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Memos : the Vogue years, 1962-1971

Call Number: 
746.52 V979-1

I cannot imagine how anyone going through College would use me as someone to make a report on.” p.196

Yes, Mrs. Vreeland, aka Dee-a-ahna, for those in college and beyond, you and your way of doing business are of interest and warrant some attention. Diana Vreeland, truly the empress of fashion, who did not go to college, but whose memos as editor-in-chief at Vogue Magazine, are fine examples for all types of written business communication. There are numerous books on business memos and letters. (LAPL lists over 300 books under the subject heading Commercial Correspondence.). Her memos are excellent in showing of how to write effectively. They were dictated to a secretary and then transcribed on a typewriter, and the photocopies appear with typing glitches and pencilled-in corrections. Interspersed are black and white, as well as color photographs.

Long before it became a practice in software documents, Vreeland was writing her directives in bullet-style formats.  At times, the goals she wanted her staff to achieve seemed to be in the nether reaches of the cosmos, highly imaginative and fey, so as to leave room for them to work their own unique magic. The subject matter was fashion and the editing of a major fashion publication, Vogue, 1962-1971, so for those in business and industry, who are dealing with electrical conductors, nano chips, or managing large numbers of staff, all of this might be a stretch to read about a commercial enterprise which has always been mutable and often whimsical.  Many of these memos are very practical in the way of writing business directives, and those in business would do very well, indeed, to read them for their structure, intention, and clarity.  With a bit of substitution, the correct shade of purple can be substituted with the specifics for nuts, bolts, etc.  For those in any area of fashion, this is a treasure trove of back history about style, trends, models, photographers, designers.  And for everyone else they are fun to read, especially Vreeland's own special way of using language, combining the formal and informal with great effect.

Very much like the ballet, which she loved, in her writing there was imagination, interpretation, and effortlessness, all of which makes the end result appear, light, perhaps lacking in substance. Also strongly apparent was intention based on structure, discipline, goals, objectives, and Vreeland's commanding will which, more than often than not, found a way to get things done. She was driven, focused, at times diplomatically manipulative, and other times emphatically direct. Even though fashion was her passionate profession, she was famously interested in everything: politics, science, literature, music, research--all of it was a part of the whole of life and living.

Here is a small sampling:

Her practical thoughts on coats and the people who made them:  “. . .the coat market is very weak. . . the coat people are very frightened. . . I  repeat  the great worry is that we will lose the tailors - the workers themselves who are the only people who make the coats possible. . .Our whole industry is beset by small problems which can easily boil up into quite an important business problem for all of us as all of us can be affected  . . .  p. 91

Very practical advice for everyday clothing:  "Please-- all of you remember a crepe shirt has to go to the cleaners  . . . Who wants to send a shirt everytime they wear it to the cleaners? . . . an evening shirt, that is a different thing.  If it is a day shirt, keep crepe out of any shirts you bring in here.  Please-- work up the beautiful cottons-- starched white sleeves and big rolled collars-- as it is depressing  to see all these dreadful crepes."  p. 81 

Some froth: “The sticky situation with fringe is, of course, extremely serious.”  p. 243

Providing a directive and opportunity for fashion designers:  “We wish to use greens that are not lime-- or pale--or almond--" p. 28  The idea to highlight the color green, and feature it on the cover, came from Vreeland, with the fabric being given to top designers to create something unique which the editor would approve for the cover.  What might appear to be nonsense, eventually would have major, big-bucks, implications for a designer, the garment workers, and those involved in the spin-offs.

Giving credit where it was due:  "Mini-pants  . . .We must always remember that it was Ungaro who started all this and never got any credit . . .” p. 31

A less-than-clear but evocative idea for an article on interior decoration: “It’s a spatter, spray paint, and to hell with its’ story.  Beatle music and freedom!  Give it some pizzaz?”  p. 23 

The ultimate compliment:  “I think it looks too divinely beautiful.” p.142