Must Watch: Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel

“There’s only one very good life, and that’s the life that you know you want, and you make it yourself.”

You need to know that I have seen this documentary four times. It’s brilliant! Diana Vreeland was many things throughout her career, but the quality I most admire was her inherent understanding of the connection between fashion, music, films, photographers, celebrity, travel, fantasy, and us. People. People who live our lives, wearing our things, listening to our music, coveting stuff, and carrying out life’s practicalities on a journey to some fantastical end.

Diana Vreeland (dee-yana) (1903-1989) is known to many as the inimitable fashion editor of Harper’s Bazaar  from 1936 to 1962, and editor-in-chief at Vogue from 1963 to 1971.

In 1983, at age 80, Diana Vreeland asked writer George Plimpton to help her write her memoirs. The Eye Has To Travel heavily features recordings Plimpton made of conversations he had with Vreeland in her living room – her “garden in hell” (see TGW’s past interpretation here). Her recollections throughout the documentary are excellent – her diction, with its quirk and panache, the famous names rolling off the tongue with ease, and her exquisite story telling, all make for an easy-to-watch lesson in style history.


As well as her career, the film explores Diana’s early life in Paris during the Belle Époque, her family’s immigration to the States, her very personal life with husband, Reed Vreeland (the tale of their romance, a very poignant part of the film), and wistful reflections of life with Vreeland from sons Tim & Frecky.

Described by Lauren Hutton as “upside down original”, Vreeland looked to race horses over humans, as her icons of style, for their “little extra pizazz”. She helped launch hugely successful careers for the likes of Lauren Bacall , Cher, Angelica HoustonTwiggy (whom she adored), along with Hutton and many others.

Richard Avedon once described Vreeland as his “brilliant, crazy Aunt, who just exploded with imagination”.

“Style is everything… It helps you get up in the morning. It helps you get down the stairs. It’s a way of life. Without it, you’re nobody…and I’m not talking about…clothes.”

In 1961 Jacqueline Kennedy wrote to her asking for style advice for the 1961 Presidential inauguration, in case her husband won. Vreeland dressed Kennedy – her husband did become President,  and so blossomed a beautiful friendship.

In 1963, Vreeland left Harper’s Bazaar to become the editor-in-chief at Vogue. She travelled to England and quickly fell in love with London street style. She obsessed over the 60s Youthquake!, and brought the movement to the rest of the world through the pages of the magazine. In 1964 Diana Vreeland published the first photo of Mick Jagger to be seen in America – he went on to become a rock god.

“I mean, a new dress doesn’t get you anywhere… it’s the life you’re living in the dress!”

After being asked to leave her post at Vogue in 1971, Vreeland became a creative consultant for the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

When she died in August, 1989, at age 85, Diana Vreeland was indeed still “very young”.

Note: Interwoven throughout the film are clips from two classic movies; Funny Face (1957), and Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? (1966) – the character Miss Maxwell is based on Vreeland, and both titles are on my list of must watch cult classics.

Watch the trailer for Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel here:

Director: Lisa Immordino Vreeland with Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt & Frédéric Tcheng Genre: Documentary Released: 2011

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