Posted by: jeannineatkins | October 4, 2009

September Issue

Vogue, especially in its bulky September issue, has more pages of nothing I want to read than most other magazines. I went to this documentary about its production partly in honor of my daughter who loves fashion, though happily in a forgiving way. She encourages me, say, to break away from black and gray, but she respects my limits: she’s never advocated I try a hairstyle that might require maintenance or try my balance beyond a chunky half inch heel. I went to this movie feeling a bit out of my element, and indeed in Amherst, MA, renowned for much but not fashion, I was one of two in the theater.

I loved September Issue Editor-in-chief Anna Wintour was pretty much what I expected from Meryl Streep’s version in The Devil Wears Prada: there were the Starbucks she seemed to exist on, the decisive eyebrows, the terrible silences, the sizing up of a dress with a pinch of her fingers. But what structured the documentary, besides the forward movement of putting out the 2007 issue weighing almost five pounds, was an implicit comparision between Wintour and creative director Grace Coddington. We learned some of the history of both, including how they began at American Vogue around the same time. Grace was warm to Wintour’s cool, daring to her famous and editorially useful judgements.

While Wintour mentioned more than once the need for fashion to charge forward, Grace apologized for her love of the romantic past that shaped her artistic vision. We saw her face turn rapt as she stood in a Paris garden, and watched her keep her eyes open everywhere. She pored through books of old photographs, and admired the beauty of an old woman’s “fat leg.” She set up a shot of a photographer jumping next to a model. Wintour coolly eyed this spirited photograph, and while accepting its charm, noted the photographer needed to go to the gym. Hearing of this afterward, Grace assured the photographer he looked fine, that it was enough that models were perfect – eyebrows lifting on that word. Then she got on the phone to make sure the belly wasn’t edited out, as was happening with Sienna Miller’s teeth fillings and something about her neck.

It was a great movie about tension between creative and editorial forces, and there were poignant glimpses throughout. It was hard to watch Grace see her work dismissed in seconds, and speak about how seeing such it was hard to go on to the next thing: though she did.

Interviewers asked Wintour’s daughter if she ever might edit the magazine, and when she said No, the edges of her mother’s mouth tightened as if she’d just seen a very terrible dress. The daughter clearly saw this too, and went for peacekeeping: Well right now I’m concentrating on college. But when she was interviewed alone, she said, and I paraphrase: the people there think fashion is the world and really there’s so much more. She shook her imperfect hair, laughed, waved her hands beautifully, much like the young and talented designer Thakoon as he talked about his work; then kept them still when he was graced at a party by a swift step back from Wintour, allowing a burst of flashbulbs as they stood together.



  1. That does sound interesting–even though I am the most fashion-unconscious person you’ll ever meet.

  2. It was interesting, beyond pretty and laughable clothing.
    And Jenn, you might have a hard time for the fashion-unconscious challenge, given that I live with someone who just this morning remarked upon a twenty-five year old photo sent by his brother: I think I’m wearing the same suspenders I was just complaining to you about.
    Yup, they’ve lost a bit of stretch.

  3. I really like looking at Vogue. The photos are always interesting and frequently over the top in some way.
    Would I ever wear any of that stuff? Probably not–for one thing it costs a small fortune–but I think it’s all about the fantasy.
    I do look for designer labels in thrift store and resale shops, though, so it must have some influence.

  4. You’d probably really like this movie. I haven’t been a Vogue reader, but it made me want to get my hands on one. Grace Coddington really seems to put a great sense of design, color, and as you mentioned fantasy into her photo shoots.
    There weren’t a lot of shapes and styles I coveted, but I could see that some of the fabric — the fairy tale flow of it — was just lovely. And I expect it’s some of that loveliness you’re paying for.

  5. I’ll put it on my Netflix list.
    I really enjoy the “Go Fug Yourself” blog, which covers fashion and celebrities; it’s one of my guilty pleasures.

  6. You’ve sold me on this, Jeannine. Next time I have the chance to watch a longer feature (which could be a while), I think this will be my pick!

  7. There was something cool about watching the expressions between the creator and the editor that was moving, wrenching, enlightening to me. Plus some pretty and some hideous outfits. I like documentaries, and this was a good one.
    Thanks for writing, Amy. I always love seeing you here. Or there.

  8. I had heard about this documentary on npr and would like to see it but it isn’t playing anywhere around here that I know of. Thanks for the review.

  9. I think you’d enjoy it as an artist: I liked watching Grace eye a scene and you could almost hear her brain whirr as she composed. We’re lucky to have a small, very much struggling theater that gets movies that don’t go to the mall, but I also just happened to have a free evening cause Sherman Alexie had to postpone a reading due to flu. I bet it will be on dvd soon.
    Thanks for writing, and best wishes for this beautiful month.

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