Friday, January 26, 2007

The Devil and Miuccia Prada

I watched "The Devil Wears Prada" for the first time last weekend (I know, shocking). While I had some issues with the film (I thought they gave mixed messages about whether women making their careers a priority is a good or bad thing, and I didn't like the implication that Andy was wrong for wanting to do her job well), I really appreciated the explanation the film gave for why fashion matters and should be taken seriously.

When Andy is first hired at "Runway," she thinksher lack of fashion awareness shows her intelligence and seriousness. In my favorite scene of the film, she laughs when the editors nitpick over a decision between two belts that (to her) look exactly the same. Miranda Priestly (the Anna Wintour-like editrix) turns to her and basically explains that no one is exempt from the fashion industry because couture designers and fashion magazine editors make decisions that trickle down and determine what choices are available to consumers at the mass market level, and that her clothes were chosen for her by Runway, not on her own choosing. In a later scene, Nigel tells her that fashion is greater than art because it's art that you live in, and can use to express yourself anywhere.

I can relate to the conflicting feelings that Andy experiences. Most people look down on those with an interest in fashion as frivolous, brainless and shallow. Ironically, our society also prizes people who dress well and possess a sharp fashion sense. When I tell people that I write a blog that covers fashion, beauty and pop culture, I can tell that most of them look at me differently, as if they've realized I'm not as intelligent or serious as they thought. But commit a fashion faux pas, and everyone is sure to whisper and gossip about you. It's a catch 22 that many women must wrestle with regularly (especially those who work in these industries).

Coincidentally, I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal the following day that discussed this very issue. WSJ fashion correspondent Alessandra Galloni interviewed Miuccia Prada about what makes "so many women squeamish about fashion" and "whether the pursuit of fleeting clothing trends [is] a frivolous one." Ms. Prada had a few great comments in response, which I thought I'd share.

"What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today, when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language."

"Buying a $5,000 handbag just as a status symbol is a sign of weakness. Daring to wear something different takes effort. Unfortunately, there are few women who dress the way they think, but it's happening more with the new generations. People are choosing, thinking."

"Wearing fashion is like decorating your house. Why aren't people embarrassed to choose beautiful furniture or art for their house? What you wear says even more about you than what you put in your home, or the car you buy or the trips you take. It's more basic, more personal."

"For me, dressing is a versatile instrument that helps you express what's in your head and you have many different things in your head -- a relationship with a man, with society. Sometimes you want to appear powerful, or serious or rich. All of us want to represent something. When you meet someone, among the instruments you have – like dialogue – you also have clothes."

If you're a WSJ online subscriber, you can read the full interview here, it's a great read.


Anonymous said...

What does she mean when she says she brought to the ugliest?

Meg said...

I think she was referring to what the fashion world deemed ugly... but something may have been lost in translation, so I'm not totally sure.