SELLING CULTURE: Bloomingdale's, Diana Vreeland, and the New Aristocracy of Taste in Reagan's America by Debora Silverman

SELLING CULTURE: Bloomingdale's, Diana Vreeland, and the New Aristocracy of Taste in Reagan's America

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Silverman builds a case for her claim that the Reagan administration's gutting of social welfare programs, combined with the President's penchant for reinventing the facts of history and the First Lady's obvious enthusiasm for high fashion and good living, is responsible for a growing and dangerous disdain for the less advantaged in this country. That disdain is woven through political policies and the merchandising of culture, Silverman says. It is the new aristocracy in this country (to which the Reagans belong) that has little regard for history. It is this same group that helped Diana Vreeland's four fashion exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in recent years. Nancy Reagan is one of Silverman's main targets. (Jackie Kennedy's restoration of the White House, with her careful search for original pieces from former administrations, showed a concern for historical accuracy, Silverman says. Nancy Reagan's search for a $200,000 set of China showed nothing of the sort.) It is a sign of the times in Reagan's America that Vreeland--Silverman's other target--was chosen to oversee the Met's fashion exhibits. Vreeland has admitted to being ""terrible on facts"" and given to ""always exaggerating."" Her exhibits were nothing more than advertising for the designers who often underwrote the programs, Silverman argues. Identifying placards explained only the materials used in the outfits, nothing about the society reflected in the costumes. Fashion exhibits at other museums have been ""models of historical interpretation, public education and technical perfection."" What Vreeland offered was a ""mistreatment of history and the public."" Worse yet, Bloomingdale's came up with almost mirror-image exhibits. And why, Silverman wonders, was there barely any criticism of Vreeland's exhibits? Entertainingly irreverent damning of the ""Let them Eat Quiche"" subculture.

Pub Date: Oct. 13th, 1986
Publisher: Pantheon