Generating Diana Vreeland Memos with JavaScript Markoff Chains 

I was curious what a Markov Chain generator would do with the text from memos written by Diana Vreeland while she was editor-in-chief of American Vogue.

Vreeland famously dictated memos from her spacious Park Avenue bathroom or her office with red walls and leopard-print carpet. Secretaries typed them on sheets of onionskin for distribution to her staff or collaborators such as Cecil Beaton, Horst P. Horst, and Richard Avedon. Known for her eccentric, outlandish vision, first for Harper’s Bazaar and then for Vogue, Vreeland exhorted her editors and photographers to create images of clothing, makeup, and hairstyles that one would never encounter on the street or in the office. “Exaggeration is my only reality,” she said.

Vreeland’s distinctive voice and plentiful correspondence make her an ideal candidate for an experiment in which we use a Markov chain model to generate statistically-likely new strings of words based on stored lists of occurrences of words in the original texts. Markov-generated memos mimic the sentence length, punctuation, and overall structure of Vreeland’s memos.

We like to think Mrs. Vreeland would be amused. Click here to visit the memo generator.

This work was written up, improbably, in The New Yorker.