Monday, November 5, 2012

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel

Ed. Note: My darling Marsi is writing today about a fashion icon. 

When I was a young journalist working in New York I interviewed Diana Vreeland, at that time the former editor of American Vogue and Harpers Bazaar, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She was divine, one of those rare beings who, through a flamboyantly artistic personal style and wildly creative approach to life, made herself unique. 

She was fascinating in so many ways, she literally invented herself and proved if a woman is intelligent, has great wit, verve, style and a healthy soupçon of the quirky -- well, life could be grand. She made us believe it was and she certainly dressed the part.

I was very nervous about interviewing her because she was a legend and was in the process of reinventing a forgotten corner of a major institution, the Met's Costume Institute, which she turned into one of the fashion world's most glamourous venues.  

She was, by her kindness and humor, one of the best stories I have ever had the good fortune to be assigned. After the piece was published, she sent me a hand-written thank you note on her creamy personal stationery.

Proof, if we ever needed it, that less isn't always better. Why not?

And, Marsi begins. . .

               A film I've been so ansty to see finally came to town.

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel is a terrific little documentary by Lisa Immordino Vreeland (the wife of Diana's grandson Alexander) about the life and times of easily the most magnetic of magazine editors in fashion history, Diana Vreeland.

If you want to know about Vreeland's personal life, you won't find it here. This is almost pure style philosophy and bon mots -- and not at all a bad way to spend 90 minutes on a weekend afternoon.

"The best thing about London is ... Paris."
"My education was the world."

(in Venice)

"Unshined shoes are the end of civilization."

(at home in her living room,
which she likened to "a garden in Hell"

"If you had a bump on your nose, it made no difference
so long as you had a marvelous body and good carriage."

"If you think all the time every day of your life,
you might as well kill yourself today and be happier tomorrow."

(with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis)

"When I arrived in America, I had these very dark red nails,
which some people objected to, but then some people 

object to absolutely everything."

(wearing her signature horn and gold accessories)

"The first rule that a geisha is taught, at the age of nine,
is to be charming to other women.
Every girl in the world should have geisha training."

(with Marisa Berenson)

"I loathe narcissism, but I approve of vanity."

(with Jerry Hall)

"Don't you think all women are slightly shy of all men?"

(with Yves Saint Laurent)

"The first thing to do, my love, is arrange to be born in Paris.
After that, everything follows quite naturally."

To sample the rich flavor that Vreeland brought to life, watch the trailer below. Then go see the movie!

Now, we can't all have the extraordinary opportunities in our lives that Diana Vreeland had in hers -- times have changed and so too the world along with it -- but we can be inspired by the extravagance of her thoughts and the vibrancy of the color she brought to the most humble and ordinary of circumstances.

And, of course, we can all wear a bright red lip. No, really, there's a perfect shade and texture out there for everyone. This video, Ultimate Guide to Red Lips, by British makeup artist/goddess Lisa Eldridge shows us how.

I'll be dashing to Walgreens this afternoon to pick up that Maybelline "Non Stop Red" she can't get enough of ... I'd love to try the Tom Ford color she mentions that makes your teeth look bright and white, too.

Do you wear red lipstick? Do you agree that all women are slightly shy of all men? Did you arrange to be born in Paris? Have you seen (or will you see) The Eye Has to Travel?


Tish Jett said...

Marsi, cherie, to answer your questions:

1.) Yes, I think all women are slightly shy around men.

2.) No, I have never ever, ever worn red lipstick. It's ghastly on me.

3.) Yes I will see, if and when I can, The Eye Has to Travel.

4.) I arranged to be re-born in Paris. (Under the circumstances it was the best I could do.)


Anne @ The Frump Factor said...

"I loathe narcissism, but I approve of vanity."

Love that! And yes, SOMEBODY does disapprove of everything. It's true! Enjoyable read; I'll keep my eye out for the movie.


My absolute favorite post of your blog.

Pam @ over50feeling40 said...

Loved this post and have to love any woman of intelligence, verve, style and QUIRKY!! She is inspirational!

Une Femme said...

What a wonderful way to begin the week! I think we can all still be inspired by her verve. I'm still on the hunt for that red lipstick...

BigLittleWolf said...

What a delicious post!

Shy with men? Cela dépend.. I cannot manage red lipstick. I am my truest self in Paris (and certainly not in the city where I was born). I hope to see the film!

(Love the comment about the bump on the nose!)

So much passion for life. And yes, of course the eye must travel - through everything, absorbing.

Splenderosa said...

How wonderful to have actually met her. Imagine being her friend? Wouldn't that have been the top !

Kathy Leeds said...

a. Yes, I think most women are somewhat shy around men, I certainly am.

b. Yes, I have worn red lipstick a few times, but I feel shy around red lipstick as well.

c. Not sure if I'll see the film or not.

d. Nope, not born in Paris, although I do love it there and it feels familiar to me.

Great post.

hopflower said...

Diana Vreeland was, of course, one of the very best dressed women and had impeccable taste and style. But she was also one of the ugliest women I have ever seen. It seems a bit quirky that someone so homely would be a fashion icon. But it is so, and stranger things have happened. Interesting post.

Nothing wrong with those nails,though. They look great!

Villette said...

Great Post. 1) Shy with men depends on the man. And the mood.
2) Red lipstick is and always has been impossible. Anyway, at this point do I want to call particular attention to the lower part of my face?
3) By accident, I was re-born in Brussels. I blame the SatNav. To paraphrase La Vreeland, the best thing about Brussels is the 1hr20min train time to Paris.

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

She certainly had a flair for fashion and I think her confidence is so evident. I'll take note of that film.

Yes to being shy on occasion,
yes to red lipstick ~ especially with a white shirt and pearls!

Paris well a girl can dream ~
Thanks again Marsi

California Girl said...

Oddly enough, I've stayed away from red lipstick much of my life until now. I do and have, on occasion, gone for the dramatic mouth and deep color but I have large, deep-set dark eyes and they have always been the focus. Red or dark or deep lipsticks usually made me feel overly made up. So...

At the lovely age of 61, I am now experimenting with darker lips once in a while. I start with a lipstain/liner like CG's Outlast #402 then fill in with a creamy matte color & finish with gloss to make my lips look fuller.

The make up artist in the video has gorgeous lips. It's easy to look good in dramatic shades when your lips are sensuous and full. Not so easy for the rest of us!

ELS said...

I have always had the most enormous crush on DV and now I have read the bumpy nose proclamation, I love her even more. What an absolute iconoclast and how refreshing to be reminded that there are some admirable irascible one-offs out there.
thanks to you both

Amelia said...

"I loathe narcissism, but I approve of vanity." Love the quote.

Diana Vreeland was an icon! She and Martha Graham were two of the women I remember reading about in my younger days.

No I don't wear red lipstick. With my coloring, I can wear it but don't want to.

Depends on who and where, I can feel shy around men.

The quota for Paris was full to the max when I asked God to let me be borned in Paris. From what I heard, it was the most requested city for all new comers to earth...:)

I haven't seen it, but I'm planning to see it.

Wonderful post!


Karen Albert said...

I am so excited to see the Vreeland film. I have read one of her books and applaud her life and style!

I do wear red lipstick occasionally!

For some reason. I am not shy around men. Maybe growing up with 5 brothers has something to do with that!!

Art by Karena
2012 Artists Series

Chicatanyage said...

Must get the DVD as soon as possible. Can't wait to see it. A very soft red lipstick works for me and is I find is less bright if gently pressed onto the lips with a finger. Current is by Rimmel by Kate Moss no. 22. (pinkish)

Janice Tutone said...

I really enjoyed this post!

L'age moyen said...

I'm dying to see it. I read her autobiography when it came out in 1987 (gasp) and loved her then. I think I first read about DV in Interview when I worked at the library as a teenager. Finally, I thought, someone I can relate to. I just lover her and am so thrilled to get a glimpse of her in action. The look is fabulous but the voice ....!

Rosemary Nardone said...

I wish to see it but will not show in my hometown. A good day in NYC to see it and just have a relax day. She seems like she was such a class act. I need to read a biography about her, and I would say once this goes on dvd, it will be a keeper! Thank you for the lovely post.

M-T said...

DV is definitely one of my favorites. In answer to your questions:

1. I do wear red lipstick in the evening. Poppy by Laura Mercier is a wonderfully translucent red. At my age I need to avoid matte reds.

2. I have never been shy of (around?) men, only women. It has taken me many years to be as comfortable with women as with men.

3. I was either conceived in Paris or in Nice (my Mother has never been quite certain). Does that count?

4. I absolutely plan to see this documentary. said...

Diana is fabulous and I have arranged with the powers that be - to be born in Paris in my next life!! Better late than never !! x

david terry said...

Dear Tish,

Well, anyone who's even vaguely interested in Diana Vreeland should read Andrew Leon Talley's 2003 memoir "ALT". I'll admit to buying and reading the book with some reservations, expecting it to be profoundly silly and self-aggrandizing (and also because I'd recently been surprised to learn that my best friend (who was apparently the only other gay, teenaged, black male in Durham, NC)had gone to HIGH SCHOOL with Talley and knew him quite well before both of them left town to become what they eventually made of themselves....which is to say, something QUITE different from what one might have expected when they were both only 16.

In any case?....I was completely wrong.....the book (which is short) is also very wonderful...a 225 page tribute to the two women who most influenced and morally supported Talley throughout his young years...his grandmother and Diana Vreeland. In the end, "ALT" isn't really a memoir; it's a touchingly (and carefully written) tribute to those two, quite-"different"-but-unavoidably-similar women.

It should be emphasized that Talley was a penniless, 6'7" black kid (perhaps about 25?) from North Carolina when Diana Vreeland "discovered" him; he'd gotten a volunteer job as a mannequin dresser for the Met Costume Institute's first show (he scrappily made ends meet, while his grandmother kept calling from North Carolina, begging him to give up on New york and COME HOME, by sleeping on friends' floors and working nights at the ASPCA).

The memoir contains a marvelous & very funny anecdote of his first "dinner" at Vreeland's glamorous apartment....a night when they talked so long that they realized they'd forgotten to eat, the cook had gone home, and they were STARVING.

According to Talley, "I suggested 'Why don't we go make ourselves something to eat?'....Mrs Vreeland's face lit up with a sense of impending adventure. 'Good,' she said. 'MARVELOUS! Let's go find the kitchen!.."

all I can say is Talley's memoir (it's available on is one of the most unepxected, genuinely sincere&touching surprises I've encountered in years of reviewing books....and it's a "must" for any Vreeland fan.


David Terry

That's Not My Age said...

I don't wear red lipstick but I did paint my toe nails after watching this documentary.

Vicki said...

Tish, I really enjoyed this post. I went back over it and read it twice over a couple of days. I never knew much about Madame Vreeland although her name, of course, is well-known even to non-fashionistas. Thanks for such an interesting collection of photos and quotes. Really fascinating stuff.

Vicki said...

I should read all the comments first before commenting. Really interesting, especially from the always-entertaining David Terry (who is also well-informed as usual).

I kept thinking, about Ms. Vreeland, "she is IMPOSSIBLY thin!" Clothes must have never looked bad on her. I want to go read everything about her now!

Vicki said...

I should read all the comments first before commenting. Really interesting, especially from the always-entertaining David Terry (who is also well-informed as usual).

I kept thinking, about Ms. Vreeland, "she is IMPOSSIBLY thin!" Clothes must have never looked bad on her. I want to go read everything about her now!

Vicki said...

I have no idea why my comment printed twice. Sorry!

david terry said...

Posting twice is just fine (with me, at least), vicki.

I just read your comments and considered that I've just had two compliments already this morning...and it's only 6:30 a.m.

...and isn't it amusing/fascinating to consider that someone so OUT THERE & "why-would-i-care-what-YOU-think-?" flamboyantly-FABulous as Andre Leon Talley (I should emphasize that I like everything about him and his writings)went to a little, segregated North Carolina high-school before being discovered by Vreeland?

Just for the record, I asked my friend if Talley was popular. the reply was "Andre?..that sort of thing just didn't APPLY to him...he was always his own world.."

Ihaven't any doubt that was true.

----david terry

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