Why Don’t You? Bazaar Years
Diana Vreeland (John Etzen, editor)
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“You gotta have style. It helps you get down the stairs. It helps you get up in the morning. It’s a way of life. Without it you’re nobody. I’m not talking about a lot of clothes.” â€“ Diana Vreeland
Why Don’t You? won’t tell you which skirt shape looks best on a girl with hips as would a more practical guide to dressing. It won’t point you to the bag of the season as the magazines will. And it won’t offer timeless tips for personal style. In its more outrageous moments, it’s a kick-out-the-jams reminder to toss all that out the window.
Why Don’t You? collects a hundred of the one-line suggestions that made up Diana Vreeland’s “Why Don’t You” column from Bazaar. Beginning in 1936, she tossed off dozens of Why Don’t You’s like the oft quoted, “â€¦turn your old ermine coat into a bathrobe?” and “â€¦tie black tulle bows on your wrists?” Vreeland can be practical, as when she suggests that you have two pairs of your favorite day shoes, one fitted with rubber soles for inclement weather or “â€¦give Chanel’s ‘Glamour’? It drives men crazy.” She can be risquÃ©: “,..order Schaiparelli’s cellophane belt with your name and telephone number on it.” But most often she’s imaginatively fanciful, as when suggesting:
Have your bed made in Chinaâ€”the most beautiful bed imaginable, the head board and spread of yellow satin embroidered in butterflies alighting and flying, in every size and in exquisite colors?
Vreeland’s suggestions say a lot about the woman to whom she imagines she is writing, a woman who can afford thistle earrings in blue sapphires and rubies and an elk-hide trunk for the car. But many of the Why Don’t You’s could be enjoyed or imagined by any of her readers. She’ll send you to a theatrical materials shop for faux leopard skin and suggest that you, “put all your dogs in bright yellow collars and leads”, “wear black leatherâ€¦mules with red leather heels,” or buy “a geranium chiffon toque.”
The Why Don’t You’s cover stylish living (interiors, entertaining) and personal style in equal measure. Unlike the many who would tell you how-to, Vreeland creates not a blueprint but an open door to inspire your own Why Don’t You’s, and that is the gift of this book.
Here the suggestions are grouped by topicâ€”dressing, jewelry, children, decoratingâ€”which takes away somewhat from the delicious juxtapositions they originally enjoyed in the original presentation in Bazaar, one tumbling over another on the diagonal in Alexey Brodovitch’s layout. But the book’s introduction more than makes up for that editorial conceit. A quick account of Diana Vreeland’s years at Bazaar under editor Carmel Snow, it is a fine introduction to Vreeland and her work. And the whole book is illustrated with photos from the pages of Bazaar in those years.
In an era when there are more magazines, more photographers, more fashion chatters than ever who are more than happy to homogenize the fashion landscape, the world needs more Diana Vreelands, more Iris Barrel Apfels, stylish, imaginative, courageous women whose personal style comes not from the pages of a magazine, but from the book they daily write one new page at a time.