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WWDVD: How Diana Vreeland Changed Fashion As We Know It

Updated: Jun 25, 2022

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"

We are at a sort of standstill in American fashion when it comes to new inspiration and mainstream representation of the innovative and novel. Sometimes, it merely feels as though we are satisfied with recycling the same trends that proved Earth-shattering a century or so prior – stuck in an endless loop of “fashionable” or “not fashionable,” with the qualifications changing by the day now, it seems. Influencer culture and fast fashion have concocted the perfect recipe for this lucrative cycle, leaving consumers with micro-trends that have a minimum ten-day expiration date. It is rare that we see truly ground-breaking fashion being incorporated into mainstream culture in a way that matters.

Similarly, it is just as rare that we hear of fresh, new minds leading the charge on these new trends. Editors like Anna Wintour have remained at the helm of American Vogue for as long as anyone can remember; her definition of style, while perhaps interesting at first, as time wears on, has created a stale landscape in terms of fashion innovation. When you look at US Vogue, you see largely the same big designers and the same models wearing it. The photo shoots have become, in a lot of cases, uninspired and rote, as if fashion is one thing and needs to remain that way. But, the most ironic aspect of Wintour’s editorial outlook is this: Diana Vreeland created these status quos only through innovation, and only through taking risks that were integral to the way forward in fashion. Vreeland, while not only being a tremendously sharp and savvy woman and visionary, was also able to completely revolutionize editorial fashion in her own way, but in a way that felt adaptable, accessible, and aspirational to the reader. It felt truly individual.

While watching The Eye Has To Travel, all I could think about was the state of fashion today, and the fear I observe modern editors displaying when it comes to every aspect of the editorial (model, makeup, clothing, photographer, settling, product recommendations, article novelty, etc.) In my opinion, magazines like US Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar have shrunken themselves down in the wake of celebrity and influencer culture; it’s not about the idea or concept anymore, it’s about the name selling it. What truly inspired me deeply about Vreeland’s approach to fashion was not just the novelty and creativity, but the absolute willingness to embrace features, dispositions, and people that were not status quo and make them so.

Diana Vreeland was truly an original thinker, yes, but not only this, a brave thinker. It takes guts to see an unknown Barbara Streisand and put her on the cover of Vogue, and even more guts knowing that you’re debuting a look that was not seen as model-esque. This was the instance that truly inspired me, and it did so because it is so much deeper than this initial thought of novel representation. She made girls who looked like her feel like they were the most beautiful girls in the world, magazine cover-worthy, and by doing so, revolutionized the model beauty standard for women everywhere. One moment that struck me during the documentary was the idea that “if you have a

gap in your teeth, make it bigger. If you’re too tall, be taller.” Vreeland wasn’t afraid of the off-beat and abnormal, but instead urged her models, and so, readers to embrace their insecurities and make it their strength. She brought new talent and fresh ideas to Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. She followed the youth-driven trends of the 50’s (string bikinis, despite older editors being outraged at the amount of skin showing), 60’s (British mini skirt and shift dress, she made “mod” as we know it) and so on. She didn’t shy away from the future, she dove full force into it. She knew that the fashion of the future is the only fashion that really mattered.

Not only this, she was able to make fashion accessible and aspirational to the viewer. Through mystifying storytelling and photo narratives, fashion started to become less about the actual clothes, and more about the aesthetic the person is trying to achieve. Her editorials not only provided fashion inspiration, but lifestyle and identity inspiration. She made fashion something worth studying as an art, because she reimagined what clothing can be. It is not just what you put on your body, it’s who you are.

Diana Vreeland was truly a one of a kind woman, but I won’t say that there will never be anyone like her again. Young talent with the same goals are out there waiting for their chance to have even a fraction of the platform someone like Wintour now has, and who is using it to promote mainstream fashion and ideas of beauty. We see brands like Fenty using truly diverse and interesting models to wear their clothes and lead campaigns, and even high fashion brands like Prada are starting to include more diverse looking models. In a time when people are so desperate for a valid voice to inspire them, we have to take more chances on unknown creatives with good ideas. As we can tell, we’d be nowhere without them.


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