In honor of the re-issue of Diana Vreeland: An Illustrated Biography by Eleanor Dwight (Harper Design, 2011), with a new preface by André Leon Talley, who was a close friend of the legendary editor, we’ve collected some of our favorite suggestions from her famous “Why Don’t You?” column. She launched the column in Harper’s Bazaar in August 1936 when the editor of the magazine at the time, Carmel Snow, spotted her at the St. Regis Hotel and, enchanted by her sense of style, hired her on the spot (how’s that for a lesson in dressing for success?).
She proceeded to become one of the most influential and innovative figures in fashion, becoming editor-in-chief at Vogue after leaving Harper’s Bazaar in 1963, and later was a key consultant to the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Read excerpts from Eleanor Dwight’s biography at New York Magazine online.
The “Why Don’t You?” column offered many suggestions over the years, not all of which were realistic for the average reader, but that wasn’t the point. The point was to dream, to try something new and to break from the ordinary. Here are some we’d actually like to give a shot:
Why don’t you…
… use a gigantic shell instead of a bucket to ice your champagne?
… cover a big cork bulletin board in bright pink felt, banded with bamboo, and pin with colored thumb-tacks all your various enthusiasms as your life varies from week to week?
… tie an enormous bunch of silver balloons on the foot of your child’s bed on Christmas Eve?
… 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?
… tie black tulle bows on your wrists?
And here are some of the more extravagant ones, inspiring nonetheless.
Why don’t you…
… own, as does one extremely smart woman, twelve diamond roses of all sizes?
… bring back from Central Europe a huge white baroque porcelain stove to stand in your front hall?
… wear violet velvet mittens with everything?
… have an elk-hide trunk for the back of your car? Hermès of Paris will make this.
…wear, like the Duchess of Kent, three enormous diamond stars arranged in your hair in front?
…have a room done up in every color green? This will take months, years, to collect, but it will be delightful—a melange of plants, green glass, green porcelains, and furniture covered in sad greens, gay greens, clear, faded, and poison greens?