‘Devil’ funny but needs a shorter dress


‘Devil’ funny but needs a shorter dress

By GREG MORAGO Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service

Thursday, April 24, 2003

The Deveil Wears Prada. By Lauren Weisberger. Doubleday. 360 pages. $21.95.

The idea of the devil wearing designer duds is a brilliant concept, conjuring up the limitless possibilities of imagining evil in haute couture. Play along now: The Prince of Darkness in Pucci prints; Lucifer in Louis Vuitton; El Diablo in Dolce & Gabbana; Beelzebub in Bill Blass.

Oh, the fashion mind fairly reels!

In “The Devil Wears Prada,” a breezy size 6 novel about an innocent who stumbles into the snake pit of fashion glossies, Satan appears in the form of Miranda Priestly, the most powerful and feared woman in fashion publishing. Miranda (indeed, a Prada-wearing asp) is in dire need of a new personal assistant, a job devised in the lower rungs of Hades for only the most determined masochists. To say that the vicious Miranda is demanding is to say that Chanel simply sewed clothes.

You’re hired

Into the offices of Runway magazine stumbles Andrea Sachs, a 23- year-old Brown grad who, after a recent nasty bout of amoebic dysentery, courtesy of a trip with her boyfriend to Southeast Asia, looks sufficiently gaunt to pass through the doors at Miranda’s sweat shop. In one of those plot turns that only happens in New York, the clueless Andrea lands the job as Miranda’s assistant.

Although tall and blond (and from Avon), Andrea isn’t choice Runway material. Her wardrobe is Gap instead of Gucci. She has never read Runway, aspiring instead to the New Yorker. And, incidentally, she does not weigh 115 pounds. That makes her on the heavy side at Runway, where everyone eats lettuce with vinegar for lunch and wears impossibly high Jimmy Choo and Manolo stilettos (shoes that make such a racket on the polished stone floors that the heel hordes are called “clackers”).

Still, Andrea has a cool head on her shoulders and is quick on the uptake. What happens to her in her year of degrading servitude to Miranda Priestly is slightly shocking and wholly comical.

The author of “Devil,” Lauren Weisberger, appears well acquainted with the fussy/fabulous world of fashion publishing. She should: She started her career as an assistant to Anna Wintour, the demanding, stick-thin editor in chief of Vogue. In interviews, Weisberger is quick to suggest that Runway could be any of the top fashion glossies and that the fictional Miranda is not modeled on editrix Wintour. But anyone who reads Vogue and W and keeps track of fashion’s emotions doesn’t have to strain too hard to imagine that Wintour might have a little fictional Miranda in her.

That’s what makes “Devil” such a pleasant romp. Read as an “insider” glimpse into the offices of Conde Nast, the book is delicious. Weisberger’s timing is also as precise as the construction of a Kelly bag: Novels written by assistants, nannies and junior editors who squeal on their former employers are quite in vogue now.

Shed some pages

At 360 pages, “Devil” is probably a bit plus-size for its reed- thin story line. It takes too long to get to the point where Andrea delivers her inevitable comeuppance to ice queen Miranda at the couture shows in Paris. Plot elements concerning Andrea’s parents, boyfriend and handsome suitor make for ho-hum reading. Action centered on the outlandish behavior of Miranda — and Andrea’s crazy attempts to please her boss — is when “Devil” makes for hellishly good fun.

Note to Weisberger and her editors who probably aren’t fashionistas: Anna Wintour would never misspell the names of makeup queen Bobbi Brown, supermodel Gisele Bundchen and designers Katayone Adeli and Narciso Rodriguez, as you did in print. Then again, we can’t all be committed clackers.

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