Book Review: The Woman I Wanted to Be

Diane von Furstenburg’s memoir The Woman I Wanted to Be reveals her life in two parts: The Woman I Am, and The Business of Fashion. Each chapter (Roots, Love, Beauty, The American Dream, The Comeback Kid, and The New Era) offers insight into her past including her darkest times, her most successful times, and all that she has learned. Her life was heavily influenced and molded by her roots. Her mother, Lily Nahmias, was a survivor of the concentration camps Auschwitz and Ravensbruck. She was liberated on the brink of death, twenty-two years old and barely the weight of her bones. Her mother said it was a miracle that she didn’t die (she was one of 1,244 who survived out of 25,631 Belgian Jews that were deported), and she always said:

“God has saved my life so that I can give you life,” she used to write me every New Year on my birthday. “By giving you life, you gave me my life back. You are my torch, my flag of freedom.”

In this memoir, Diane von Furstenberg opens up so candidly that you feel as though you are having a deep conversation with one of your oldest friends, where she reveals secrets of her life that leave you speechless. Who is Diane von Furstenberg, and more importantly, did she become the woman she wanted to be? This memoir was so well written that I’d like to let her speak for herself. Here are nine of her most memorable quotes:


“I was born healthy and strong in Brussels on New Year’s Eve, December 31st, 1946, a miracle. Because of the price my mother paid for that miracle, I never felt I had the right to question her, complain, or make her life more difficult. I was always a very, very good little grown-up girl, and for some reason felt it was my role to protect her.”

“My definition of beauty is strength and personality.”


“Don’t dream of becoming a model unless it is genuinely possible. Look for other doors. The business of beauty can be anything but beautiful…Use your brains, use your common sense and do not become an object…the way you look is important, but who you are and how you project it is eventually who you will become and how you will appear.”

“My thirties were my best years. I was still young but felt grown up, lived an adventurous life, raised my two children, and ran a business. I was independent and felt very free. I had total complicity with myself and my looks and I felt in charge. I had become the woman I wanted to be.”


“I’m grateful I never thought of myself as beautiful when I was younger. We all fade somewhat as time goes on. Women who relied only on their beauty can feel invisible later in life. It’s a pity, for I feel in the later part of your life you should feel fulfilled, not defeated.”

“I know that people look at me and wonder why I have not succumbed to the progress of technology. Why have I not frozen or filled in the lines in my forehead. Why I have not clipped the bits of surplus skin on my eyelids. I am not sure, but probably because I am afraid of freezing time, of not recognizing myself in the mirror, the image I have been so friendly with. Losing the complicity with myself is something I would not like to happen, the wink in the bathroom mirror as I pass it in the middle of the night, the straight-on look that I recognize. My image is who I am and even if I don’t always love it, I am intrigued by it and I find the changes interesting.”


 “I didn’t dare call myself a designer for many years despite the overwhelming success of my wrap dress. Yves Saint Laurent was a designer. Madame Gres was a designer. Halston designer. Me, I came into fashion almost by accident in the hope of becoming financially independent. I never dreamed that the simple dress I launched in 1974, a dress that was easy, sexy, elegant, and affordable all at the same time, would catapult me into the fashion industry…only after almost two decades since I’d created the wrap dress, did I call myself a designer.”


“Listen, always listen. Most people at the beginning of their lives don’t know what they want to be unless you have a real vocation, like a pianist or a doctor, so it is very important to listen. Sometimes there are doors that will open and you will think it is not an important door and yet it is – so its’s very important to be curious and pay attention, because sometimes you learn and you don’t even know you’re learning.”

“Like my life, my work has been a wonderful adventure. It allowed me to become the woman I wanted to be as I helped other women to feel the same. I went into it looking for confidence and spreading confidence along the way.”



*Photos are from Google, Pinterest, Diane von Furstenberg’s website, and The Woman I Wanted to Be and do not belong to me.

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