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Empress of Fashion: A Life of Diana Vreeland

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  531 ratings  ·  69 reviews
Diane von Furstenberg once called Diana Vreeland a "beacon of fashion for the twentieth century." Now, in this definitive biography by Amanda Mackenzie Stuart, is the story of the iconic fashion editor as you've never seen her before. From her career at the helms of Harper's Bazaar and Vogue, to her reign as consultant to the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of ...more
Hardcover, 419 pages
Published December 4th 2012 by Harper
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3.81  · 
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 ·  531 ratings  ·  69 reviews

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Jan 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
I'm throwing in the towel on this one (about a third of the way in). Not sure what the problem is. I'm really into fashion and its history, and the book is well-researched and seems thorough, but it's not grabbing me. Feels like a slog. There are too many other books staring at me from the shelf that seem like they will be time better spent. Maybe, ultimately, I just don't like Ms. Vreeland enough to hang out with her this long? Not sure. Oh well.
Jun 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
Strangely, although filled w descriptions of the 'fashion' world reads like a sort of romance (I guess I mean that in a good way) or an Edith Warton novel - I finally got bored. This woman does not have much 'depth' - my take...but lots of emotion (and I don't mean that in a good way).
Celia Montgomery
May 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
The perfect companion to Vreeland's autobiography, which I read first. Vreeland's story becomes stronger when one learns that large parts of it are pure fiction. Self invention as art. Although Vreeland's strongest work was definitely reflected in her magazine features and in her spectacular MET exhibitions, her life story is an equally remarkable invention. When faced with pain (a mother's rejection, a husband's infidelity) Vreeland simply made up a new story to erase the one she couldn't contr ...more
Mar 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly fascinating. I expected a scandal-ridden tell-all biography about the horrors of the fashion industry, so I picked it up to flip through for the good bits. I ended up getting completely swept up in the history of a wholly self-made woman who, love her or hate her (many people seem to have felt one way or the other about her - no one who met her could be indifferent), had a tremendous cultural influence on fashion, photography, and women for fifty years. AND she was a vibrant, working ...more
Andrea Anderson
Feb 28, 2013 rated it liked it
a weak 3 stars. just ok. took me *forever* to get through it. subject matter was excellent, but it got bogged down on the details & repetition. almost felt like i was reading a textbook at times. would have liked more pics, also.
Apr 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
she is an interesting character with a workaholic personality and a peculiar ability to ignore the personal flaws in those closest to her. however, the book is at least 100 pages too long.
Marie Z. Johansen
Dec 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Excellent! As I read this book I had flash backs to the movie and book "The Devil Wears Prada". I also wondered if I could have worked for Ms. Vreeland. Not that this matters a whit! I did have some compassion for those of her underlings who had a difficult time though.

Diana Vreeland was the 'ne plus ultra' of fashion and society. She was brilliant, a bit autocratic (IMHO) and an act that no one could follow. What an amazing woman and what history she experienced in her life.

As well as being a
Sep 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Not a lot of new information which was disappointing.
Dec 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography, fashion
Didn't finish this one-surprisingly dry,considering the subject. Her autobio is way more entertaining, even though her facts are -stretchy.
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was another book I've been meaning to read for quite some time, but the reading moment just wasn't there...until now. Whether you love or hate Diana Vreeland, you must admit she was a larger than life figure. This clearly comes across in this engaging biography.
Her colorful quotes are often insightful. For example, " must wish for the most ravishing thing of beauty and quality because it's there to be had, even now." And,"I'm looking for something else. I'm looking for the suggestion
LAPL Reads
Jan 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
She was not a pretty child, but it was stingingly cruel for Diana Dalziel’s mother to tell the young girl that she was ugly. The mother and sister were beauties, and the contrast with young Diana was even more obvious. After a miserable childhood, the teenaged Diana, or De-e-e-e-ahna as she said it was to be pronounced, took charge of her own life and created The Girl. After that there was no stopping this jolie laide who went on to become Diana Vreeland, a major power broker behind twentieth ce ...more
Carmen Blakely
Feb 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Diana Vreeland's life is neatly divided into three acts: her personal life, her career in fashion magazines and the Costume Institute of the Met.

The first part of the book encompasses, her childhood, with a less than stellar mother, her beloved father, and a husband she adored, but who could never quite succeed in business ( "Reed was always on the verge on making a million dollars"), thus unlike her peers from the elite of NYC, she needed to actually earn a living. And luckily for all us she w
Stacey Jones
Jun 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought this book was absolutely amazing. I was riveted to every page and couldn't stop talking about it; I recommended it to everyone who would listen, including other tourists at breakfast at our B&B in Florence. This book is a fascinating study, not only of a woman who influences all of us to this day, but of the time she lived in. She seemed to have a constant conversation with the zeitgeist of western culture in the 20th century, and what she did with this was astounding.

Mackenzie St
Terri Durling
Sep 25, 2014 rated it liked it
I have been a clothes horse for most of my life and am crazy for anything related to fashion - no matter what venue. Diana Vreeland was a very interesting character and hit her stride when she joined "Harper's Bazaar" as a fashion editor in 1936. She never stopped and moved on to become editor-in-chief for Vogue until 1971. She reinvented herself after she was fired from Vogue and, at an age when most of us would have long retired, she accepted a position at Special Consultant to the Costume Ins ...more
Jan 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, fashion
Diana Vreeland was a larger than life personality, creative, outgoing, inspirational to many and frustrating and difficult and threatening to others and it was fascinating to read about the life and steps she took that brought her to the pinnacle of the fashion world.

I may have come across her name in past readings about the fashion world but before this book I never really knew anything about her or her impact in fashion and pop culture of her time, even on the culture of today 19s world. The
Dec 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the best biographies that I have read. It is not a prerequisite to be a "fashionista" to enjoy the book (I am not one). At times, I have been guilty of dismissing fashion as trivial or without much social relevance. I stand corrected, and this books helps to explain why. In essence, what we wear is a projection of our intimate self to the world and Ms. Stuart does an excellent job of informing us how Diana Vreeland was a catalyst to help is see this.

The book is well-balanced, well
Dec 31, 2012 rated it liked it
Before the Devil wore Prada, she wore Balenciaga and was known as DV, the divine Diana Vreeland. With little formal education, but with plenty of style and pizazz, Ms. Vreeland moved from society wife to fashion editor of Harper's Bazaar to Editor-in-Chief of Vogue to curator of the Costume Institute at the4 Metropolitan Museum of Art. Along the way she advanced the careers of designers, photographers & fashion models and changed the way Americans and, perhaps the world, looked at fashion.

Jul 28, 2014 rated it liked it
This is the story of the iconic fashion editor, Diana Vreeland, from her career at Harper's Bazaar and Vogue to her reign as consultant to the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She takes us with her to a social scene including Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta, Lauren Bacall, Penelope Tree, Lauren Hutton, Andy Warhol, Mick and Bianca Jagger, and the Kennedys. A fascinating expose' of an amazing lady. Interesting and intri ...more
May 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Diana Vreeland has been a woman that I admire for quite some time. When I moved to New York, there were two people that I wanted to meet, Mrs. Vreeland and Andy Warhol. Unfortunately, it didn't happen, but my fascination with the two of them continues.

This book was well researched and there were numerous references that I wrote down to follow up.
As a result, I now have even more books on my Wish List!

Mrs. Vreeland remained a creative force in the world of fashion until her death. She was a true
Kellie Ramsey
Jan 22, 2014 rated it liked it
As a teen I loved Edith Head, Ralph Lauren and I devoured Vogues and Bazaars that my aunt who worked in the fashion industry brought home for me. Vreeland's influence ran through these fashion pages. She brought the Costume institute to The Met and I would excitedly view the exhibits. This biography gives a nice look behind the scenes of the NY high life, fashion and how orindary people with inordinate creativity and beget whole new paradigms. You don't have to be a "fashionista," to enjoy this ...more
Debby  Debryana
Jun 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would like to give an appreciation to the author that has beautifully narrated the life story of Diana Vreeland. I shed some tears when I read the sentence about Mrs. Vreeland's death; It feels like hearing a devastating news about a person that I have know all of my life. I would recommend this book to people who are interested in fashion industry because –besides a peek into Mrs. Vreeland's life and career– this book gives insights about how the magazines, political situations, and the fashi ...more
Dec 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read two Diana Vreeland bios back to back, which made for some interesting repetition between the two titles. Nevertheless, this was a fascinating book. What I liked best about it was that the author put her ideas and iconoclasm into context, so you had a fuller understanding of just why she was so unusual and such a pioneer in the the field of fashion. The book also served a bit as a Fashion 101 of the 20th century, and showed how fashion reflects, embodies, and/or reacts to larger trends and ...more
Jul 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Surprisingly fascinating biography of former Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. Through her story you learn the history of American fashion, and particularly American sportswear, coming into its own and how Vogue went from the stodgy fashion magazine for society mothers to a cutting edge capsule of youth and couture. The first chapters on her childhood were wearing, but it was delightful to get to know the woman behind the column "Why Don't You?" and how she pushed women to go a little farther and tak ...more
A.A. Patawaran
Mar 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I am mad, mad, mad about this book, just as I am mad about Diana Vreeland. Not only is it about her life, but about the world in which her life was shaped, that fabulous world, from the '20s to the '80s, where much of what we are now, much of what we wear now took its cues. It's a great read and I believe it is the first true biographical sketch on Vreeland. Please read my review, "D.V.Nation" on
Oct 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
Meh. I had fun revisiting the fashion world of the 60s and 70s, but found DV tiresome, overall. Her inclination to embellish, embroider, and just plain make stuff up wears everyone down. I did applaud her ability to go with her gut, which is the part of her story I do enjoy. She was a strange, self-imagined creature of a make believe world.

It's not a bad read, and if you like fashion history, this will deliver enough color and stories to make it worth your time.
Michele Weiner
Jan 31, 2013 rated it liked it
I'm always interested in what makes people tick, and this biography has, for my taste, too little of Diana's life and times, and too much of her ridiculously overwrought prose for her magazines. An admirable lady with lots of quirks and eccentricities that ought to make the book more fascinating, but somehow gets lost in descriptions of silly fashion stuff. And I love fashion and museums of fashion. I would have loved her Met exhibits, I'm sure.
Jun 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio-autobio
This book was well-written and interesting. I battled at points with how I felt about Vreeland, but came to appreciate her failings and applaud her body of work and creative joie-de-vivre. She was a force of nature and truly constructed her life in the manner that she saw as most interesting. I am not a fashionista, by any means, but really found this slice of fashion history fascinating to read. I wish I had gone to one of her dinner parties. I'm sure it would have been a FABULOUS time!
Jun 09, 2016 rated it it was ok
it was definitely interesting to hear what shaped Diana Vreeland and the influence she had on fashion that lasts even today. but the book was a little long for my attention-span on the subject and also made me super angry at the manipulation by the fashion industry. I may never read another fashion magazine again ...
Jun 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
fascinating woman. I'm sure i'd never have wanted to work for her or even pal around, but she embodies the triumph of the imagination, as many of the people interviewed for this book pointed out. If you are interested in fashion, this is well worth your time.
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“In this instance, however, the answer was quite straightforward: "Men want women beautiful, romantic... birds of paradise instead of hurrying brown hens," said Bazaar in October 1945. As families were reestablished, there was a move toward a celebratory fashion of fecundity, with closer-fitting waists and rounder hips.” 0 likes
“not like her grandmother at all. This was a family of volcanic emotions; in another instance of the strong feelings that convulsed it, Weir named her house in Katonah Villa Diana. After the miserable summer of 1917, Diana spent vacations with her grandmother while Emily and Alexandra went back out West. Her grandmother’s household at Katonah provided another source of comfort in the farm animals, especially the horses, which did not have the power to hurt, unlike human beings. “My grandmother had a huge farm horse in the country outside of Katonah. . . . After lunch I’d run off, get on the horse. . . . I’d sit there all afternoon, perfectly happy. It would get hot, the flies would buzz. . . . That’s all I wanted—just to be with the steam and the smell of that divine horse. Horses smell much better than people—I can tell you that.” In” 0 likes
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