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The Quotable Diana Vreeland

The editor was articulate and witty, with an unusual gift for the unexpected, striking aphorism. Here, a few of her observations.

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Diana Vreeland

Diana Vreeland was articulate and witty, with an unusual gift for the unexpected, striking aphorism (“Pink is the navy blue of India”; “Blue jeans are the most beautiful things since the gondola”; Coco Chanel “had the expression of a baby bull dressed like a Russian sailor”; “As you know, a well-kept invalid lasts forever.”)

She said, in creating a magazine or a museum show, “I’m looking for something else. I’m looking for the suggestion of something I’ve never seen.”

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Here, a few of her observations, including some she expressed exclusively to WWD:


• On an afterlife: “Heaven will be no paper, no pencils. Just surfing through the clouds.”

• On Brigitte Bardot: “She was the creature of the Fifties. She prepared the way for the Sixties and made the Sixties alluring rather than just ugly. Her lips made Mick Jagger’s lips possible.”

• On Marilyn Monroe: “She was a geisha. She was born to give pleasure, spent her whole life giving it — and knew no other way.”

• On Elsa Maxwell: “She had the best taste in people. She feared nothing — particularly poverty….She brought the weary, tired Europeans together in their own drawing rooms — a fat lady from San Francisco with a sense of fun.”

• On China: Vreeland called it “a land that is incredibly violent, poetic, beautiful,” adding, “It is vast, with great mountains, orchards, gardens, palaces…unceasing wonders. It is ravishing.”

• On the Sixties: “The girls in their white stockings, the boys carrying flowers. It was so beautiful. Then all gone in a puff of smoke. You can’t live in a dream forever.”

• On Budapest: “The animals were everything. We’d have lunch at the zoo there, which was very charming because the animals were allowed to roam free — not the meat-eating animals, but the pretty, delicious ones, who never ate off your plate like someone’s badly brought-up dogs.”

• On the 18th-century woman: “France is always the center of fashion and a woman’s interest.” The fashion was “very obviously feminine,” was “one thing with many variations — the pannier,” the bent-reed structure covered with fabric that jutted out from the hips. Vreeland also called it the “period of la belle poitrine, the beautiful breast…with the rise of wigs, everything went to their heads, and then they went to the guillotine.”

• On her show, “Glory of Russian Costume”: A Russian commissioner of the arts said to me, ‘You seem very interested in palaces, jewelry, imperial carriages, the thrones of the Tsars.’ But of course I was! Thank God. I saw the splendor and grandeur of great societies, which I believed in because they existed, because they were legitimate.”

• On jewelry: “I’m not a jewelry person for a very good reason: I can’t afford it. And I don’t know anything about it as an investment. But I do think jewels, not jewelry, are very wonderful and extraordinary. I also wouldn’t want only one jewel. I’d want a number…the biggest and the best quality.

• “I adore pearls. They’re very remarkable. Very few people in this decade have ever seen real pearls.”

• On women’s liberation: “How liberated can you get? I remember my grandmother very well. She was an impossible, extraordinary woman. If anyone was liberated, she was.”

• On New York theater: “It used to be the greatest event. I’d go with my husband. He was beautifully dressed; I was beautifully dressed. We walked in. The lights went out; the stage lights went on. That was paradise. That was going to the theater.”

• On the sale of her costume jewelry: “Oh, they’ll say, ‘I guess she liked a lot of decoration.’ ”

• On work: “I love working people; I love the Metropolitan Museum; I loved Vogue; I loved Harper’s Bazaar. I love all the clash and smash and variety and other people’s views and their demands, and not agreeing with them. I love all the tough treatment I’ve been given.”

• On herself: “I need a lot of fanfare, no question about it.”