Yesterday, Neal and I had an opportunity to see an incredible documentary, Diana Vreeland: The Eye has to Travel at Dayton’s Neon Movies. We love seeing films at the Neon for several reasons. The most obvious being that they show some truly extraordinary films. They also have great popcorn.
For those of you that don’t know who Diana Vreeland was, she was a former fashion editor of Harper’s Bazaar, the editor in chief of Vogue and later she helped reinvent the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She was responsible for launching the careers of some the biggest names in fashion including Twiggy. This documentary included interviews with many of the people who worked with Diana including Cher and Anjelica Huston. It also included a great deal of material from a series of taped conversations she had with George Plimpton, who assisted her with writing her memoirs called DV. The conversations with her portray a woman with an incredible appetite for life that invokes the Auntie Mame character played by Rosalind Russell.
I absolutely fell in love with Diana while watching this movie. She had an incredible eye for style and was a very outspoken personality. One of the models they interviewed mentioned that Diana insisted on everything being perfect. She’d insist that even if a model would be wearing boots in a shoot, her toenails should be painted. Diana believed that she’d carry herself different even if part of her that couldn’t be seen wasn’t made up.
The other part of this documentary that really captured me was that Diana really invented what we think of as fashion reporting today. She believe in creating a story and including elements of fantasy. She influenced and helped develop photographers such as Richard Avedon, who incidentally was a major influence on me when I was studying photography in art school.
The documentary also noted that Jackie Kennedy often consulted with Diana for style tips. They read from a letter that Jackie Kennedy wrote to Diana while Jack Kennedy was running for President in which she asked for advice on what to wear to his inauguration should he win.
The visuals in this film were stunning as well. As someone with a deep interest in fashion and in particular, in the art of fashion this film as a gold mine. Diana Vreeland had been good friends with Coco Chanel so there were some wonderful photos of Chanel and of Chanel’s studio. I’ve always been an admirer of Balenciaga and so the photos of the Balenciaga exhibit Diana did at the Metropolitan Museum of Art were breathtaking. I wish I’d been able to experience that first hand!
It was also interesting that Diana was known to be a very difficult boss and very demanding. Her photo shoots at Vogue were amazing but very costly. The fashion editor character of Maggie Prescott in Funny Face was based on Diana Vreeland. Even though I know that the Miranda Priestly character from The Devil Wears Prada is based on Anna Wintour from Vogue, one has to wonder if future editors of Vogue weren’t modeling themselves after Diana in many ways. From this documentary, you could certainly see the similarity between the Miranda Priestly character and Diana Vreeland.
I also really enjoyed the scenes where they talked with Anjelica Huston about Diana Vreeland. I think Anjelica Huston is just an incredibly elegant woman and a very talented actress. I don’t know how many people realize that Anjelica Huston was a model before she was widely known as an actress. She looked fantastic in this film and was elegantly dressed in a simple white top with a white sweater and gold necklace. She had some very thoughtful things to say about how Diana Vreeland influenced feminism and created the image of free spirited, elegant women who did more than cook for their husbands. What is especially interesting is that Diana didn’t seem to see herself as a feminist. In one interview clip, the interviewer asked her if she was a feminist and Diana looked blankly at him and said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about. What is that?”
This is a really delightful film about a genuine mover and shaker and a natural artist in very way. If you have an opportunity to see this film, please do! I think even those that have no interest in fashion will find something delightful about Diana Vreeland and her philosophy and approach to life.