Empress of Fashion
A Life of Diana Vreeland
By Amanda Mackenzie Stuart
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780061691744, 432pp.)
Publication Date: December 2012
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Born into a family of privilege, Diana Dalziel Vreeland grew up amid the fashionable of New York's Upper East Side. With a famously alluring mother and a classically beautiful sister, young Diana often felt isolated and unloved. But she was saved from her unhappy childhood by her audacious imagination as well as the grit and determination that would shape her extraordinary life.
Talent-spotted by legendary editor Carmel Snow in 1936, Diana joined Harper's Bazaar as a fashion editor, where her singular point of view and signature style quickly made her a major creative force in American fashion. Under her influence, American designers became chic during World War II, and with her pizzazz she inspired a raft of fashion talent on both sides of the Atlantic.
Passed over as successor to Snow, Diana did the unthinkable and accepted the title of editor-in-chief of Bazaar's archrival, Vogue. In Diana's Vogue, women were not only offered shockingly short skirts and silver hipster pants: even more radically, they were encouraged to embrace the free spirit of the sixties, to resist fashion orders from on high, and to use their own imaginations in re-creating themselves. When Women's Wear Daily asked Diana, "What is the function of a fashion magazine?" she replied, "To instruct when possible, to delight, to give pleasure, to bring to the reader what interests her. Everybody makes an appearance every day."
In 1971 Diana was fired from Vogue. She reluctantly accepted a new position for herself at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as Special Consultant to the Costume Institute, only to reveal a new dimension to her brilliance. Her first show, on the work of designer Cristobal Balenciaga, drew more than 150,000 people to the museum, and the show that followed smashed all the record books. The Metropolitan was stunned, and today's blockbuster exhibition was born.
In this first full-length biography of Diana Vreeland, Amanda Mackenzie Stuart portrays a visionary: a fearless innovator who inspired designers, models, photographers, and artists.
Vreeland reinvented the way we think about style and where we go to find it. As an editor, curator, and wit, Diana Vreeland made a lasting mark and remains an icon for generations of fashion lovers.
Amanda Mackenzie Stuart worked as a screenwriter and independent film producer for a number of years before publishing her first biography, the critically acclaimed Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt: The Story of a Daughter and Mother in the Gilded Age. She lives in Oxford, England.
Diana Vreeland had a troubled childhood; her mother often told her she was ugly. But she later became editor-in-chief of American Vogue and one of the country's most revered fashion icons. Her life is captured in the new biography, Empress of Fashion: A Life of Diana Vreeland. Host Michel Martin talks with author Amanda Mackenzie Stuart. More at NPR.org
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“An intelligent account of the life and accomplishments of legendary Vogue editor-in-chief, Diana Vreeland…A richly detailed and well-researched biography of a fashion icon”
“A tasty and erudite study of a complicated woman and her turbulent and colorful cultural life and times…Fashion icon Diana Vreeland and her psyche and cultural milieu are superbly deconstructed by Amanda Mackenzie Stuart.”
“A sympathetic biography…a cohesive, well-researched volume…Vreeland is a fascinating figure whose life spanned almost the entire twentieth century, of which the author takes dizzying, delightful advantage.”
“A painstakingly researched depiction of the imperious, mesmerizing virtuoso who wandered onto the fashion stage and stole the show...a biography of fabulous fact.”
-New York Daily News
“…an insightful new biography…Stuart uses Vreeland’s vulnerable roots to create a sympathetic portrait of Diana…Vreeland’s life story is oddly inspiring…Why don’t you give a copy of EMPRESS OF FASHION to your favorite fashionista this holiday season?”
“This is Diana Vreeland’s first full-length biography…A cottage industry has emerged around DV…This perhaps has as much to do with how much more seriously we take fashion nowadays as with how quaintly delicious we now find Vreeland’s borderline Dadaist sensibility...”
“With EMPRESS OF FASHION: A LIFE OF DIANA VREELAND Stuart does more than celebrate and bear witness. She seeks to explain, to parse, and to ultimately decipher the woman behind the strokes of red rouge and dyed-black hair… Stuart paints a nuanced portrait of a strange and tantalizing woman.”
“The first comprehensive bio of legendary magazine editor Diana Vreeland is a can’t-put-down read. Stuart separates facts from “faction” (Vreeland’s term for her dramatic exaggerations) and gets to the core of the fashion pioneer.”