The devil wore Prada

If you haven’t seen the film and don’t want it spoiled for you, don’t read below the fold. Judging from the other reviews I’ve read, the movie I saw was an entirely different film. Have you seen it? This is my take on it from the apparel industry vs Hollywood perspective. I didn’t dislike it but it wasn’t very accurate. The most glaring and obvious error was that nobody was smoking. I don’t think I saw a single cigarette. In real life, fashion and cigarettes go together like needles and thread. How could the film maker missed something so obvious? Surely they toured a work room or two. Reweavers are still in business for a reason, and as everybody knows, the traditional way to trim fraying threads is from the burning ember of a butt. But did the film get any of that? No it did not so you know it’s fake.

Briefly, Meryl Streep plays Miranda, the fashion editor at a magazine called Runway (Miranda is the aforementioned devil). Anne Hathaway (Andi) is a recent journalism grad who gets a job as Miranda’s assistant.


In the movie, Miranda is shown previewing a fashion line (pre-launch) and giving it a thumbs down and it’s explained that the fashion designer will start the line over from scratch, overnight no less. In real life, this is sheer fantasy. First, fashion editors do not preview and approve lines. In fact, Balenciaga banned reporters or editors until customers had reviewed the lines for a month. A fashion designer is not going to scrap their line on the eve of fashion week and start over based on the say so of a fashion editor. Second, if anything, a fashion editor will find something nice to say because designers are -first and foremost- customers! Fashion houses buy a lot of ad space in fashion magazines. Sure, if you have a good PR company and you’re currently hot, you can get some editorial for free. Editorial means the magazine writes a feature article about you and your product line but these stories are lined up at least six months in advance. Fashion editors will find something to compliment because the designer is an ad buying customer and the value of an editor -from the shareholder’s perspective- always comes down to total ad revenues.

In the movie, Andi is a fashion neophyte who gets free clothes from the magazine’s wardrobe. In real life, fashion magazines do not have large repositories of designer fashions that they store. If a designer gets some editorial, the magazine will get some styles as loaners but they can’t keep them. In fact, any number of product stylers will tell you they must buy the garments before they can take them from a store. It’s pre-arranged that the styler can return the garments after the shoot but they must be paid for before they leave the store (and returned in like new condition). They must pay for them so the store can ensure the products will be returned. Samples are expensive and haute couture no less so. Fashion magazines don’t have couture garments warehoused. In other words, Andi wasn’t getting clothes from Runway’s in house style library. Long story short, you don’t have to worry that you’ll need to make enough samples to donate them to whichever fashion magazine.

I found Andi’s friends to be a bit arrogant and judgmental, in part accusing of her of “selling out” just because she started dressing better. As with many careers, being appropriately dressed comes with the territory -not that I’d want her job of course. But still, if she went to work in a bank, she’d have to wear a suit. I can dress like a slob in my own shop and how I choose to represent myself is my own problem but the minute you accept a job and paycheck, your employer has every right to expect you to dress the part that the job entails. Why would it be any different in fashion? However, in real life, fashion workers are more likely to dress like Andi and her friends than not. We dress terribly. I’m assuming the magazine people dress better, I’d guess they have to. I’m glad somebody dresses better than we do or else more of us would be out of a job. Thank goodness for that.

Andi got a lot of flack from her friends over the number of hours she worked and her abysmal pay. Those are two things the movie did get right; any career in fashion is incredibly demanding. It doesn’t pay well; the average designer only makes about $40,000 a year so an assistant will get a whole lot less than that. The hours can be excruciating, the deadlines never end, so yeah, you’ll put in a lot of hours. At one point in the film, Andi quits her job -without notice- she felt entitled to do so owing to the pay and the hours but in my opinion, Andi was the one who acted unprofessionally by quitting without notice. Miranda wasn’t asking Andi to work hours that she herself was not putting in. It comes with the territory. You work a lot of hours, you make dirt and if you don’t like it, you should put in your two weeks notice but nobody is abusing you. It’s nothing personal, it’s the same for everybody else. If Miranda were the demon she was portrayed to be (not that I’d want to work for her), she wouldn’t have given Andi a good job recommendation.

Miranda wore a fur coat every day. I wonder how much the Fur Designers of America paid for that placement. Contrary to the film’s depiction, wearing fur is becoming more un-cool every day (hence their need to promote their side of the industry). Since I’m not in the practice of monitoring what fashion editors wear daily, I can’t say how often they wear fur coats but I’d guess it’s a lot less than ever. Even in fashion, fur is becoming increasingly repugnant so you don’t need to run out and buy a fur coat or even covet them. Still, I imagine people will cease wearing furs the day that everybody stops eating red meat, running red lights and smoking.

The behavior of Emily (Miranda’s other assistant) was a caricature portrayal; it’s been a long time since I’ve seen cattiness like that. In fact, I haven’t seen cattiness like that since I was in design school. In other words, while this behavior may have made for good theatre (questionable), this isn’t real life. In real life, only amateurs act like that. Students and wannabes act like that. The more accomplished and professional one is, the less catty one is. It doesn’t make you look professional, it confirms your amateur status. Cattiness -in any industry- is never becoming. If you act like that in real life, they’ll throw you out on your bum.

Minor detail; it’s not true that they’re shooting clothes in size 0’s. It is true that they prefer nothing larger than a size 6, particularly for flats. Anything bigger than a size 6 looks too wide for photography. I mention this in case you need to send out loaners for photo shoots because this can present a problem for a lot of you. You’re making up samples in 8’s or 10’s but you need 6’s (or 4’s) for flat photography. Bummer no?

In summary, I think the integrity of the film is questionable if for no other reason than the absence of cigarettes. What kind of industry consultant did the film makers hire? In real life, there’d be ash trays everywhere. DH reminds me Yves St. Laurent smoked 7 packs a day, Balenciaga was good for 4, Chanel was wrinkly for more than her tan -so you know the movie was fake.

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15 comments

  1. Diane says:

    The fact that Miranda is a not-nice person does lend some credibility to the film (well, maybe not everyone in industry is THAT difficult to work for) and I did notice the absence of cigarettes.

    I agree that Andi’s friends were too hard on her. It was obvious that her new style gave her more confidence and IMHO that is always a good thing. The movie can probably be likened to the TV reality show “Runway” in that it is also a work of fiction.

  2. J C Sprowls says:

    Thankfully there is an industry where a smokin’, drinkin’, and cussin’ Irish guy like me can still fit in. Hanging out the back door w/ the cutters is not doubt interesting fodder.

    Unfortunately, my studio is smack-dab in the middle of the living room. Smoking while doing technical work or making my own clothes is fine by me – they just go to the cleaners. When the time comes that I’m seeing clients again, smoking will (sadly) be banished to the sidewalk (down 6 flights, etc).

  3. Eric H says:

    I wonder if the film wasn’t made as a joke. In several instances, the filmmakers give you the skeleton of a film cliche, but then leave the audience to fill in the blanks.

    * Andi was selling out – um, no, she was an aspiring journalist who had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of working for a big magazine just outside the boss’ office. She heard about blown $300k photo-shoots, she got to see how it was built day by day, and she even pointed out the “big time” writers whose work they published. What a great opportunity for a novice to learn the craft!

    * Andi turned her back on her friends in favor of her career – no, she turned down an opportunity to meet the editor of the New Yorker so she could go be with her passive-aggressive boyfriend (he claimed not to be 10, but he acted like he was 10). She went to their artwork shows. In what way did she turn her back? Actually, she probably should have invited the boyfriend to go with to Paris, but it didn’t appear that they would get to spend time together, and it didn’t work with other plot devices.

    * Andi sold out her co-workers – no, she had the choice of delivering bad news or quitting her job. Quit her job? For a co-worker who was nothing but catty to her? How about a little perspective? And even if she did quit, after the accident, it would not have changed the outcome.

    * Miranda was mean to the designer – actually, after he made the changes, a venture capitalist “took him international”. Unrealistic, yes, but still, given the premise, she did him a favor.

    * Miranda was spiteful and mean – besides working the longest hours of them all, Miranda came through with a damn good reference for Andi despite her very unprofessional behavior.

    Either the joke is on an assuming audience, or the film’s writers and director just weren’t too concerned with consistency.

  4. Carol Kimball says:

    It’s no longer P.C. to show smoking in most films, reality be damned. Makes me wonder how they’d do a remake of “Paper Moon” where little kid Tatum O’Neal is constantly inhaling.

    I just read Roger Ebert’s take on this film. He compares the movie to the “Gee whiz!” formulas of his childhood where the Intrepid Hero Suddenly Gets His Chance and Makes Good. Ebert certainly can’t know much about the rag trade, but seems to have pegged the style (and its faults) accurately.

  5. Josh says:

    I think Miranda was wrapped in fur through most of the film because they wanted her to be more evil. They seemed to have modeled her a little after Cruella De Vil and Anna Wintour, of course.

    I would argue that fur is trying to make a comeback. Who were the designers recently to use real fur? Didn’t Fendi some years ago? Also the whole PETA stink up over Beyonce’s collection which included fur.

    I’m not a big fan of PETA, even though I do believe in compasion for animals. If you want to know the truth about PETA there was an interesting show uncovering the truth about them on Penn & Teller’s showtime show “Bullshit”. Look for it on DVD. They also did an interesting show on the waste of time that recycling is. It was an eye opener to me.

  6. Judith says:

    I know it was basically fictious. I really liked the movie. Idid tell dh during the movie “they do not have wardrobes at magazines like that”. We just laughed over that. Well I dont smoke. I worked in bars for 15 yrs and have smoked enough for everyone not by choice. I did my fair share of drinking and I so could not keep up with british and scottish!!! I married a man who was in the navy for 20 years, he says I swear like a sailor!!! I can relate to J.C’s post.
    I did not read the book ,and usually the film does wander quite a bit away from the book.
    Did anyone read the book and notice alot of changes for the movie???? Curious kitty here.

  7. Janelle says:

    Haven’t seen the movie yet, but enjoyed reading your take on it. I disagree about it not being PC to show smoking in movies because I can think of tons of movies that have the characters smoking. It always seems odd to me because I know so few people who still smoke. It is surprising to me that if smoking is so prevalent in the fashion industry, it wasn’t shown. Go figure.

  8. nadine says:

    Saw the Movie – here’s what East coast people were saying.

    On Andy’s friends – Brooklyn filmgoers thought her friends were unsupportive because “its her job and she has to do what the job requires and they should be more understanding.” A lot of fashion industry people in the audience.

    On Miranda – unscientific fashion poll of fashion industry friends in Manhattan all said that hands down the film was too TAME and too NICE based on their own personal experiences such as – One girl whose Owner of a Famous Fashion label boss sent her out to run errands in the rain dressed in a garbage bag but first by tying a portion into a bow and commenting that now she looked good!!! Another fashion person who was fired from her job by a small fashion company owner when she was being diagnosed with breast cancer so that he wouldn’t have to pay the medical insurance. True stories!

    Other comments were – “What no swearing! That was completely not realistic”. Foul language and fashion go together in many places. Everyone smokes in the fashion industry but standing around outside their buildings. However in old New York workrooms people smoke but those places are all dissappearing. I’ve been in a very famous furrier workroom and everyone was smoking in there – odor on the mink be damned.

    About the pay scale in the industry – I think a fashion designer would be making around $60,000 and an assistant would no or little experience would be making around $35-50K. With 5 years experience about $75K is common and up with more experience.

    The employees will all get a bonus once a year and that is very standard in most fashion companies – at least big ones.

    Perks do come from donated products but clothing lent to stylists for photoshoots is expected to be returned, usually in horrible condition. Barney’s “rents” their clothing to stylists for photoshoots at around 25% of the total cost per day unless they have changed their policy. Yet, even yesterday a bigwig at a top 3 TV channel told their assistant that they were unhappy with a handbag they bought because some hardware had fallen off it. The assistant called her friend who works in an unrelated department at the handbag company, and a brand new handbag was messengered at no cost and with complements to the bigwig within the hour. Yes, it happens all the time in Manhattan.

    Perks are bigger in companies that manufacture fashion as employees get a 50% off price or wholesale + 20% on merchandise. Plus factory samples and sales samples which are made in multiples are hot items to grab at the end of the season (still before they are in the stores). Only the lowly employees or those shopping for xmas presents go to the sample sales because you get it free if you are “connected” or work with the designers. Accessories companies are the best because everyone fits a new handbag. Items from European shopping trips also disappear into the closets of upper management. Designers often borrow clothing from their label and accessories from the inspiration department to wear to special events.

    Most companies make a set of samples for production, for the designer, and 3 or more sets of samples for sales people and ad shoots. So there is a lot of product floating around each season that disappears or goes to the employee sample sale when no longer needed. A small italian clothing company I used to work for sent 5 sample sets to the US and probably had 5 in Italy as well.

    Fashion employees do wear whatever is the latest thing be it fur or in one company where I do a lot of freelance work everyone was wearing the ubuiquitous fashion jeans, stilletos, satin and lace babydoll top and blazer jacketlike an army of fashion dolls. They all eat healthy, go to yoga, smoke outside and wear fur if it is in style or expected of them. No problem with the contradictions.

    That’s my view from the East coast.

  9. Carol Kimball says:

    Janelle said: I disagree about it not being PC to show smoking in movies because I can think of tons of movies that have the characters smoking.

    Sure, but it’s now a considered decision rather than a knee-jerk bit of business to write in for a lot of characters. Does anyone remember the old Samuel French plays that were the mainstay of high school theater? Everyone was smoking all the time, practically, in plays set in sophisticated New York. In Nebraska in the 60’s, it all had to be tediously replaced with other logical time-wasters. Now that’s default procedure for movie scripts.

    Josh thinks Miranda was wearing fur as a definition of her character (I agree). People shown smoking are having that used as a shorthand for who they are. Or for the time the movie was made.

  10. J C Sprowls says:

    Judith,

    If it’s any consolation… my mother owned a truck stop. Consequently, my first forray into the business world was in the restaurant industry for nearly 16 years. ~Long story~ Suffice it to say that I, too, swear like a trucker and often wonder why people are startled when I start dropping bombs. :-)

    Carol,

    Ah, the Samuel French plays! One production I worked on, the female version of the Odd Couple, had a character who smoked. Due to pressures from the administration (i.e. da man) we turned Olive into a gum-chomping, gum-pulling, nose-picking grouch as a substitute for the neurosis.

    Strangely, when we did Hair two years before, the opening nude scene we kept. And, when we did JC Superstar (I played Pontius Pilate) we kept all the double-entendres and innuendo about Pontius’s relationship with JC. Funny how taboos shift with the political winds, eh?

    Josh,

    On the comment of Cruella DeVille, I agree. I haven’t yet seen the movie; but, the previews paint the picture. The moment I saw it, it reminded me of Glen Close in 101 Dalmations. But, that’s a whole other allegory…

  11. Susan Cassini says:

    I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I read the book. The book had everyone smoking, however. The one thing in the book that I found unbelievable was when Miranda went to Paris Emily and Andi cut pieces of velvet to wrap each piece of Miranda’s clothing in before packing. Well, I work with a lot of velvet and it has a nap and when you cut into it, tiny fibers get all over everything and is almost impossible to get off of your clothing! Who would wrap designer clothing in it? And for what purpose?

  12. Jane says:

    How did everybody get sidetracked on smoking and cigarettes? It is a fashion movie…..What did you think of the CLOTHES?

    I have worked for a very large retailer and 1) No one was allowed to smoke in any area in the office 2) I did get free clothes. We had a HUGE Library of styles that had to be purged after every few seasons. So if you had the good fortune of being sample size (which for fit is 8, 10, or 18) it was great. 3) I worked with some VERY, VERY catty people. It was brutal. The atmosphere was very similar to the movie.

    I had a job everyone envied and I was miserable, but unlike Andi I love fashion! So I could total relate, but of course everything in the movie was heightened because it is fictional and theatrical.

    Like most movies, I think the book was better.

    Oh, by the way, some of the clothes from the movie on being auctioned on Ebay. I read the clothing budget for the film was only $100,000 therefore some designers did loan pieces. What great free advertising.

  13. Karen C. says:

    Saw the movie this weekend and loved it for its pure entertainment value, the clothes and, most of all, for Meryl Streep’s performance! And the Paris scenes were lovely.

  14. I was just angry at how little the movie resembled the book. It’s one thing to change little bits and pieces, but the movie hardly kept to the book at all. I’d have been better off not reading the book, or not seeing the movie. And Meryl Streep was not nearly as nasty as Miranda in the book.

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