I watched a great documentary this past week on Diana Vreeland called “The Eye Has To Travel” and got to thinking about how this one woman shaped fashion and style for decades, at Harper’s Bazaar and then at Vogue. This was long before Anna Wintour, and in my opinion Vreeland was much more radical and forward thinking than Wintour. But she also had views on living, color and yes, fringe. Fashion and style icons are a designer’s first cousin, after all. Although she died in 1989, her words are fresh, odd and intriguing even today. I began to imagine what it would be like to chat with Diana Vreeland (pronounced Deeana). Here is the conversation that I imagine I might have with her, if I was lucky enough to be within a 30 foot radius of her unbelievably creative sphere. These are her actual quotes, to which I respond. Thanks for reading an off- beat design blog this week!
DV: I adore fringe.
MB: Well of course, with the right color, on the correct application, on a good pillow and in a traditional room, what’s not to adore?
DV: Unshined shoes are the end of civilization.
MB: They are dreadful, no doubt, but what is worse than that is worn fabric on a sofa. Sitting on such a piece of furniture is like sitting in your own grave – but alive.
DV: Pale pink salmon is the only color I cannot abide––although, naturally, 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 it’s so vieux jeu I can hardly bear to repeat it––pink is the navy blue of India.
MB: But Diana, India also has its corals and British greens. I remember being on top of an elephant in India, or was it a camel…. Not sure. Anyway, I looked across the sea of humanity and saw coral and British green everywhere and simple went limp. Now, Kelly green: that I cannot abide. And you can’t find Kelly green in Ireland anymore, anywhere. The Irish know better at this point.
DV: I can’t stand the vulgarity of a woman who makes a noise when she walks. It’s all right for soldiers, but when I was growing up the quintessence of breeding in a lady was a quiet footstep. Well, it is to me still. Do you know that I let a brilliant worker go at Vogue because of the way she walked––the clank of those heels. ..It is a form of anger if you can’t control the foot. I promise you, the heavy tread is a form of anger.
MB: I feel the same way about mold in the bathtub area. I promise you that this is hostile, as there is no excuse for mold of any kind. It’s like sleeping on a pillowcase that is filled with a billion tiny spiders and at night they all come out and crawl into your hair! Vulgar beyond comprehension!.
DV: A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika. We all need a splash of bad taste—it’s hearty, it’s healthy, it’s physical. I think we could use more of it. No taste is what I’m against.
MB: Well Diana, speaking of physical, one simply must put a yoga mat on the floor in the middle of the bedroom, as it is healthy and hearty. And it is decidedly in bad taste. But needed.
DV: Prohibition. Insane idea. Try to keep me from taking a swallow of this tea and I’ll drink the whole pot.
MB: Oh yes that was such a deplorable and inconvenient time for us all, although I wasn’t alive then. But if I had been alive, I would have been appalled and would simply drink every beverage in sight, liquor or not. Just to get their goats.
DV: Have a furry elk-kid trunk for the back of your car.
MB: Agreed. And while you’re at it, fit out your closets with mink covered hangers. All clothing just adores mink next to it.
DV: Turn your old ermine coat into a bathrobe
MB: Diana, darling, ermine is OUT. These days we are using only cloth for bathrobes, dreadful, as it seems. Oh how I long for the ermine days when a girl could be elegant both when stepping out of the bath and into the theatre.
DV: Wash your blond child’s hair in dead champagne, as they do in France.
MB: Well that’s all well and good if you have a blond child, but who has one anymore? They just don’t exist! As far as I can tell.
DV: All my life I’ve pursued the perfect red. I can never get painters to mix it for me. It’s exactly as if I’d said, ‘I want rococo with a spot of Gothic in it and a bit of Buddhist temple’—they have no idea what I’m talking about. About the best red is to copy the color of a child’s cap in any Renaissance portrait.
MB: Yes, red is a tender subject. I abhor the painters….no imagination. None.
DV: The bikini is the most important thing since the atom bomb.
MB: That is so true, but I think a very good bagel slicer is a close second. Changed my life. More than a bikini, ever did, come to think of it.
DV: It’s not about the dress you wear, but it’s about the life you lead in the dress.
MB: And I concur that it is not about the life you lead, but about the home you live that life in.
DV: Most people haven’t got a point of view; they need to have it given to them––and what’s more, they expect it from you.
MB: Strong viewpoints are SO refreshing especially if they are all true!