What I didn’t tell you is that in the midst of my crazy work weekend I played hooky Saturday night. My friends S and M (don’t make any jokes!) came over, and as mentioned, helped clean the house for a while. Then we cleaned up a bit and headed out to The Avenue, one of those fake small towns that are just the latest version of a mall, to do dinner and a movie.
S is Korean; she came here when she was 8. Her mother came from a very wealthy family and married ‘down’. S tells of her mother commenting on how unstylish she is while she’s one of the more stylish women I know. She has the purse of the hour, always has stylish bunion-inducing heels and wears a parade of stylish coats all winter. M is also stylish, she’s Nigerian by way of England and is strikingly lovely. And then there’s me. Stylish by way of thrift-stores (and an awesome Korean MIL).
We were those women in the theater who make you pray, “Don’t sit near me! Please stay far, far away!!” During the cleaning time and chat at our house, M kept saying, “Spot on!” and now S kept repeating the phrase in a funny Koreanized British accent. To retaliate, M was using the phrase, “Praise Gawd!” with a horrible twangy American accent. I believe there was even a mild Whopper tossing incident, which landed spot on.
We calmed down once the movie started. If you know nothing about fashion, the movie is still enjoyable (I knew 30 percent of the names they were throwing around), but if you really love fashion the way S does, it was a movie to drool over. The Anne Hathaway character, Andrea, gets to walk into a props closet and walk out with loaner shoes and bags by all the big names that I can’t spell or pronounce.
In the end it’s a morality play: for what will you sell your soul (or for ‘soul’ insert: time / energy / creativity)? Andrea gets a fluke chance to be 2nd assistant for Miranda Priestly, fictional editor of a made-up magazine (loosely based on Vogue and its editor). I heard Meryl Streep interviewed; they asked if she was trying to model her character, Miranda, on Vogue’s editor, Anna Wintour. She responded that she had no interest in making a documentary about Wintour, rather she imagined her character as a man and acted accordingly.
The scene that replays in my mind is one when Andrea walks into the town home of Miranda. To her shock, Miranda is there, in a gray bathrobe with no makeup. After so many scenes of Miranda in stylish glory, seeing her pale and old is like a punch in the gut. Meryl Streep is such an extraordinary actress that she inhabits this power mongering game-player in a way that makes you both hate her and love her at the same time. She’s never completely dismissible as a selfish bitch. And that’s a huge part of her power.
What is the drive in us to be trendy? Why does that seem to define our status, or our design savvy, or our taste? If we’re honest with ourselves, that drive is in every field, it’s just that the markers change. If you’re in science, no one cares about the clothes, but have your new 17-inch laptop or G5 delivered to the office and watch everyone drool. If you’re in a field like design though, how you dress reflects whether you are aware of trends, which reflects whether someone should be paying you to think for them (which is the heart of the designer’s craft). I could pretend that I’m above all the fashion frenzy, but I wonder what I would do in that world? I suspect I would begin drooling over the names and would love to flaunt having the latest greatest items. One of my fears about myself is that if I had access to money I would dive headfirst into that pool and drown there.