“My grandmother was somebody who inspired a lot of creative people to do their best work," Alexander Vreeland, grandson of the late Vogue editor-in-chief Diana Vreeland, tells The Daily Beast.
Now, he has compiled more than 300 pages of memos written by Vreeland during her tenure at Vogue from 1963 to 1971 -- which will be published in a new book, Memos: The Vogue Years, out this week. From industry colleagues to friends -- including Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, and Halston Frowick -- Vreeland's memos are personal and to the point; her way of sending direction, advice, and admiration pre-text message and e-mail. Vreeland's memos were all dictated, Alexander says. "When you read them, you hear her voice. It’s a different language than when one writes." And it's true: the written words resonante with feeling. From writing to Cristóbal Balenciaga when his namesake fashion house closed in 1968 to congratulating SI Newhouse when he took over as Vogue’s publisher, to constantly demanding more freckles, more pearls, and more color in her pages -- it's easy to imagine the sincerity, direction, and at times, humor, that came from Vreeland's mouth.
Vreeland died of a heart attack in 1989 at the age of 85. "She was so eloquent," Alexander says, remembering his grandmother. "There’s this whole genre today of how people write about fashion. She was doing that 60 years ago. I was struck with how precise she was in her word, how clear she was in her vision." See highlights from the book below.
1) “The hottest thing in the world is to wear pants with stockings.”
2) “'A Floppy Brim’ -- nobody in their right mind would wear a floppy brim as it would cause exactly the disturbance that a romantic woman wouldn’t want to make.”
3) “I really don’t think we ought to carry on with these awful looking curls -- they do nothing for the clothes and nothing for the girl -- it all gets depressing. I assure you this association with people with broken hair, no hairdresser, no money, no vitality -- and the will to live is none.”
4) “Please watch the beret taken from last season’s knitted beret of Saint Laurent taken from Bonnie & Clyde. It really is appalling and does nothing for any girl’s face.”
5) “Old age is no longer an achievement because if others are aware of it you are only the loser, you become a responsibility and your end is good riddance as you are no longer a useful citizen -- clothes, fashion, and appearance are part of present day life -- no one looks for perfections as it is static, but everyone expects an amusing effort, well planned and thought through, and carefully maintained.”
6) “I think that we can consider that the gypsy look has now gotten into the bloodstream of most people who are interested in fashion. The girls and boys of today are really gypsies. They are not competitive. They amuse themselves in their own way and believe in the physical beauty of each other.”
7) “When fashion turns over it brings in little tiny creaks and cracks. This is the fascination and that is where you have to watch every step.”
8) “Have just been talking to [Irving] Penn about tulips… though he called me the moment they arrived, he didn’t tell me that they were the plain kind -- I suppose you call cottage tulip -- we never really had any interest in these.. there is no point about being dramatic about tulips unless the flowers themselves are dramatic.”
9) “In America there is the terrific kick for old, old movies, as seen by very young, young, bad designers, they not knowing that when these movies were made no women did their hair in such an ordinary way and that was just as elegant then as now and naturally all is relative. How boring to copy the past -- with all the magnificence of today and tomorrow.”
10) “I sincerely believe that energy grows from itself and the more energy you expand the more you create within yourself. I also believe that energy is habit -- which can be created quite easily. In other words, use your energy and more energy flows and then it is very hard to stop it -- as if one would ever want to!”
11) “Today’s life, rhythm, etc. suits me perfectly... I believe in all natural people and, if in some way through this magazine I reach people in many countries, South America and behind the Iron Curtain, South Asia, etc. and give them an attractive feeling of being a woman, that is a great and fine feeling for me.”
12) “Within every girl is the possibility of arousing emotion. Without emotion there is no beauty.”
13) “The way to judge a good hand is that the fingers are the same size at the tip as where they come out of the hand itself. There is nothing worse than a hand with tapering fingers. Also, nails that come out beyond the tip of the finger itself are so very démodée.”
14) “The future holds a golden world. It will be for beauty; it will be for intelligent productiveness.”