NEW YORK (AP) _ Diana Vreeland, a flamboyant arbiter of the fashion world who edited two leading women's magazines, died Tuesday of a heart attack, a hospital spokeswoman said. She was in her 80s.

Vreeland's originality and daring gave rise to the popularity of Lauren Hutton as a model, among other people and trends.

Vreeland died at Lenox Hill Hospital at 2:10 p.m., said hospital spokesman Jean Brett.

The Paris native was fashion editor of Harper's Bazaar magazine from 1939-62. She joined Vogue in 1962, and remained there as editor-in-chief until 1971.

''She was - and remains - the only genius fashion editor,'' photographer Richard Avedon said Tuesday.

In 1972, she became special consultant to the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She was noted for such revolutionary exhibitions as a retrospective of Spanish designer Balenciaga's work, and a survey called, ''The 10's, the 20's, the 30's,'' about a group of leading Paris designers.

In 1977, she received the French Order of Merit and in 1976 the French Legion of Honor.

''She spent her last day thanking her staff and friends and family,'' said a grandson, Alexander Vreeland. ''She never said why, she just said thank you and goodbye.''

The fashionably thin Vreeland blazed a theatrical trail through the fashion world for over four decades. Described as ''an elegant crane picking her way out of a swamp'' by English designer Sir Cecil Beaton, Vreeland was known for her lacquered black hair, rouged cheeks and ear lobes, and her clear red- colored lips and nails.

''Mrs. Vreeland was a genius for understanding ... that society expressed itself visually, whether it was through fashion, whether it was through photography, whether it was through the way that people lived,'' said Metropolitan Museum spokesman John Ross. ''She always understood the cutting edge and she was usually a little ahead of it.''

Some fashion texts said Vreeland was born in 1906, which would make her 82 or 83. However, Alexander Vreeland said she was in her mid- to late 80s. He said that Vreeland had two birth certificates and her exact age was unknown.

After running a lingerie shop in London for a few years, Vreeland moved to New York in 1936 and began writing her ''Why Don't You...'' column for Harper's Bazaar, in which she posed questions to Depression-era America such as ''Why don't you put all your dogs in bright yellow collars and leads like all the dogs in Paris?''

Vreeland presided over Vogue during the turbulent fashion years of the 60's, when the fashion world watched her every move and repeated such legendary witticisms as, ''The bikini is the most important thing since the atom bomb.''

Vreeland discovered Hutton in 1966, when other fashion arbiters considered the gap-toothed beauty too unusual-looking to be a model.

Hutton recalled in the May issue of Vanity Fair that she had gone to the Vogue editor's office to try on clothes being considered for the magazine. Daunted by Vreeland's flamboyant presence, she hid behind clothing racks.

''She'd point and say, 'The hem of that dress is just like a cloud of barley 3/8' And all the editors would say, 'A cloud of barley 3/8' Then she'd sit down while they were still standing up,'' said Hutton.

In the middle of one such line, Vreeland's gloved hand suddenly pointed to Hutton. ''You,'' she shouted. ''You have quite a presence.''

''So do you,'' replied Hutton.

The next day, Vreeland got Hutton an appointment with Avedon for the portfolio that launched her career.

''The only real elegance is in the mind,'' Vreeland once said. ''If you've got that, the rest really follows from it.''

Vreeland was born Diana Dalziel in Paris. At the outbreak of World War I, Vreeland moved with her parents to America, according to McDowell's Directory of Twentieth Century Fashion.

In 1924, she married Thomas Reed Vreeland, a banker and Yale University graduate. He died in 1966. They had two children, Thomas Reed Vreeland, who became an architect, and Frederick D. Vreeland, who entered the diplomatic service.

Vreeland is survived by a sister, two sons, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A private funeral service was planned for later this week.