So here I am, finally working at a real fashion magazine! It’s always been one of my dreams to become a fashion journalist; it’s right up there on my list of childhood aspirations, just below sorceress and rock star. Even so, while I know WORN isn’t your typical fashion publication, I was, at first, a little confused. How come no one has asked me to get them a latte yet? Why has no one thrown a coat on my desk? Where’s my trip to Paris? And why, may I ask, have I already gone into my third month of work without an obligatory song and dance number?
Then I remembered: like many of my childhood dreams, my ideas of what it’s like to work at a fashion magazine are based solely and solidly on what may not be the most realistic of representations. Mainly, movies.
Specifically, there are two films which, while separated by decades, present pretty much the same accepted ideas about the cut-throat world of fashion magazine employment, and which have formed my fashion fantasies: The Devil Wears Prada, and its eerily similar predecessor, Funny Face.
Both films start with the same premise: a young, bookish brunette falls into a hard-to-get gig at a fashion magazine by complete accident. She meets a demanding, influential fashion editor, who insists on a makeover. The bookish brunette resists but is eventually swayed by the glamour of the fashion industry, visits Paris, falls in love, and tries to come to terms with her new identity. This is standard stuff!
Funny Face was made in 1957, with Audrey Hepburn playing Jo, the bookish brunette who’s swept up into modeling by powerful and cranky Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson). In the fashion offices of “Quality” magazine, Maggie’s flock of fashion followers jump at her proclamation that pink will be the next big thing. They don’t hesitate to do a song and dance about it, each clad in a different pink suit. Later, Maggie gives advice to Jo about how to give a good press conference, with all the necessary doo-eee-ooohs included. Jo’s big conflict is reconciling her love of empathetic philosophy with her new love of running down big marble staircases in fancy dresses for her love interest and photographer played by Fred Astaire. In the end, she chooses fashion.
In the Devil Wears Prada, the bookish brunette is of course Andy (Anne Hathaway), whose naïveté is abused by the Anna Wintour stand-in Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep). Although there’s technically no song and dance, Miranda’s office bends to her whims in the same manner. Andy gets sucked in not only with the extreme demands of the job, but with free makeovers and wardrobe perks.
So what about me? I’m relatively bookish, brunette, and here I am at a fashion magazine! But so far, my editor hasn’t asked me to get her any rare manuscripts, no one’s done any obligatory dancing (yet), and I haven’t had a makeover foisted upon me. Because of WORN’s creative content, as I’m sure you know, I get to stay in love with philosophy, and still feel the fashion-thrill equivalent of fancy-dress staircase descents. I can’t say I’m not a little relieved about these things, in what might be the first instance where I’m happier movies have turned out to be untrue.
I mean, I’m still going to Paris. Right?