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The bikini is the most important thing since the atom bomb – Diana Vreeland, 1946
This week marks the late, great Diana Vreeland’s birthday. Diana was a fashion columnist, editor-in-chief and all-round powerhouse. Born in Paris to an American socialite mother and British father, Diana and her family moved to the US at the beginning of the First World War.
Her varied career spanned six decades and many social changes – World War II, the advent of the sixties, the space age and feminism. After marrying banker Thomas Vreeland in 1924, the couple lived in London, where she ran a lingerie business in Mayfair, where her clients included Wallis Simpson. The Vreelands returned to New York in the mid-30s, where Diana joined Harpers Bazaar, writing the ‘Why Don’t You…?’ column, offering extravagant fashion and lifestyle tips. She later became fashion editor of the magazine, remaining there for 26 years.
Knowing she wasn’t a classic beauty, Diana emphasised her flaws instead of concealing them. She cropped her black hair and wore it sharply pulled back to show her severe profile, and emphasised her pale complexion with rouge and scarlet red nails (her favourite shade).
Diana advised Jacqueline Kennedy on dress during the 1960 presidential campaign, and introduced her to Oleg Cassini, who became Jackie’s chief designer.
She became editor-in-chief at Vogue in 1963, and celebrated the decade’s uniqueness, saying ‘If you had a bump on your nose, it made no difference, as long as you had a marvellous body and good carriage.’ While at Vogue, she discovered and photographed ‘youthquaker’ Edie Sedgwick. After leaving Vogue, she became special consultant to the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Diana was added to the International Best Dressed List (now run by Vanity Fair) in 1964. She died in 1989 at the age of 85.