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Excerpt from Empress of Fashion: A life of Diana Vreeland


As editor in chief Diana felt – and was initially allowed to feel – that she had the freedom to take everything she had ever learned about becoming the Girl, everything of beauty, every fantasy that had ever caught her inner eye, and place it all at the reader’s disposal. As the new editor in chief she ranged backward and forward across half a century of experience. The creative relationship between film actress Audrey Hepburn and the couturier Hubert de Givenchy blazed with the same inspiration that flew between the women of style and their couturiers in the 1930s.

“What fires his imagination races hers; the message he cuts into cloth she beams to the world with the special wit and stylishness of a great star in a role that suits her to perfection.”

“Isn’t that life, darling?”

“You pool all the things of your childhood, and then you become a woman…and you’ve got it all together on your own. But all the while, you’re developing every moment. You develop every moment of your life. Don’t you think that’s how it is?”

To be herself, a woman had to allow herself to dream – dreaming of becoming the heroine of her own life. This was the theme to which Diana would return over and over again throughout her time at Vogue; and soon she took the reins, she extended the idea of becoming a heroine to women who were not born beautiful and did not conform to contemporary ideas of prettiness.

By 1964, Diana was actively challenging conventional American ideas of female beauty, asking Vogue’s readers to look instead at women with vital, distinctive, alluring faces. On August 1st, 1964 Diana turned over most of the magazines to two new prototypes, the “Chicerino” and the “Funny Girl”. The “Chicerino” was “full of zest of doing things”. She had “the vividly personal quality” of a girl who liked herself, who expected the best of herself and the best of everything, a girl with a “star quality”. As Diana put it:

“The image she presents is of her own, intensely personal manufacture – a projected vision of herself, nourished by intuition, by ego, and by single-minded clarity of her thinking. Her presentation is perfect: she comes in a blaze of certainty, engages all interest, sustains it, provokes. Unhesitatingly she chooses what’s good for her – the gesture, the look that conveys her mood, her quality, her special dash. No other fashion counts..the Chicerino is every country’s phenomenon: she is the girl who owns the world, makes it swing..the girl who holds onto her personality with both hands and projects it with style.”

“There’s only one thing in life – and that’s the continual renewal of inspiration.”


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