Diana Vreeland, photographed by Jack Robinson

Diana Vreeland is compelling to watch on film – her independent attitude, spiritedness, uniqueness, her clipped almost incantory style of speaking, her body language – are brought fully to life in the documentary The Eye Has to Travel.

With frankness that is brutal she tells how her mother used to say, “It’s too bad that you have such a beautiful sister and you are so extremely ugly.”

“I was always her ugly little monster,” she continues coolly.

“And how did that make you feel?” the interviewer, George Plimpton, asks.

“Now George,” she says, ” I don’t think we want to go there. Let’s just say, mum was a wild woman, you know, she used to hunt rhinos.”

One evening at a party in 1924 Diana fell in love with an elegant, quiet man.

“I never felt comfortable about my looks until I met Reed Vreeland. He was the most beautiful man I’d ever seen. Very quiet. Very elegant. I loved all that. I believe in love at first sight because that’s what it was. Reed made me feel beautiful, no matter what my mother made me think.”

Diana Vreeland
Diana & Reed Vreeland

Despite her alleged lack of beauty, she was a wild success in a world defined by bodies and faces: fashion. Fashion Editor at Harpers Bazaar for 26 years (1936-1962), then Editor of Vogue for 8 years, Vreeland was unerringly prescient about fashion trends, writes  Amy Fine Colins, “a kind of seeress, a philosopher whose subject happened to be style.”

“Vogue always stood for people’s lives,” Vreeland said, “I mean a new dress doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s the life you’re living in the dress.”

“You don’t have to be born beautiful to be wildly attractive.”

Diana Vreeland