When we stumbled across Diane von Furstenberg's 1976 memoir-cum-lifestyle guide, Diane von Furstenberg’s Book of Beauty: How to become a more attractive, confident and sensual woman outside the Strand Book Store a few weeks ago, we couldn't resist snapping it up. We figured that, if it was terrible, it would at least be terribly amusing, and if it was great, well, who doesn't want tips on how to become your best self, a lover of life is love is life is love...?
Turns out it's awesome (no shock there) and sadly out-of-print, so we decided to select her wisest bits and assemble them here, in the interest of sharing the love. Below, the (ITG-excerpted) wisdom of Diane von Furstenberg:
“IMPORTANT! Makeup should have one function only—to make you look better, to make you more attractive...Makeup is a luxury, so it should be fun... Making up is like telling yourself a secret.”
“It’s important to leave your face without makeup for a while after waking up... Let your skin breathe a while before applying your makeup, even if it means waking up a bit earlier."
“I sit in the sink [while applying makeup]. I do. I’ve broken more sinks... I sit in the sink, on top of a big square sink in my bathroom with my feet in the basin so I’m very close to the mirror with the good light, and I’m very comfortable. I also manage to put my two phones in the sink so that nothing, but nothing, could get me out of there."
“I really have fun making up. I have a good face for making up, good bones. I do the shapings, then the eyes. Then I put on mascara and I do something else. Then I put on mascara again and do something else. Then I put on more mascara and my whole face is completely made up.”
“It’s very often true that some women look better without makeup, but that’s only during the day."
"Even if your skin is perfect, even if it’s glowing and beautiful, electric lights defeat you. They deaden the complexion, make it look drab. They rob you of color... In the evening, you just can’t play the natural kid bit, that fresh-scrubbed look.”
“What makes you attractive is being yourself, being natural, being unaware. Even though makeup is important, you should do it all, and then forget about it. You don’t want to look like anyone else, any more than you want to be anyone else. You want to look like you. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery—but it’s flattering to someone else. Not to you.”
“You don’t want to exaggerate any feature noticeably. I think only truly beautiful women can exaggerate and they usually don’t have to."
"No one should notice how your eyes are done or the color of your eyeshadow. They should just notice you and notice that you’re beautiful, that you have beautiful eyes.”
“As a little girl I suffered because of my hair, and the more people would tell me how lucky I was that I wouldn’t have to have permanents when I grew up, the more I hated them. The people, and my hair... My life became conditioned by my worst enemy, humidity, and a few little rain drops would make me do all kinds of things, like racing across a busy street during a red light.”
“In Sardinia one summer my best friend Marisa Berenson and I ironed each other’s hair. We used a hot laundry iron and took turns putting our hair on the ironing board, literally ironing it. That’s a recipe for straightening that may be highly successful, but is definitely not recommended."
"The easier your hair is to manage the happier you’ll be with it and the prettier you’ll feel.”
"Being attractive for a few hours some evening is hardly worth being that unattractive all day [in hot rollers]. Being yourself and being natural with a man is wonderful, but being downright unattractive with him is foolish."
“It is more important to be pretty as a woman than to be fashionable.”
“One of the most important things about fashion is to dress as well as you can, look as attractive as you can, and at the same time be comfortable with yourself. Be easy about your clothes; forget about them.”
“If you’re not sure what to wear, if you don’t know how everyone else is going to be, then just be at your most beautiful."
"If there is one rule for dressing, for fashion, it’s pretty much the same rule as for everything else in life: Don’t go against yourself, don’t go against your own nature. It’s only going to show."
"If you’re short, don’t wear extremely high heels. After a certain age, you shouldn’t wear little girls' clothes. That’s going against your nature.”
"Sleep is easier to make up than a unique evening."
“Resisting a beautiful chocolate cake or a wonderful foie gras is as difficult as [the idea of] saying no to Paul Newman."
"Taste is acquired. You may have to unlearn a taste for chocolate or ice cream.”
“What you eat is everything. What you eat is what you are.”
“It’s more important to be healthy and of good spirit than it is to be thin, just as it’s more important to be an attractive woman than a fashionable one.”
“Don’t let any of your good habits get boring. "
“Prepare your food attractively and serve it nicely.”
“You cannot have a healthy body without drinking a great deal of water. But remember, you can’t just drink a glass of water and tell a glass of water to please go straight to your skin and moisturize your complexion. Water has to be there all the time, doing what it does naturally in a healthy body.”
On Dieting and Body Image:
"If you’re a little hippy and full-bosomed, don’t try to remake yourself in the image of a skinny fashion model. It won’t work. You can trim down your hips. You should always concentrate on special movements to keep your breasts firm and lifted and young. Hippy and bosomy can be very nice, very desirable. Accept it.”
“If you’re trying to lose weight, you just have to eat less. I mean that.”
“Don’t talk about your diet. It’s just boring, and the last thing you need when dieting is to be considered boring."
“Be proud of yourself. Try to eat well....and when you cheat, enjoy it!”
“Clothes can hide you from yourself but a bikini sure can’t.”
“I began to be involved [with exercise]. It was a little bit like sex sometimes— you know how sometimes you’re kind of disinterested, kind of uninvolved, and slowly you begin to become interested?”
“It’s like learning to fall properly. If you can manage not to tighten up you won’t hurt yourself as much. The same theory applies to your day, physically and emotionally. The tensions simply can’t take hold.”
On life in general:
“I think living is serious. Living well, accepting yourself, using your talents to the fullest, enjoying yourself, that’s all serious and important... But I think makeup and fashion should not be taken that seriously... You should have fun making up for a party. You should have fun wearing a sexy dress. When you’re beautiful it should give you pleasure.”
“The greatest natural enemy of women is insecurity. We all feel it and we all think we are the only ones who feel that way. How we deal with these fears determines to a great extent how effective we are in running our lives. Most women present a façade to the world and keep the insecurity locked inside. The toughest job in the world is to be a complete, happy woman.”
"That wonderful and terribly frightening journey of self-discovery. That process of growth, of being an independent person, of learning who you are and what you want from life, is the real secret of life, happiness and beauty.”