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DIANA
VREELAND

 

On Allure,
in Vreelandese

 

 

 

The recent reissue of Allure is an occasion to celebrate the legacy of that witty and imperious arbiter of elegance, Diana Vreeland (1903-1989).  Editor of Harper’s Bazaar from 1937-1962 and of Vogue from 1963-1971, she was later a Special Consultant to the Metropolitan Museum, where she organized costume shows including the famous The World of Balenciaga. 

 

Diana Vreeland at Vogue, 1966  Photo: James Karales/Look

 

The legendary fashion editor brought humor and a wicked intelligence to the fashion magazine business. All this done with the help of photography that was dramatically beautiful and occasionally outré with the likes of Beaton, Horst, Avedon, Penn, Lichfield, Snowdon.  The celebration of new designers, and the championing of American fashion.  Models of color and glimpses of nudity.  And the very idea of opulence and fantasy, an Oriental sumptuousness.  Vreeland: "....I always had a perfectly clear view of what was possible for the public. Give ‘em what they never knew they wanted."

 


Vreeland with Jackie Kennedy, the editor of Allure, at a party for the book.  Photo: via the New York Times

 

Allure is some strange photography book-meets-fashion tome.  Pictures which to Vreeland capture the ineffable.  "Cecil's (Beaton) pictures have opalescence--the quality emanating from an opal, the feeling of being inside an opal."  Photos from news clippings, paparazzi shots, fashion stills from her time at the magazines, photographs that define a certain aesthetic, her aesthetic.

 

Cecil Beaton himself described Vreeland's face as that of 'an authoritative crane.'  Mary Louise Wilson in the foreword to the 1984 autobiography D.V.: "Her language has the exhilarating effect of Cole Porter lyrics."

 


Irving Penn for Vogue, 1965

 

Some of the imperious gems from D.V.:
 

About Coco Chanel: "She was a peasant and a genius.  Peasants and geniuses are the only people who count, and she was both."

 

Vreeland brought a sense of humor to the job of fashion editor: “I mean a new dress doesn’t get you anywhere; it’s the life you’re living in the dress.”

 

A delirious consciousness of color. Think pink: "...I adore pink.  I love the pale Persian pinks of the little carnations of Provence and Schiaparelli’s pink, the pink of the Incas... And though its so vieux jeu I can hardly bear to repeat it...pink is the navy blue of India."

 

The violent impulse: "Vreeland--with a V! I say whenever I have to give my name over a telephone. V as in 'victory'! V as in 'violent'!”

 

On light, and violence, again: "Lighting is everything in a color. Its affected by the way the sun shines in certain countries....the violent violet of heather under the blue Scottish sky..."

 

"Black is the hardest color in the world to get right."

 

Polly Mellen (on Vreeland's departure from Vogue): "...when you came in to see her, there she was in the bright red office with the leopard skin rug and the bulletin board that inspired you with all the pictures.  The next morning the office was beige, the rug was beige and Vogue was beige."

 


Sir Cecil Beaton, Princess Berar, 1940s
Vreeland: "I'm mad about her nose."

 

And this is what one takes away from this collection of photographs: Allure as drama (Maria Callas’s mouth open in a violent grimace), and drama as always exaggerated (eyes are inevitably limned in black and are large, as are diamonds.  Vreeland to Harry Winston: “But you know our cup of tea--we like things in rather a big way, otherwise they don’t show.) Even noses: “If you are born with too small a nose the one thing you want to do is build it up.”  Women are confident, the tendency is towards perfection (even if it means artifice).  These photographs are not the pigeon-toed poses of the fashionistas in the Sartorialist, nothing here is cute or hip or funky. This is allure, “something around you....like a perfume or like a scent. It’s like memory...it pervades.”

 

David Bailey for Vogue, 1970

 

Read: Allure, Diana Vreeland, with Christopher Hemphill

 

See: Balenciaga, Spanish Master--at the Spanish Institute

 

Tags:  fashion   photography  art   books  design  museums  color  spain 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Photo: Man Ray, for the Beauty Issue of Harper's Bazaar, 1942

 

 

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