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Empress of Fashion: A Life of Diana Vreeland Hardcover – December 4, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (December 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061691747
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061691744
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #319,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, December 2012: In several ways, Empress of Fashion is much like the woman it covers. Like Diana Vreeland (1903–1989)--the imperious, transformative editor of Vogue magazine, then the creator of the Costume Institute at New York’s Metropolitan Museum--British journalist Amanda Mackenzie Stuart’s biography lasts a long time. And while it isn’t always traditionally well formed, it is far deeper, smarter, and more important than it first appears. Who was Diana Vreeland? An arbiter of beauty who, by just about everyone’s admission, was not beautiful; a working woman before it was fashionable; a fiercely independent soul with an overriding, lifelong, bourgeois concern about money. And while Mackenzie Stuart might tread a tiny bit too heavily into the Freudian--Vreeland constantly tried to prove herself to her neglectful and often nasty mother, even years after the older woman's death--her deep research into everything from Vreeland’s childhood diaries to her social life (shimmying at Studio 54 in her 80s!) makes this bio, which has the approval of Vreeland’s estate, nothing short of--as Mrs. Vreeland herself might say--“divine.” --Sara Nelson

From Booklist

Stuart’s sympathetic biography has for its subject a fascinating figure whose life spanned almost the entire twentieth century, of which the author takes dizzying, delightful advantage—pre-Depression New York society life, between-the-world-wars Europe, and American dynamism of wartime and beyond—and thus provides a sturdy backdrop for the story of a legendary personage. Stuart reveals how Vreeland’s youthful struggles with acceptance from her mother, peers, and herself formed the Diana who, with a tendency to exaggerate and a flair for the exotic, irrevocably altered fashion journalism. Steadfast and headstrong, the delightfully quotable—to varying degrees of comprehension—Vreeland made leaping creative strides at Harper’s Bazaar only to often remake them at the more circulated but more conservative Vogue years later. The bright cast of photographers, models, and celebrities who filled Vreeland’s world adorn this cohesive, well-researched volume. The author acknowledges Lisa Immordino Vreeland, director of the 2012 documentary The Eye Has to Travel for her shared research. Readers will find the film and biography an exquisite pairing. --Annie Bostrom

More About the Author

Amanda Mackenzie Stuart worked as a screenwriter and independent film producer for a number of years before publishing her first biography, the critically acclaimed Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt: The Story of a Daughter and Mother in the Gilded Age. She lives in Oxford, England.

Customer Reviews

Diana Vreeland emerges triumphant!
Tim Vreeland
What a great time she lived in, what a great attitude and zest for life!
This book is a great read about a very interesting woman.
Dominique Crow

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
British author Amanda Mackenzie Stuart has produced a sublimely readable biography of Diana Vreeland. Vreeland, editor of Harper's Bazaar, Vogue (pre-Grace Mirabella and Anna Wintour), and exhibition creator at the Metropolitan Art Museum's Costume Institute, was one of the great figures in the fashion world in the 20th Century. Larger than life, Diana Vreeland cast pearls of wisdom in her "Why Don't You?" column in Bazaar in the Depression years of the 1930's and followed up as arbiter of fashion - both American and French - in the 1940's, 1950's, and 1960's.

Diana Dalziel Vreeland was born of a British father and an American mother, in 1903 in Paris. Her family moved to New York right before WW1, but Diana, with her Parisian birth, remained a Franco-phile her entire life. Because she was not a beautiful woman - her mother and younger sister were the beauties in the Dalziel family - Diana had to use her brains and creativity to get ahead in the world. She married an extremely handsome man - Thomas "Reed" Vreeland - and raised two sons with him. Reed Vreeland was a banker but Diana made the coin in the Vreeland household.

Intensely creative and ambitious, Diana went to work at Harper's Bazaar for editor Carmel Snow as a sort of editor-at-large, giving seemingly gratuitous advise to Bazaar readers like, "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?" Other suggestions like washing your blonde daughter's hair in champagne to keep its color may have seemed a bit out of step with the times, but somehow Vreeland's audacious writing to her middle-class readers was considered charming.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Tim Vreeland on January 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is actually a book about my mother, Diana Vreeland. I found it fascinating and learned so many things I never knew before about my family. It has been very carefully researched and revealed so much about my parents and grandparents that was new to me. Diana Vreeland herself is a totally original character who invented herself and for whom you never feel sorry but only admiration, right up to the end. Her life clearly defines well-known eras, the twenties, the forties, the sixties. Diana Vreeland emerges triumphant!
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By L. M. Keefer TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A Dean of American interior design - Albert Hadley - once said Diana Vreeland was the only genius he ever met. Capote concurred saying, "She's a genius but she's the kind of genius that very few people will ever recognize because you have to have genius yourself to recognize it. Otherwise you just think she's a rather foolish woman."

As the author of this book, Amanda McKenzie Stuart, wryly observes: "Capote, of course, parachuted out of an explanation by asserting that one had to be a genius to understand what he meant." Was Vreeland a creative genius? If yes, what was the nature of her genius? How did it manifest itself in her work? How has it impacted us, and what can we learn from her particular genius?

This riveting and brilliant biography explores those questions. "This book is for non-geniuses interested in the nature of Diana Vreeland's talent and achievements," writes Stuart.

It is fitting that Vreeland has a British biographer in Amanda Mackenzie Stuart. Stuart understands if it weren't for Vreeland's time in England from 1929-1935, Vreeland never would have had an entree into the fashion-publishing world. Vreeland's exposure to Europe then, and earlier, distinguished her and enriched her perception. It was in London that she was mentored by Elsie De Wolfe (Lady Mendl), was drawn by Cecil Beaton, took tea with Conde Nast, met Wallace Simpson and the King and Queen of England, and flew to Paris to be fitted by Coco Chanel. When Vreeland returned to America, her insights into fashionable European society were in demand. These contacts she made in Europe would support everything she accomplished in the future.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Glae R. Egoville on December 14, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a great book. The subject, Diana Vreeland,was a fascinating individual on many levels. The author is an elegant writer who captured her subject, the times and events perfectly. It is rare to read a biography where the author has accurately portrayed her subject while holding back any judgements or opinions on that subject. It gives the reader the benefit of the doubt that they are capable of arriving at an opinion (if necessary) and the "permission" to enjoy the story unencumbered by the attitudes or preconceived notions of the author.
Diana Vreeland was an original and an innovator and like another woman of her times, Julia Child, she changed women's lives forever.
I heartily recommend this excellent book to anyone but particularly to those readers who admire strong, iconoclastic survivors.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By I P on March 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is very well written but I think those into fashion will enjoy it more than those interested in Diana. I wanted to know more about Diana as a person, her personality, her interaction with others, her personal relationships, anecdotes and things like that. Alas, at times it felt like I was reading a collection of Vogue essays musing about colors, shapes and forms. It's too artsy to be engaging and my eyes would start to glaze over more than a few times. Diana met so many interesting and exciting people, who are only briefly mentioned here. Her husband, clearly someone very special (he captured her heart!) doesn't get much attention. Towards the middle the book focuses solely on fashion and artistic description of her work and ideas. A couple of times I got excited, like when her collaboration with Jackie Kennedy was mentioned but for the most part I kind of wanted for it to end. Three stars for beautiful writing. I wish the content was more solid.
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