An Ex-Vogue Editor’s Guide to Life

You have recently read that I’ve re-discovered the joys of my local library. Apart from psychopathic children and a few youths that were in desperate need of a haircut, my visit to the library was a rather excellent experience. I managed to find a biography about Diana Vreeland that I haven’t yet read which pleased me greatly. For those of you who don’t know who Diana Vreeland is, allow me to explain. She was the editor of Harper’s Bazaar magazine from 1936 to 1962. She then edited Vogue magazine from 1963 to 1971 before becoming The Queen of Fashion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which I believe was her official title. She’s all kinds of fabulous and one of my idols. She was very small, very thin, had long red fingernails, wore garish rouge on her cheeks and wasn’t considered at all conventionally attractive. She’s responsible for projecting the careers of hundreds of people including Barbara Streisand, Lauren Bacall, Lauren Hutton, Twiggy, Manolo Blahnik and Cher to name a few. I’ve read every book ever written about her and I thought it was high time I wrote a tribute article and passed on her pearls of wisdom. 

Always wear beautiful shoes

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‘Un-shined shoes are the end of civilization.’

Diane Vreeland believed that women should always wear beautiful shoes but that comfort was the key. She could never abide skyscraper heels because she said they made women walk funny. She preferred a small, sturdy heel or an elegant flat shoe in soft leather or luxurious fabrics.

Never do what people expect you to do

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“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.”

D.V loved to shock people. No one ever expected that the editor of Vogue would wear garish rouge on her cheeks and wear replicas of the same outfit every day but that’s precisely what she did. She also never ordered fancy lunches like the other staff at Vogue and she most often ate a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. She’d arrive in the office at midday and stay well into the evening. She was a big believer in a woman’s right to paddle her own canoe.

Be mysterious

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“I have a terrible time remembering exactly when my birthday is. Age is totally boring…”

Friends of Diana Vreeland often speak of her habit of bending the truth. Although she never out and out lied about anything she was an extraordinary exaggerator turning her Paris birth into a ‘romantic childhood, raised right on the river Seine’. She also never told anyone how old she was, so no one ever really knew.

Look to the future

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“…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.”

Diana believed that every one is emotionally tied to the era in which they were born. For her it was the early 1900s, when women changed clothing several times per day and her wealthy family would visit Paris several times a year for fittings and fabric shopping. Diana was at the height of her career when mass manufacturing of clothing became popular in the US and although she never really liked the concept of off-the-rack, she embraced the changes of the times because she knew that when it comes to new developments in her profession she could either sink or swim. 

Keep busy

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“To be contented—that’s for the cows.”

Unlike other women of her era D.V never sought the elusive ‘happiness’ that seemed to be the sole focus of the young ladies of the time. She never stopped moving, never sat still and worked right up until the day she died. 

Be friends with other women

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“The first rule that a geisha is taught, at the age of nine, is to be charming to other women…Every girl in the world should have geisha training.”

The fashion magazine world is often represented as being very catty but when Diana Vreeland was in charge, it was quite the opposite. Rather than seeing other women as competition in her field, she saw them as her champions. Many women where mentored by Vreeland and she had all the time in the world for other inquisitive, intelligent and interesting women such as herself. She was also a big believer in the varied packages of beauty often featuring models with disproportionate features because she disliked symmetry in faces.

Oh and just in case you didn’t know, my Why Don’t You…? section on the blog is a tribute to a column that Diana Vreeland wrote in Harper’s Bizaar in the 50s.

Do you have any idols? Women that you admire that just seemed to have their head screwed on right and rocked at life?

Images from

Carly is the founding editor of Smaggle which launched in 2007 back when blogging was weird. She has appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Cosmopolitan and Cleo magazines. Hoop earrings are totally her thing and she almost got run over by Myf Warhurst while out jogging one day.


  1. Such an interesting post. I actually didn’t know about Diana Vreeland, an interesting read.

    • Author
      Smaggle 2 years ago

      It’s so weird that not many people know about her because she edited high profile magazines for 40 years. She was also friends with Andy Warhol and discovered Manolo Blahnik!

  2. The Plumbette 2 years ago

    This is such a freakin awesome post and I didn’t know about Diana Vreeland and I studied a Diploma in Fashion Styling!! I love her advice and what a life she lived. Everything she did can be applied to women’s lives today.

    • Author
      Smaggle 2 years ago

      Whoa you studied and you’ve never heard of Diana Vreeland? She’s responsible for making models celebrities. She was the first editor to show models in the social pages and publish their names next their images.

      • The Plumbette 2 years ago

        There was a history component but it was more focused on designers of the time not the magazine editors which is unusual because magazines are what helped bring exposure to these designs.

  3. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella 2 years ago

    I love every single one of the quotes that you used! She was really quite right on a lot of things. I’m pretty sure that’s how my blush appears some days too 😛

    • Author
      Smaggle 2 years ago

      Ha! Mine too! I swear I had in my eyebrows the other day!

  4. chrisatpb 2 years ago

    I love a good biography – and am always on the lookout for recommendations. Will put this one on my list. I read a biography of Gladys Aylward called “The Small Woman”. Gladys wanted to be a missionary, but the church rejected her. Being a determined person, she ended up going to China by herself (in early1930s!). Her story is quite amazing. In the late 1950s they made movie about her, which was highly inaccurate and caused her embarrassment and distress – such a shame. (PS the book is not religious or preachy and well worth a look).

    • Author
      Smaggle 2 years ago

      I tend to favour biographies as a genre, I think fiction is too risky. This one sounds great, I’ll add it to the list.

  5. I need to read more about DV, love all these quotes. And I have always loved your ‘why don’t you’ columns

    • Author
      Smaggle 2 years ago

      She’s amazing, her life was extraodinary. She was offered her job by Conde Naste himself. Like WHO does that happen to?

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