17/09/2012

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel

WARNING: The following post is a review of a documentary about Diana Vreeland and if you have no interest in documentaries, fashion or even worse, are one of those snobby people who think they're above anyone who actually gives a shit about how they look, you may as well just skip this. I'm sure there's something about the Justice League movie on Slash Film you can read.

Still there? Good, then I'll begin. Long before Anna Wintour there was Diana Vreeland; a well-travelled socialite who was handed a job at Harper's Bazaar in 1937 because Carmel Snow (add an 'a' and you've got an amazing stripper name) like the way she danced, dressed and the cut of her jib in general. After a few years fannying about with a much-lampooned column she was promoted to fashion editor, but what she did would redefine the position and turn it into what we know now.

She picked models (including Lauren Bacall) and photographers and styled shoots in a way that hadn't been seen before because magazines were primarily about society women telling other society women what hat to wear and how to cook a pie. Vreeland had spent twenty years going from Paris to New York to London to Paris again and while she never had any education or training, (a subject that's barely touched on and when it is, she's unimpressed) she knew clothes and about the world, and after being passed on for a promotion and pay raise at Harper's she became editor of Vogue in 1962.
Naturally the film is full of archive fashion shoots and talking heads more than happy to go on and on about how great she was and that's all well and good, but I wanted more. Vreeland created her own air of fabulousness because her pretty but mean socialite mother continuously reminded her of her lack of beauty; abuse that not only formed her views on style but her insistence on pushing models faults and making "it the most beautiful thing about them". Similarly we're talking about a woman who chose to get up and go to work in the morning in a time when the only women who had a job were poor ones.

Even though she occasionally made Miranda Priestley look like the world's nicest boss her character and views are fascinating and it's just disappointing that the film never looks at anything other than her career. It may be what defined her but after 70 minutes of looking at pictures and hearing former models talk it all gets a bit samey. Still, the fact that you're reading this means you probably enjoy a film about nothing but clothes and in that respect, it's unmissable.