Diana Vreeland: Our Favourite Quotes

A new documentary opens this weekend, exploring the life of this legendary fashion editor

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel
Diana Vreeland red apartment

Horst P. Horst

Diana Vreeland has an unimpeachable spot in the firmament of fashion editors. She spent 25 years at Harper’s Bazaar, where she was the fashion editor and became known for her monthly column Why Don’t You, as in “Why don’t you…wash your blond child’s hair in dead champagne, as they do in France.” Vreeland’s suggestions may have been fanciful, even ridiculous, but she lived her words. With an unabashed love for colour (she famously declared “pink is the navy blue of India”), she had her apartment decorated entirely in red.

In 1963, the Paris-born Vreeland became editor-in-chief of Vogue, where she felt the new zeitgeist. She is credited with coining the term “youthquake,” a phenomenon she brought into the pages of the magazine by featuring the likes of Twiggy and Edie Sedgwick, who Vreeland described as having “anthracite-black eyes and legs to swoon over.”

Vreeland had a striking gift for the bon mot, delivering her fanciful suggestions with an equal measure of bullshit-cutting edicts that have become axioms for living an unordinary life. To celebrate the release of a new documentary, Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, based on a book of the same name by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, we’ve compiled some of our favourite quotes from this legendary editor. If you’re not familiar with Vreeland, now’s the perfect time to get acquainted. The film opens Friday, October 19 at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox.

•    “Style–all who have it share one thing: originality.”
•    “Vulgarity is a very important ingredient in life. 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.”
•    “You gotta have style. It helps you get down the stairs. It helps you get up in the morning. It’s a way of life. Without it, you’re nobody. I’m not talking about lots of clothes.”
•    “A new dress doesn’t get you anywhere; it’s the life your living in the dress, and the sort of life you had lived before, and what you will do in it later.”
•    “Violet is a color I really like. But then I like almost every color. I have an eye for color, perhaps the most exceptional gift I have.”
•    “Red is the great clarifier – bright, cleansing, revealing. It makes all colors beautiful. I can’t imagine being bored with it – it would be like becoming tired of the person you love.”
•    “Balenciaga was incredible…I was madly infatuated with his clothes. His clothes were devastating. One fainted. One simply blew up and died.”
•    “Before even the technique, there is a dream. Chanel had it. The dream is everything.”
•    “Nothing gives the luxury of pearls. Please keep that in mind.” (To her staff at Vogue on the lack of pearls in the magazine)
•    “Then I said something I’ve always known. I don’t know where it came from. I didn’t get it from you, shall we say, and I didn’t make it up, but I’ve known it for all my life. ‘Elegance,’ I said, ‘is refusal.’”
•    “Power has got to be the most intoxicating thing in the world—and of all forms of power the most intoxicating is fame.”
•    “Fashion must be the most intoxicating release from the banality of the world.”
•    “I loathe narcissism, but I approve of vanity.”
•    “Everything is new. At least everything is new the first time around.”
•    “Naturally, I’ve always been mad about clothes. You don’t get born in Paris to forget about clothes for a minute.”
•    “But 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.”
•    “You know the greatest thing is passion, without it what have you got? I mean if you love someone you can love them as much as you can love them but if it isn’t a passion, it isn’t burning, it isn’t on fire, you haven’t lived.”
•    “I have a terrible time remembering exactly when my birthday is. Age is totally boring…”
•    “The only real elegance is in the mind; if you’ve got that, the rest really comes from it.”
•    “You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked ‘female.’”
•    “If it’s not there in fashion, fantasize it.”
•    “There’s only one very good life and that’s the life you know you want and you make it yourself.”

Watch Now:
The trailer for Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel