I walked into the screening of Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel knowing shamefully little more than Vreeland’s name. Within the first ten minutes of the documentary she had won me over with her humour and candor, and by the end I was in absolute awe of her tremendous contribution to fashion and her larger-than-life personality. The Eye Has to Travel takes us through the remarkable life and work of Vreeland as a columnist and fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar from 1937 to 1962, as editor-in-chief of Vogue from 1963 to 1971, and later as a consultant to the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
As the author of the Harper’z Bazaar column “Why Don’t You,” Vreeland offered lifestyle suggestions that encouraged readers to be more extravagant, creative, bold – a little less ordinary. Her singular perspective of the world revealed itself in such tips as, “Why don’t you . . . paint a map of the world on all four walls of your boys’ nursery so they won’t grow up with a provincial point of view?” or “Why don’t you . . . wear violet velvet mittens with everything?”
As Fashion Editor at Harper’s Bazaar and Editor-in-Chief of Vogue, Vreeland’s vision was no less extravagant or original than her suggestions for “Why Don’t You.” She brought clothes to life by employing compelling narratives and stunning locales in her fashion editorials, and in collaboration with renowned photographers such as Richard Avedon she created iconic images for Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. Not only did Vreeland change the way that people looked at clothes, but she also transformed people’s perceptions of so-called human physical imperfections into features that were beautiful and worthy of celebration, such as a prominent nose or a gap between one’s two front teeth. Expanding western culture’s rigid and narrow definition of beauty is arguably Vreeland’s most significant achievement.
Don’t miss Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto.