I first read Lauren Weisberger’s debut The Devil Wears Prada, published in 2003, around the time of the film adaptation’s apex in popularity. Fairly certain I saw the film first, then read the Weisberger’s fictionalized Vogue experience. Though characters, plot points and tone of voice differ slightly, both iterations of the The Devil Wears Prada count as larger inspiration for my formative, post-secondary education. Runway magazine (via Hathaway, Streep and Blunt), Teen Vogue (through the life and times of Lauren Conrad) and Mode (and the adventures of Betty Suarez) account for my bright-eyed attempts at breaking into the fashion and publishing world. Almost twenty years later, my aspirations have not much changed, but decades of real-life experiences have tempered in me a unique tone and grit.
After revisiting The Devil Wears Prada novel this past week, I’ve concluded that growing up, I was Andrea Sachs – privileged, uninformed and hopelessly green. Her dalliances with Runway and editor-in-chief-from-hell Miranda Priestly (acrimoniously inspired by Vogue‘s Anna Wintour) comes off as a salty employee with an extremely bad attitude. This seems to be a mirror of my personal work ethic and demeanour, as I entered the work force in the mid-2000’s. Notably, a full-time stint at H&M, where I carried about myself with an air of arrogance and self-importance above the fast fashion trappings of my job, left me single, friendless and moving back into my parents’ basement. Since vision is 20/20 in retrospect, I now understand that post-Runway Andrea Sachs is who we should aspire to be, not emulate. One of the earlier chapters opens like so:
“Twelve miserable long weeks of being looked up and down from hair to shoes each and every day, and never receiving a single compliant or even merely the impression that I had passed. Twelve horrifically long weeks of feeling stupid, incompetent, and all-around moronic. And so I decided at the beginning of my fourth month (only nine more to go!) at Runway to be a new woman and start dressing the part.”
Why even work at a fashion magazine, where the expectations are of an upper echelon, of haute couture and fashion weeks, when all you can reasonably extract from your wardrobe is a head-to-toe Gap Inc. look? And on top of that, it took you four months of feeling inferior to pivot?
The novel panders to the ubiquity of celebrity and entertainment gossip of the early aughts, a light-hearted commentary on the lives of the 99%. I think the film does a much better job at colouring the characters, their motivations and reaction in the correct shade. Of course, there is the theme of work-life balance, which is heavily represented on anyone’s LinkedIn feed. But, when we dissect the financial context of a publication like Runway, its influence on the global fashion industry at large, and its multi-purpose within the annals of business and politics, the snobbery is almost an ancillary evil. Andrea’s snobbery towards this elite seems misplaced, lost in the throes of her 23-year-old lifestyle. I see it in what was my own early 20’s foolishness. Nevertheless, The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger comes heavily recommended for those mid-2000’s fashion kids that lived and died by Vogue and Style.com scriptures.
The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
“A review of First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami” for Windhill Journal
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