Doyenne of fashion and style Diana Vreeland was first brought to my attention by a good friend early one evening in the early 1990s at the Time Café in New York City. We were six, let’s say eight, at the table, and Jeff said he didn’t think my allure was in beauty but in style; I looked like Diana Vreeland. I had just started a post-grad at the nearby Tisch School of the Arts on Broadway, never heard about Diana Vreeland and had no clue about the vastness of compliment that I’d just been paid. Like a psychotic penguin from Madagascar, I kept smiling yet seething with humiliation within, having just been publicly labelled as not-beautiful, and retaliated later the same evening with a mean remark that hurt and puzzled my friend.
Nowadays I know that resembling Diana Vreeland is worth far more than being called beautiful. [Thanks Jeff.] She had an uncanny feel for the next big thing, and kept saying marvelously accurate one liners such as,
“Pink is the navy blue of India.” “Never fear being vulgar, just boring.”
“You don’t have to be born beautiful to be wildly attractive.”
So when new friends ask me what to wear for the Swedish pre-Christmas party that we host every year on the third Advent Sunday, I think of Ms. Vreeland’s advice:
“Too much good taste can be boring. A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika.”
Don’t fear pairing granny’s hand knitted Christmas sweater with a vintage Herve Leger bandage dress. Just remember wearing the sweater back to front: “It is so much more flattering that way”, as Diana said.
Had Ms. Vreeland lived, she would have come up with a simultaneously wise and chic commentary on these day’s “smart is the new green“. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’d have said: “Darling, you got it the wrong way around. Like women’s sweaters: wearing them back to front looks does so much more for women than wearing them the way they were designed to.”
“Give ideas away. Under every idea there is a new idea waiting to be born.”
— Diana Vreeland (Paris 1903-NYC 1989)
Information on the 2011 “The Eye Has To Travel” documentary on Diana Vreeland, style advisor to Jackie Kennedy Onassis and style guru of the 20th century whom Vogue dared to fire, is here; a YouTube clip miraculously uncensored by GEMA in Germany can be found here.