As you probably know, The Devil Wears Prada is based on a novel written by Lauren Weisberger, a young Cornell graduate who was, for a while, an assistant to Vogue Magazine’s icy editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. A friend of a friend of mine, Weisberger is supposedly a very nice young woman who was extremely well paid for book. A so-so first novel, it has managed to sell millions of copies and no doubt will sell a lot more in the months ahead.
Because of the avalanche of advance publicity the movie has received, even more women magazine editors are naturally getting into the act. A packet of them complained to the Sunday New York Post about the details in the movie. The trouble, according to More Magazine’s Beauty and Fashion Director Lois Joy Johnson, is that Meryl Streep, who plays editor-in-chief Miranda Priestly, just looks all wrong. Her hair, Johnson said, is “too wiggy. I would have preferred she slicked it all back in a chignon and added great earrings.” Also, Meryl , as Miranda, wears the wrong color evening dress to a big fashion event. She is in black. She should have been in white or gold. That’s really a big problem. The fact that Miranda is a total witch? No problem at all.
Others complain that Anne Hathaway, the editor’s naïve assistant and the movie’s heroine, is wearing the wrong clothes, too. She is too dressed up in expensive Chanels and Valentinos. Diane Salvatore of Ladies’ Home Journal huffed, “Assistant Andrea is better dressed than some editors I know.” Personally, I would bet that there are some assistants somewhere in the bowels of Conde Nast who have maxed out their credit cards, dressing in Chanels. And some probably have parents who have been buying them couture since they were tall enough to fit into a size two. There are still some magazines, like the priciest of colleges, that young women can only work at if their parents can afford to send them.
Other complaints are that the editor’s office is not messy enough or that the closet , where fashion magazines stow the clothes that are used in fashion shoots, is too well organized. But there are no complaints that the movie portrays those who work for these magazines as disinterested in anything but the newest styles. Or that they are often as bitchy as possible to each other.
Vogue’s Anna Wintour has managed to handle the hoop-la around the movie quite astutely. She turned up — appropriately dressed in Prada, of course — at the movie’s charity premiere and managed to avoid her former assistant, who was also in attendance. She murmured she found it all “very entertaining” before making a well-timed exit. And not in a puff of smoke. Clearly a woman who has managed to hold onto power with an iron grip and vanquish all possible competitors in the Byzantine court of the Conde Nast magazine empire knows when the devil is in the details — and when it is not.
In truth, there are some subjects for comedy in the women’s magazine field, more subtle than the obvious potshots that Prada takes. Anna Wintour once, as a great humanitarian gesture, set up a beauty school in Afghanistan to train a few woman to be hair dressers so that aid workers would have a place to have their roots done. That’s pretty funny right there. And she once scolded the New York Times for not taking the journalism of Vogue more seriously. Also, the closer-than-close relationship of fashion and beauty advertisers and fashion and beauty reporting in all women’s magazines is, to be honest, a bit of a joke.
Frankly, I am looking forward to seeing The Devil Wears Prada when I get a chance. I don’t expect dead-on accuracy; all I hope is to be entertained even with a fairly dumb comedy for a couple of hours on a humid summer night. That’s because I know in this difficult time that there really are devils out there. We hear about them every day. And they are not dressed in Prada.
— Myrna Blyth, former long-time editor of Ladies’ Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness—and Liberalism—to the Women of America and the upcoming How To Raise an American (out next spring from Crown Forum). Blyth is also an NRO contributor.