Diana Vreeland’s Allure

10 Nov

What is exactly is allure? Perhaps no person has ever been more interested in and fascinated by the definition of the word, or the illusive, enticing qualities associated with it, than the late, great, and legendary Diana Vreeland, often referred to as “the Empress of Style” or, more alluringly, simply as D.V..


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In 1980, Vreeland, an editor at Harper’s Bazaar from 1937 to 1962 and the editor-in-chief of American Vogue from 1963 to 1971, authored, with the writer and Warhol protégé Christopher Hemphill, and on the suggestion of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, a now classic study of the subject. Out of print for years, the book Allure, has just been excellently reissued in a new edition by Chronicle books, with a foreword by designer Marc Jacobs.

“For me allure is appeal. It’s something you’re drawn to, something that you can’t look away from. It’s something that offers magnetic, almost visual stimulation—in both fashion and life,” writes Jacobs. “And I think that, on a certain level, my concept of allure is quite similar to Diana Vreeland’s. Though in a manner we’re quite different—at the base of both what I do and what she did is this absolute passion for the attraction and allure of certain people, places and things. It motivates and drives us”.

What prompted Vreeland to collaborate with Hemphill on Allure was her extreme love of and obsession with fashion and her desire to identify and pinpoint that certain, as she might have said herself, unique je ne sais quoi of those making fashion and the chic demimonde of those involved in and glamorously orbiting around it. Proof? Allure features a stunningly eclectic array of black and white images by photographers such as Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Man Ray, Horst, Irving Penn, and Edward Steichen of some of the 20th century’s most famous artists, performers, literary and social figures, style icons, and movie stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Gertrude Stein, Maria Callas, Mick Jagger, Brigitte Bardot, Greta Garbo, Rudolf Nureyev, Queen Mary, the Duchess of Windsor and Josephine Baker, among others. Definitely a seductively attractive in-crowd, if there ever was one.

“This book isn’t about the past. I’m looking for something else”, Vreeland, who became a consultant to the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art after being fired from Vogue, writes in one of her charmingly theatrical and over-the-top essays for the book. “I’m looking for the suggestion…of something I’ve never seen”. Wrote Hemphill in 1980, “Mrs Vreeland remains consistent even when she contradicts herself. Just before going to press, she offers a new definition of allure. ‘Now I think it’s something around you,’ she said, ‘like a perfume or like a scent. It’s like memory…it pervades.’ ” So does the everlasting allure of Diana Vreeland.
Allure by Diana Vreeland, Foreword by Marc Jacobs, is published by Chronicle books

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