She wears Prada, but is she the devil?

Maddy Airlie 15 February 2015

It has been nearly 10 years since ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ came to our screens: the tale of a wannabe journalist (Anne Hathaway) who has to work far out of her comfort zone at a famous fashion magazine run by the imperious Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep). Fashion is obviously an important and influential cultural industry with hundreds of thousands of people attending New York Fashion Week every year alone. However, the importance of fashion in our lives is undeniably over-stated: do we always need to consider the entire history of a single sweater that we choose to wear on an average morning before the rush for the 9am-lecture when all we’re really thinking about is whether we’ll make it on time?

Fashion has taken over a huge part of our lives and can become stressful, so, sometimes, we don’t care about what we’re wearing or what we look like. It is perfectly valid for Andy (Anne Hathaway) to want a career that doesn’t involve changing her entire appearance, perspective and outlook on life; similarly, maybe Miranda’s obsessive focus reaches ridiculously neurotic levels. Andy is more than justified in not wanting to buy into the entire world of fashion which can be seen as a never-ending chain of exploitation. In the famous scene where Miranda lets Andy know that fashion does affect her life, whether she likes it or not, simply by choosing a sweater. However, Andy wasn’t thinking about making a statement, she was not worrying about her appearance in a job where, at the end of the day, she’s not the designer or the model that’s being judged for her fashion sense.

But Miranda’s quest for sartorial perfection is about more than clothes and designers – fashion is not only her job but has come to define her entire world. She is a career-driven woman who aspires for absolute professionialism in all aspects; ferocity and integrity are necessary for ‘survival of the fittest’ in the fashion-universe. Therefore, isn’t she perfectly justified in demanding a similar professionalism from her employees?

Or am I just playing the ‘devil’s advocate’? In the great scheme of things, maybe clothes aren’t of ultimate importance, yet they’re an important part of our culture, our appearance, our characters, and really can make us feel good:

“Fashion is not about utility. An accessory is merely a piece of iconography used to express individual identity.”

“Oh! And it’s pretty.”