Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Dianatics: The Wit and Wisdom of Mrs. Vreeland

From Cecil Beaton’s The Glass of Fashion:

The terms of Mrs. Vreeland’s human appeal are liberally peppered with an astonishing slang. One would think that she spent hours in ambiguous Times Square drugstores or Fifty-second Street night clubs, absorbing the highly coloured range of pimentoed expressions that are an integral part of her linguistic repertoire. Nor is her slang ever out of date. She will innovate expressions long before they have become popularly known. This gamey speech, combined with her personality, inevitably sends her friends off in gales of laughter at almost every sentence. “You’ve got to give it a lot of pezazz!” she will roar; and to an assistant who was working on a fashion article Mrs. Vreeland cried, “Tassels! Don’t forget tassels! Lots of tassels from Tasselville!” Anecdotes are underlined with a terminal, “It was but to die, my dear!” Once, when the word “amortization” appeared in a fashion article Mrs. Vreeland was supplied with a lengthy definition by the writer and finally commented, “Listen! Any word that’s got amor in it is okay with me; let’s use it!” On another occasion, when Mrs. [Carmel] Snow [, editor of Harper’s Bazaar and, not coincidentally, her boss] came back from Paris wearing a Dior suit with very sloping shoulders, Diana Vreeland observed, “Carmel, it’s divine. It makes you look drowned.”

Christian Siriano, Blayne Walsh—this is how it’s done.