Diana Vreeland, Fashion's Formidable First Lady, Set the Styles for Generations

updated 09/11/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/11/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Diana Vreeland painted her life in bold brush strokes. She dressed dramatically, spoke theatrically and kept company with the beautiful people. With her black lacquered hair, rouged cheeks and lipstick in bright red—her favorite color—Vreeland cut a dashing figure in the fashion world for 50 years, first as editor of Harpers Bazaar, then of Vogue and later as the keeper of the fashion flame at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Believed to be in her late 80s when she died of a heart attack last month in a New York hospital, Vreeland left behind two sons from her 42-year marriage to banker T. Reed Vreeland—and a legacy of personal style that approached legend Vreeland was immortalized in the 1957 movie Funny Face, as the editor who commands her staff to 'Think Pink." Her pronouncements in real life were just as outrageous; she once said, "The bikini is the most important thing since the atom bomb."

Although Vreeland loved the fanfare. she was more than willing to share it and helped many designers, models and fashion editors get started "She never lacked style," says Grace Mirabella. editor of Mirabella, who succeeded Vreeland at Vogue "Nothing she did was small-time."

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