A fancy foot and a discerning eye for impeccable clothes was all it took for Carmel Snow, Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar, to offer Diana Vreeland the job that would change fashion forever. Snow had a gift for recognizing talent and knew Mrs. Vreeland’s style savvy was just what Harper’s was missing, as neither she nor her esteemed Art Director, Alexey Brodovich, had a strong fashion background. The collaboration between this creative triumvirate would elevate Harper’s to the next level.

From the moment she stepped in as Fashion Editor in 1936, Mrs. Vreeland took to the part with her characteristic vigor and unconventionality. She was well known for her imaginative style, and Harper’s would provide the perfect platform to share her élan with the public. 

Mrs. Vreeland’s reign at Harper’s coincided with the beginning of World War II and a pivotal shift in the fashion landscape — away from Paris and the rest of Europe to the uncharted frontier of American style. Mrs. Vreeland was in tune with the changing times, but never confined by them. Instead, she provided a luxurious, alternate universe through whimsy, color and beautiful clothes. A fine example of this was her celebrated advice column, “Why Don’t You?” in which she made wild suggestions that were equal parts decadent and amusing. “Why don’t you…have a yellow satin bed entirely quilted in butterflies?” It was Mrs. Vreeland’s fearlessness, deep love affair with fashion, and affinity for fantasy coupled with her strict work ethic that allowed her to succeed where others would flounder.

During her 26 years at Harper’s, Mrs. Vreeland pioneered the role of Fashion Editor, imbuing the editorial pages with her unique sensibility and making her greatest contributions to the world of fashion. She collaborated with the leading photographers including Richard Avedon, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Lillian Bassman, Toni Frissell and Baron George Hoyningen-Huene. Ultimately, the fashion pages became an embodiment of her taste, not only influencing her readership, but also providing a blueprint for designers and setting a precedent for style that would long outlast her reign at Harper’s.

Photograph of Diana Vreeland by: Louise Dahl-Wolfe, August 1941
Photographs by: (Clockwise From Top Left) Herbert Matter, Erwin Blumenfeld, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Ernst Beadle, Louise Dahl-Wolfe 


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