Review: Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel

Lisa Immordinio Vreeland’s hefty tome is more than just a gorgeously glossy coffee table book crammed with stunning images; the words are just as captivating, telling the story of one of the 20th century’s most important figures in the fashion world and beyond. Diana Vreeland was a visionary, taking the staid world of fashion magazines as it was in the 1930s and shaking it up, giving it the benefit of her unique perspective on life and style. During her many years at Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue she nutured the talents of countless photographers, writers and stylists, as well as introducing the world to an unknown model called Lauren Bacall.

Her quirks, eccentricities and character have become a blueprint for what we expect a fashion editor to be and she was indeed the model for the fash ed character in Funny Face (something she was most displeased about, apparently). She believed in presenting a world of beautiful, fantastical glamour to her readers, but one that wasn’t always immediately digestible or understandable. Odd juxtapositions, foreign landscapes, incongruous props all appeared in her pictures and she wasn’t afraid to push the readers out of their comfort zones, in fact things which seemed strange to them have been absorbed into our cultural landscape so completely that we take them for granted. She invented the phrases ‘youthquake’ and ‘the beautiful people’, was responsible for putting black models on the cover of fashion magazines for the first time and her excitement for life and exacting vision come across on every page of this book.

This is a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to know about the origins of the magazines we consume today. It’s facinating and humbling to see how much has gone before and in many ways how mags were more thrilling and stimulating in previous decades, and more formulaic today, apart from the few which Anna-Marie recently reviewed that are taking Vreeland’s approach and challenging their readers with something new. As D.V. would say, “Why don’t you…pick up a copy of The Gentlewoman or Oh Comeley magazine today?”

Diana Vreeland: The Eye has to Travel by by Lisa Immordinio Vreeland, £35, Abrams & Chronicle Books Ltd

The following two tabs change content below.


Co-founder and co-editor of Pamflet. Bookworm, bluestocking, Brown Owl. Loves Garconnes style, reading, writing, ranting and raving. Gin snob.
About phoebe:

Co-founder and co-editor of Pamflet. Bookworm, bluestocking, Brown Owl. Loves Garconnes style, reading, writing, ranting and raving. Gin snob.

Find all posts by phoebe


"Vogue loves...Indie mags: Hogarthian graphics and modern feminism from Pamflet"

"It makes me feel less despair to know that somewhere deep inside the Jordanization of modern Britain there are still a few angry feminists out there." Zadie Smith

"Pamflet is the photocopy-quality soapbox for two young, sarky post-feminists from London who want women’s rights and the right to wear pretty things, and want it, like, yesterday." Sunday Times Style

"They’re funny and honest and write about fashion with feminism so I’m obviously all over it." Tavi