Designers through the decades - Diana Vreeland

THE TWO MRS. VREELANDS

 

When it comes to those whose influence weighs  heavily  on 20th century.  fashion, arguments rage. Chanel. Dior of The New Look.”  YSL.  Mary Quant and the mod craze for the mini and hot pants.  Rei Kawakubo, founder of the  Comme des Garҫons anti-fashion austerity.   Alaia.  Armani.  Claire McCardell,   creator of the “American Look” that revolutionized  the way women everywhere think about and wear clothes.  Rudy Gernreich whose gasp-inducing  monokini   put a new spin on what  to wear  at the seaside. Anyway,  the  list rattles on. But to certain  eyes that  have traveled far and wide  over the landscapes of fashion and style,  those  eyes would  undoubtedly  settle  on  D.V.

 

One  might have thought that pretty much everything there is to know about Diana Vreeland  is known.  Until Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, a glorious,  coffee-table-sized, coffee table book  that takes the reader through the extraordinary  life and times  of “The High Priestess of Fashion”  as seen through her family’s eyes.  Created by   Lisa Immordino Vreeland,  married to D.V’s grandson, Alexander, the book is  lavish with iconic images shot  by some of  the all-time greats among  lensmen,  including  Avedon, Penn, Horst, Dahl-Wolfe, Beaton, Bassman  and  Hoyningen-Huene , and rich with  essays, comments and observations from the writers, designers, photographers, stylists and models whose  lives she touched  and whose careers she shaped;   the true believers in  imagination,  flights of fantasy,  sublime outrageousness, calculated  shock and awe;  in the unmitigated value of  style which is, as D.V. said, “what gets you down the stairs.” 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, reprinted with permission of New York News

 

Currently in movie theatres  (hopefully one  in your neighborhood, dear reader)  is  the documentary produced by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, also titled Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel , an exhilarating, shimmering version of the book  with voice and motion.  On screen are interviews with  Angelica Huston,  Calvin Klein, David Bailey, Ali McGraw,  Joel Shumacher, Harold Koda, Veruschka  and  D.V’s sons, Frecky and Tim, among others,  offering   recollections and anecdotes  about the experiences that inspired and fascinated; that encouraged them to recreate their lives, to venture out onto the thin ice of truth or dare and indulge in a little embroidery (did Diaghilev and Nijinsky really dance in her family’s Paris living room? Probably not, but how deliciously romantic is the idea!)   and, perhaps, ask themselves “Why Don’t You?” And then do it.

 

In creating her dazzling book (arguably the best book on fashion, maybe ever)  and producing and directing  her film,  Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s  research was  exhaustive.  Clearly, much of her material came from the memories of the family she married into; some of it, including D.V’s own  diaries,  which are held  in the New York Public Library, was found in that venerable institution  and  some of it was researched right here in the FGI archives, that mother lode  of information that’s been found to be, by so many writers, historians, curators, designers, educators and  students,  worth its weight in pure fashion gold.