When Diana Vreeland was making her first forays into her career as a fashion editor, she wrote her dear readers the now oft-quoted suggestion, “Why don't you paint a map of the world on all four walls of your boys' nursery so they won't grow up with a provincial point of view?” All things considered, this was one of her more realistic tips, as compared to her enquiring why we don’t wear violet velvet mittens with everything or rinse our children’s hair in dead champagne.

In “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel,” a fashion documentary in theaters today, Sept. 21, Ms. Vreeland’s ascendance from middle-school dropout to the most iconic fashion editor to date is largely attributed to her extravagant global vision. Never one to be confined, Ms. Vreeland saw no reason not to use the world as a catwalk and spearheaded legendary shoots, such as the 26-page spread of a fur-swaddled Veruschka scaling the mountains of Japan with a seven foot tall sumo wrestler. No one reads magazines just to see their own backyard, so why not blast them with images of France? Egypt? Or—her personal favorite—Russia?

An endless source of exotic proclamations (“Pink is the navy blue of India,” and, “My favorite thing about London is Paris,” to quote a couple), Ms. Vreeland understood that readers—and now film-goers—want and need to be whisked away, no matter the cost, and definitely no matter the reality of it all. In fact, her globetrotting imagination was so ambitious that even she could not keep up with it. In all her days as fashion empress, she never made it to Russia.

Gabrielle Lipton is an editorial assistant at Travel + Leisure.