from her and starts writing the column "Why Don't You?".

1939 - Promotion

Vreeland becomes Fashion Editor at Harper's Bazaar.

1960 - Style Advisor

John F. Kennedy becomes President and Diana Vreeland advises the First Lady, Jacky Kennedy, on questions of style.

1962 - Change

Vreeland moves to Vogue. A year later she becomes Editor-in-Chief there.

1966 - Widow

Diana Vreeland's husband dies.

1971 - Dismissal

The publisher Condé Nast parts ways with Diana Vreeland.

1972 - Museum

She becomes a consultant at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and breaks with all conventions when she is the first person to dedicate an exhibition to a living designer, Yves Saint Laurent.

1984 - Her Life Story

Her biography D.V. is published.

1989 - The End

Diana Vreeland dies of a heart attack on 2 August 1989, in New York.


© Jason Lloyd-Evans, Imaxtree


"Stellen Sie sich das vor!" ["Imagine that!"], FAS, 13.01.2013 (by Johanna Adorjan), "Der Blick, mit dem ich suche, was nie zu sehen ist" ["Looking for what is never seen"], Die Welt, 24.11.2010 (by Mara Delius), "Die Schönheit im Auge der Betrachterin" ["Beauty is in the eye of the beholder"], Die Welt, 22.10.2011 (by Lena Bergmann), "Bevor der Teufel Prada trug" ["Before the devil wore Prada"], Petra, 01.12.2012


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