The Blog

Diana Vreeland-isms

As one of my favorite editors of all time she had the suitable judgment to know that "There's only one very good life and that's the life you know you want and you make it yourself."
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.
4th June 1980: Diana Vreeland (1903 - 1989), French-born editor of American Vogue magazine up to 1971. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)
4th June 1980: Diana Vreeland (1903 - 1989), French-born editor of American Vogue magazine up to 1971. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)

I think Vogue captured her best, "Pizzazz. Youthquake. The Beautiful People. Diana Vreeland had a spectacular gift for language, coining words and phrases that painted -- in a single, vivid stroke -- a feeling, a movement, a fantasy." Diana Vreeland, the legendary Vogue Editor-in-Chief in the 60's had outlandish and inventive words to describe what was going on around her. I'll never forget a fashion book recollecting American history and stating when John Glenn was orbiting the moon, Diana Vreeland was shaking things up at Vogue.

She worked for the fashion magazines Harper's Bazaar and Vogue and as a special consultant at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1964. She had a legendary "Why Don't You Column" and I thought it was time to pay tribute to "Diana Vreeland-isms." As one of my favorite editors of all time she had the suitable judgment to know that "There's only one very good life and that's the life you know you want and you make it yourself." She was the epitome of fabulous and with a dynamite personality you couldn't help but fall in love with her famous words. Why be boring? Diana Vreeland simply would not have allowed it. Her passion, wit and style genius speaks for itself.

I hope you enjoy Diana Vreeland-Isms as much as I do.

1 "Red is the great clarifier -- bright and revealing. I can't imagine becoming bored with red -- it would be like becoming bored with the person you love.

2 "Style -- all who have it share one thing: originality."

3 "You gotta have style. It helps you get up in the morning. It's a way of life. Without it you're nobody. And I'm not talking about a lot of clothes."

4 "It's not about the dress you wear, but it's about the life you lead in the dress."

5 "Too much good taste can be boring."

6 "The only real elegance is in the mind; if you've got that, the rest really comes from it."

7 "Pink is the navy blue of India."

8 "Elegance is innate. It has nothing to do with being well dressed. Elegance is refusal."

9 "The body must stay fit. Fit people like themselves much better."

10 "The bikini is the most important thing since the atom bomb."

11 * (See correction note.)

12 "The best thing about London is Paris."

13 "Unshined shoes are the end of civilization."

14 "I adore fringe."

15 "Oh, the 'Why Don't You,' column first appeared in 1936 [in Harper's Bazaar]. 'For a coat to put on after skiing, get yourself an Italian driver's, of red-orange lined in dark green.' That was one of them. 'Have a furry elk-kid trunk for the back of your car.' They were all very tried and true ideas, mind you. 'Knit yourself a little skullcap. Turn your old ermine coat into a bathrobe... 'Wash your blond child's hair in dead champagne, as they do in France.'"

16 "I have a terrible time remembering exactly when my birthday is. Age is totally boring..."

17 "I always wear my sweater back-to-front; it is so much more flattering."

18 "Is there anything beyond fashion?"

19 "Without emotion there is no beauty."

20 "I think your imagination is your reality."

21 "I adore artifice. I always have."

22 "The idea of beauty was changing. If you had a bump on your nose, it made no difference so long as you had a marvelous body and a good carriage. You held your head high and were a beauty... You knew how to water-ski, and how to take a jet plane in the morning, arrive anywhere and be anyone when you got off."

23 "Poor, darling fellow -- he died of food. He was killed by the dinner table."

24 "He knows the secrets of the sea, of the woods and of the vineyard. They are simple and natural worlds, beautiful and varied. He prefers them to the concrete and hard worlds built by other men. Ideas blossom very quickly, and then they are very painstakingly realized and evolved. His many harvests of thought go on and on, and the origins emanate from things as simple as a golden bluebell. Like a positive parent he gives love at the moment of creation, bowing to the beautiful things that he originates."

25 "Never fear being vulgar, just boring."

26 "I'm a great believer in vulgarity -- if it's got vitality. 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."

27 "Never worry about the facts. Just present an image to the public."

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

29 "I'm terrible on facts. But I always have an idea. If you have an idea, you're well ahead."

30 "From the time I got married at eighteen until the time I went to work in 1937, twelve years -- I read. Reed [Vreeland] and I would read things together out loud, which was marvelous. That was the charm of it -- when you've heard the word it means so much more than if you've only seen it."

31 "Everything is new. At least everything is new the first time around."

32 "Where would fashion be without literature?"

33 "Vogue always did stand for people's lives. I mean, a new dress doesn't get you anywhere; it's the life you're living in the dress, and the sort of life you had lived before, and what you will do in it later."

34 "You can't say 'My masseur told me this.' And then again, why can't you?"

35 "I'd like to have been Elizabeth the First. She was wonderful. She surrounded herself with poets and writers, lived at Hampton Court, and drove that little team of spotted ponies with long tails....She's at the top of my list. I loved the clothes. It took her four hours to dress -- we have a lot in common!"

36 "Blue jeans are the most beautiful things since the gondola."

37 "The West is boring itself to death! And talking itself to death!"

38 "There's only one thing in life, and that's the continual renewal of inspiration."

39 "Fashion is part of the daily air and it changes all the time, with all the events. You can even see the approaching of a revolution in clothes. You can see and feel everything in clothes."

40 "Balenciaga often said that women did not have to be perfect or beautiful to wear his clothes. When they wore his clothes, they became beautiful."

41 "One never knew what one was going to see at a Balenciaga opening. One fainted. It was possible to blow up and die."

42 "Prohibition. Insane idea. Try to keep me from taking a swallow of this tea and I'll drink the whole pot."

43 "You're really on a dead horse. Don't you love that phrase? A friend of mine and I once got out of a movie house across from Bloomingdale's, and we stepped into a taxi standing there at curbside. A guy leaned in the back window and said, 'Hey, you're on a dead horse. No driver.' We looked and sure enough there wasn't anybody in the front seat. Heaven knows where he was. In the movie house? Perhaps he was off having a hamburger."

44 "Don't think you were born too late. Everyone has that illusion. But you aren't. The only problem is if you think too late."

45 "I was always fascinated by the absurdities and luxuries and the snobbism of the world that fashion magazines showed. Of course, it's not for everyone...But I lived in that world, not only during my years in the magazines business but for years before, because I was always of that world -- at least in my imagination."

46 "Oh, but I think that thoughtfulness and manners are everything."

47 "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."

48 "I was the most economical thing that ever happened to the Hearst Corporation. Perhaps they loved me because I never knew how to get any money out of them."

49 "Fashion must be the most intoxicating release from the banality of the world."

50 "I think when you're young you should be a lot with yourself and your sufferings. Then one day you get out where the sun shines and the rain rains and the snow snows and it all comes together."

51 "The best time to leave a party is when the party's just beginning. There's no drink that kills except the drink that you didn't want to take, as the saying goes, and there's no hour that kills except the hour you stayed after you wanted to go home."

*CORRECTION: Item 11 has been removed from this post, as it was misattributed to Vreeland. The passage, discussed here, was actually written by Erin McKean.