Diane von Furstenberg's Book of Beauty

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Diane von Furstenberg's Book of Beauty, 1976
Diane von Furstenberg's Book of Beauty, 1976

Diane's wise words on confidence, sensuality and headscarves win the vote for Dal Chodha

Fashions change, but the human obsession with beauty is forever. Since time began, we have been on a quest for eternal youth, to look younger, sexier and more beautiful, to kid the rest of the world (and ourselves) that we can live forever and look amazing for the duration. And we’ll read anything, buy anything, try anything that promises to help us along the way – which perhaps explains Dal Chodha’s victory on AnOther Loves with his copy of a vintage book by Diane von Furstenberg, which promise to inform the willing reader How to become a more attractive, confident and sensual woman. Quite a promise, but one the formidable von Furstenburg is more than qualified to deliver on.

First published in 1976, this book may have lost some of its modern edge, but there are still nuggets of wisdom to be found within, from the novel to the self-evident. “A brief acquaintance with calorie basics,” Diane decrees, “will prove in an instant that a raw vegetable is far less fattening than a cold piece of fried chicken.” She becomes more revelatory when considering her trademark hats and headscarves, advising that women learn how to create elegant styles so that they are prepared for bad hair days in the future – “you’ll disguise your hair problems and feel psychologically fresh because your whole look is special.” But at the heart of her book is the importance of confidence – "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.” Wise words that resonate for all eras. 

Political hyperbole is being flung at our heads from all sides today, so while we take some time out with the 1976 Diane, Chodha talks advice, confidence and springtime essentials, alongside a gallery of our favourite bon mots and words of wisdom. 

Why did you love this book?
A generation of puritanism has undermined the significance that sex plays in feminism. The notion of sensuality isn’t seen as valuable anymore. I love the title of this book because it is so of its time. It represents a set of values – attractiveness, confidence and sensuality – that we don’t often see presented collectively anymore (unless in a fragrance commercial). 

Where would you keep it if you owned it?
It would sit on my shelf in between Kate O’Mara’s Game Plan: A Woman's Survival Kit (1990) and Honor Blackman’s Book of Self-Defence (1965) – the very definition of girl power. 

What is the best piece of beauty advice you’ve ever been given?
I cannot remember ever being given any, but apart from the usual ‘drink lots of water and get lots of sleep’ – which I am not sure anyone has time for – my advice to others is to not use soap on your face and invest in a good scent. 

What is your favourite thing about Diane Von Furstenburg?
I love the oft-quoted reason as to why she focussed her early career on the wrap dress: she loved it because it could be slipped on quietly when you wanted to make a swift exit without disturbing a sleeping man. Like the cover of this book, sure, it sounds dated and almost a bit twee now but I find such breeziness to be quite elegant. 

How do you fake confidence?
I don’t think confidence can be faked, and I also think that in some situations it is good to feel nervous – the nerves mean that you care. 

What are you looking forward to about Spring?
I can wear less clothes, I can have my toes out; I can turn the heating off at home. 

What was the last thing you bought?
I bought the original souvenir program to Frederick Brisson’s 1969 musical Coco. It starred Katharine Hepburn as Coco Chanel and Cecil Beaton did the costumes. Only a short video of it being performed at the Tony Awards in 1970 exists and Hepburn sounds terrifically shrill.