Crowdsourcing: Please Help Me Choose Next Week’s Shelved Doll

shelved dolls lucrezia borgia anna wintour

I had a plan. Really. Since next week is the beginning of New York Fashion week, I figured we should do someone particularly fashionable. Specifically, I thought we should do Diana Vreeland, the famously offbeat Vogue editor from the 1950s. I thought that this would be so easy, because I’d already read D.V., Diana Vreeland’s autobiography and there are all kinds of great stories about her. My favorite one is probably one about when she was asked why she remained Truman Capote‘s friend after the rest of high society had frozen him out (understandably, as he wrote a pretty nasty collection of short stories about them). Diana replied:

“Every day, I have my maid iron all my money. I like it to lay flat. Whenever I tell people this, everyone says “oh, my, how eccentric. Diana is so eccentric.” When I told Truman this he looked at me and said “oh, my, how wonderful.”

But then, as I was trying to work on this, I kept reading and kind of rolling my eyes and saying “okay, Diana, I get it. You’re whimsical. And frankly, also eccentric. If you don’t want people to think you’re eccentric don’t make your maid iron your money every morning.”

I have come to hate her whimsy. This was unforeseen. Look, Diana Vreeland is incredible, and I have every confidence that I’m going to want to sit around reading every biography about how two weeks from now, but I do not want to right at the moment. Spending 12 hours researching her whimsy and charm doesn’t feel like something I can sink my teeth into at this second. If I write about her, the Shelved Doll will run, “I bet her maid really hated her.”

In fact, as I was reading about Diana Vreeland, I kept finding myself skimming pages about Anna Wintour. Look, I could get really into doing something on her. I think she’s pretty misunderstood. There’s a great unauthorized biography called Front Row that I love, and, unlike a lot of the shelved dolls, there’s a treasure trove of televised interviews with her. But she is 1) not shelved, by any means 2) not dead, which I think was my only rule for shelved dolls, and I wanted something to cling to and 3) possibly litigious if I just begin spreading rumors other people have spread about her in print.

I think number 3 may have a lot to do with the existence of rule 2.

But, I figure if Anna Wintour is cool with this, she’s probably pretty cool with people saying stuff about her in general.

So, I’d really like to do Anna Wintour. But! But I do think there is something to be said for sticking with women whose lives have played out. Although, I think Anna Wintour’s stoy is pretty set at this point. Her obituary will read “Vogue EIC, said to inspire Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, died at…  unless she decides to become a serial killer. Then her obituary will read “Vogue EIC turned serial killer, said to inspire Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada died at…” There is not much she could do now that would overshadow those things.

However! I’d also be up for doing Lucrezia Borgia. She has nothing to do with Fashion Week, but I’ve been kind of fascinated by her since reading Mirror, Mirror by Gregory Maguire in which Lucrezia Borgia takes on the role of the Evil Queen in the Snow White fairy tale. And there is, of course, The Borgias on television, which kind of bothers me, because I think it does Lucrezia a disservice to paint her as being an innocent young thing and the pawn of her family when she was… quite a piece of work, really. By which I mean “she was really smart and supposedly had a hollow ring which she filled with poison.” If someone tells you you’re a piece of work, that’s what they mean.

So. 16th century legendary female poisoner, who was supposedly pregnant when she annulled her first marriage (strong move!) versus 21st century editrix.

Gird your loins either way.

Oh, and vote.

Sorry! This poll is now closed.


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    • pattya

      i love love this series! either one is fine, but what about – Luisa Casati – she has inspired so many fashion designers – john galliano (a shelved doll himself), karl largarfeld, Marchesa was named after her, etc….

      she was wildly eccentric and in the book “edie” pat smith makes an account of seeing edie and andy enter a party with panthers (or some kind of big animal), this is actually an imagine approriated from the marchesa.

      so either anna or luczrezia are fine, but i hope one week you will feature the marchesa.

      keep it up!! x

      • Jennifer Wright

        Unfortunately, I already did her when there was… just plain less time to do these (it was 2 years ago, I was the deputy editor then and doing 8 posts a day, which mean there was not enough time to sit down and do the research really needed for them). But there is a short one about her!

        And I do love her. Maybe she would be worth re-doing, because all the stories about her are great.

    • Katie

      Although Anna isn’t dead and therfore not quite meeting the criteria, i think it would be really interesting to learn more about her outside of the typical articals done on her focusing on Vogue. Aside from these two ladies, do you plan on writing more about some of the classic socilites from the 50s/60s? I loved the one on Babe Paley, all of those women from that era fascinate me.

    • Katie

      Although Anna isn’t dead and therfore not quite meeting the criteria, i think it would be really interesting to learn more about her outside of the typical articals done on her focusing on Vogue. Aside from these two ladies, do you plan on writing more about some of the classic socilites from the 50s/60s? I loved the one on Babe Paley, all of those women from that era fascinate me.

    • Rebecca

      There are a few great women in art you could touch on – Frieda Kalho, Artemisia Gentileschi, Billie Holiday.

    • Ellen W.

      I totally get how Dame Vreeland could get old. Becase I too went through a read-everything-I-could-get-my-hands-on-about-Diana-Vreeland phase and by then end I wanted her to come back to life so I could yell at her. Mostly for not having any empathy for anyone who didn’t have money or power. She was astonishingly blase about the fascist connections of her friends.*

      (I have a theory about this- like Chanel, Vreeland really didn’t think that politics “applied” to her. She was in fashion and therefore she didn’t worry about any of the rest of it. )

      Anyway I have a suggestion for a Shelved Doll- Maria Callas!

    • Lindsey

      Colette was a hoot and a half.

    • Caroline

      Definitely do Lucrezia Borgia.

      I kind of agree with you about the show The Borgias (Also, have you seen Borgia, the European series that came out at the same time and is on Netflix Watch Instantly? The season finale is nuts), but I think they did a good job of making show-Lucrezia move closer to the historical version of Lucrezia Borgia. She WAS only fifteen when the series started. And Cesare Borgia hasn’t matched the batshit-syphilis-ridden crazy version of historical Cesare yet, so I have hope for them both.

    • Katy

      I love, love, love your shelved dolls series. So hard! Not to tell you how to do your thang, but I’d stick to your preset rules.

    • Ella Jane

      Everyone thought Joe Paterno’s story was all played out until… all that shit happened. Better to stick to your dead rule.

    • Erika

      How about a person of color?

      • Jennifer Wright

        I actually really want to do Billie Holiday or Josephine Baker, but I feel like to write about either of those women is to write about race relations in America during that time. That is a BIG TASK. And frankly one that really scares me to try to approach, because I do not know enough about it, and it seems like that kind of thing you’d need to spend more than a week reading biographies to tackle.

    • Renee


    • Emmie

      Eleanor of Aquitaine?

    • Sara

      I’m voting for Lucrezia Borgia, though I beg you to give her a fair chance. I actually tend to think she was less evil than she is portrayed. Her brother and father were pieces of work, for sure, and 16th century women from wealthy families absolutely WERE pawns for their male relatives.

      Also, I’d like to suggest my favorite Renaissance woman, Isabella d’Este (sister-in-law to Lucrezia). She essentially ruled Mantua since her husband was always at war, amassed one of the greatest art collections probably of all time, was oddly devoted to her son, and was entertainingly difficult (she got angry when Titian dared to paint her as her actual age of 60 and made him re paint the portrait as if she were 20). Love her.