Vanity was ordered on June 30th 1916 as part of the 9th Order of the 1916-17 Naval Programme. She was laid down on July 28th 1917 by William Beardmore and Company at Dalmuir, Scotland, and launched on May 3rd 1918. She was commissioned on June 21st 1918.
Vanity saw service in the last months of World War I, which ended with the armistice with Germany on November 11th 1918. She remained in service until the 1930s, when she was decommissioned and placed in reserve. Vanity was refitted in early 1939 and recommissioned in August for the Royal Review of the Reserve Fleet by King George VI.
On September 25th 1939, the Vanity rescued the stranded Short G.26 Golden Hinde after it had to make an emergency landing in the North Atlantic a few miles from the coast of Britain.
On October 9th 1939, the light cruiser Aurora and destroyer Vanity encountered the Soviet armed merchant cruiser Kalinin in the Skagerrak Strait. During the resulting skirmish, the Aurora was hit by a pair of torpedoes and lost electrical power while Vanity was sunk when gunfire from the Kalinin hit the depth charges setting them off and destroying the ship in an explosion.