Diana Vreeland was the most marvelous creature and I adore everything she ever did and every word she wrote down. Her autobiography, D.V., has been one of the most influential pieces of writing I’ve ever come across and I often find myself slowly flipping through its worn pages imagining that I might someday lead such an extraordinary life. She was friends with Wallis Simpson and all the celebrities of the day. She dressed magnificently. She made grand, ridiculous statements. She was handsome in that way that only fashionable women can. I am more than a little obsessed with her, and I think one of the greatest tragedies of my life is that I was born too late to become friends with her. Unfortunately, my dear Diana died eleven days after I was born. At least we shared the earth for a little while and I like to think I’m better for it. I don’t feel like I can say enough to properly introduce you to her, and it’s so vital that I do for this new blog series, so here is a trailer for a delicious documentary that I’m crazy about and picked up last year when I was out shopping in Paris:
That little video always makes my eyes all misty.
When Diana worked at Harper’s Bazaar, she wrote an article called “Why Don’t You?” In it, she wrote the most outlandish suggestions for the readers. They weren’t practical and most were surely in jest, but their ridiculousness was not the point; their point was to inspire the common folks to live better lives by just doing something new. You didn’t have to do anything Diana suggested, but maybe that little, bizarre suggestion of hers would inspire you to do something great. Here are some of my favorites:
“Why don’t you 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?”
“Why don’t you have a room done up in every color green? This will take months, years, to collect, but it will be delightful—a mélange of plants, green glass, green porcelains, and furniture covered in sad greens, gay greens, clear, faded, and poison greens?”
“Why don’t you 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?”
“Why don’t you bring back from Central Europe a huge white baroque porcelain stove to stand in your front hall?”
“Why don’t you rinse your blond child’s hair in dead champagne to keep its gold as they do in France?”
I think it’s a great tragedy that there isn’t somebody keeping up these grand proclamations for the masses to read and be delighted by…so I’ve delegated that task to myself. Each Monday, I shall post a suggestion for you to do each day of the week. As I said with Diana’s suggestions, they aren’t mandates, they’re delightful ideas to take with you.
Off we go:
Why don’t you pour yourself a gin and tonic, put on Doris Day’s “Latin for Lovers” and reminisce about a beautiful affair you had with a handsome European man in your youth?
Why don’t you paint a neglected room with dreamy glossy black paint, add a moody lamp and chaise where you can read a classic novel and pessimistically ponder why anybody considers such drivel a classic?
Why don’t you order an exotic tree from some foreign land and become its slave for years and years? Eventually, you will be rewarded with a delicious fruit that you can savor knowing that you alone are solely responsible for its existence.
Why don’t you stop your procrastinating and book that trip to the East you’ve always dreamed of where you can watch the cherry blossoms fall in Kyoto, traverse China’s Great Wall, or go to Bangkok to laugh at the name?
Why don’t you go for a long walk and let your thoughts wander where they choose? If they head somewhere unpleasant, force them away and head back into a pleasant revery of the life you dream of having.