The September Issue: The Blogging Predicament and The Film

I am a sporadic, even capricious, blogger. For that, I apologize. I personally dislike it when bloggers fail to update regularly without due reason. It annoys me more when it’s a blog I’m slightly addicted to, as in the case of Very Mary Kate, whose creator is currently on her second, several-month-long hiatus. What will I do without an abundance of jokes about the Olsens’ diet?

However, I find that this is a phenomenon I cannot avoid, even though there is no true excuse for it. This blog is not my job, nor is it related in anyway — I need to focus on my education for the time being, so much of the work I do here is done over breaks. Hence, a slowdown in blogging whenever I hit September. I’m sure I could curate a blog with pretty pictures I found of editorials (that almost everyone interested in fashion has seen anyway), but that is not what I want to do. I want to write something too (even though pretty pictures are a great bonus), something original, and something with some (albeit disputable) value. But it is, sadly, not a priority, and the fact that I cannot find it in myself to love fashion only exacerbates the issue. I do like fashion, though (a lot), and clothes and books and cooking and travel and photography. And I cannot seem to be capable of confining myself to one topic, either (a great weakness of this blog, in my opinion).

And thus I face “The September Issue” (don’t laugh, let me enjoy my moment of brilliance): the situation which occurs whenever I return to school in September, and lasts through the entirety of May, with the exception of breaks. Education always comes before blogging, and this fact is unavoidable.

But I can try, at least. I really want to be able to stick with this blog, even if I end up as the only person reading it. It is a forum for me to write about or share photos of or reflect on whatever subject I want, and I find that to be pretty rewarding. So I am going to try and keep this blog going, although I can’t promise there won’t be lapses in which I fail to post for a few weeks. I do promise to formally close this blog if I ever truly decide to stop blogging, but I can’t see that day coming anywhere in the near future. I love blogging — I really do — and I love having a little corner of the web that I can make my own.

Now I would like to stop rambling about my personal blogging (and possible time organization or multitasking?) issues and focus on the second part of this post: that being, the actual September Issue, directed by R.J. Cutler.

I’ve had the DVD sitting around for a while, but I never quite got around to watching it (again, possible procrastination issues?) until a few days ago. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it that much — I can never really (as aforementioned) get super excited about fashion, and I’ve always been partial to Elle anyway.

However, I found it to be quite intriguing and very well done. In some respects, it was the real-world equivalent of The Devil Wears Prada, but it did have a very human aspect to it. I never found Anna Wintour to be as much of an ice queen as people have claimed — I really see her as doing her job and trying to put out the best magazine possible. The Devil Wears Prada takes her character to its extreme — painting her as so career-obsessed that the magazine ultimately overshadows friendships and family. Wintour’s life is obviously not as severe or so quickly defined. During the course of the film, we are introduced to her daughter, Bee Shaffer, who is studying to be a lawyer at Columbia and does not share the same view of the fashion industry as her mother:

I really don’t want to work in fashion. It’s just not for me. I respect her, obviously, but it’s just a really weird industry. She wants me to be an editor. I would never put it down, but I just don’t want to take it too seriously. People in there act like fashion is life. It’s really amusing, but if that’s your career — there are other things out there, seriously… I think I want to be a lawyer. [Source]

Conversely, Wintour claims that people don’t take fashion seriously because it intimidates them, because it makes them “nervous” and “frightened.” I am not a fan of this statement — I found it to be a little assuming and slightly infuriating. There are — surprise! — people in the world who simply don’t care about fashion, who don’t hold it in the same revered light as some. There are also people who can’t afford to dress in designer clothes all the time. (And there seems to be something wrong with defining style by labels, anyway.) Wintour said in the film:

Just because you like to put on a beautiful Carolina Herrera dress or a pair of J Brand blue jeans instead of something basic from K-Mart it doesn’t mean that you’re a dumb person. [Source]

I’m not sure this attitude is intentional, but Wintour does appear in the film as a very self-righteous character, always a bit pretentious and aloof. One former reporter for Women’s Wear Daily took his critique of her persona (dated May 2007, before the documentary was made) to the extreme:

She plays up this aristocratic, Marie Antoinette “Let them eat cake” routine, but, excuse me, can I get some proof that she holds a title of nobility that goes back to the 13th century? No. All she does is edit a magazine. That’s it. So what’s with the royalty routine? [Source]

For the most part, I agree. The movie does not overtly rail against Anna Wintour and is pretty unbiased, so much of the interpretation of what she says is left to the viewer. I’m not going to criticize her work ethic — if being direct and harsh works for her and the magazine, then business is business. But I find her affected (or perhaps actual?) haughtiness unnecessary and frustrating. In most of the incidents shown in the movie, I found myself leaning towards the side of Grace Coddington, Vogue‘s creative director. She takes her work seriously, like Wintour, but she comes off as having a very down-to-earth character and is very passionate about what she does. She, like the designers we meet during the film, views fashion (as well as photography) as an art form, and puts together some brilliant editorials for the magazine — many of which Wintour cuts or wants edited. Coddington said in the documentary:

I care very much about what I do, or I still wouldn’t be doing it. But it gets harder and harder to see it just thrown out. And it’s very hard to go on to the next thing. [Source]

I loved her in the film. I didn’t know much about either of these two fashion icons at the start (and still don’t), but Coddington really struck me as sensible, determined, and genius.

This is a must-see, for those who love fashion and for those who just want a good story with interesting characters. It is not your average boring documentary, either — the film is very much about the people in it, not the fashion world itself or the social sphere it occupies.

Quick takes: unbiased, engaging, accurate and nuanced portrayal of characters, good details, the plot sometimes felt unclear in the sense that it wasn’t solely focused on the pressure of the “September issue” itself.

{Image sources: kenyon.edutheseptemberissue.com, movie stills from here, here, and here}

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13 thoughts on “The September Issue: The Blogging Predicament and The Film

  1. Pingback: Notes from a Year of Blogging « Prada For Breakfast

  2. “And I cannot seem to be capable of confining myself to one topic, either (a great weakness of this blog, in my opinion).”

    I actually think that’s your strong point. 🙂

    I love your blog, I really do. I’m sad you don’t have time to keep it up, but I also understand how hard it is to juggle everything as a student. Great post, girl!

  3. The woman who wrote “The Devil Wears Prada,” Lauren Something, actually worked for Wintour for about a year. That book is about her although I think the assistant or the boyfriend do not come off quite as good in the book as they does in the movie. It is a big whine fest in my opinion.

  4. I too enjoyed this film and found the portraits of Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington striking. I think Ms. Wintour strongly wishes that fashion got the same sort of unequivocal respect that other industries/professions garner, and it comes across in these grandiose statements and justifications. I love fashion – millions of men and women love fashion – but most of us don’t take it as seriously as perhaps she’d like. I agree that it’s much easier to relate to Grace Coddington’s perspective, which is joyful and artistic and passionate in a much more grounded way.

    I found your blog after reading the email you left on mine – it’s terrific (your blog), and I look forward to reading more. =)

  5. Hi Halie! Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and for the awesome comment. Using viewfinders for grid enlargements really helped. It forces you to think of each piece of the pie abstractly and it helps prevent becoming too anal about the entire piece until you get to the last grid. Or at least that is what it did for me.

    I found your review of “The September Issue” to be quite substantive. My brow furrowed when talk about editing down the cameraman’s belly ensued, but overall, I enjoyed everyone in this film, even Anna Wintour, although I didn’t agree with many of her decisions at first.

  6. PS: I’m following you on twitter and bloglovin. I don’t mean to say that you should follow me back or whatever unless you want to. I just wanted to let you know that your blog is highly admired…

  7. Brilliant review. I actually enjoy reading posts which have matter and substance rather than just pretty pictures. I can also completely understand the education-comes-before-blogging protocol because I face it myself. Especially now that I have my finals. As you said you’re addicted to that one blog, I’ll say that even though it’s the first time I’ve visited your blog, I’m already addicted. I’m a literature freak and realist myself and oftentimes find all these ‘labels’ and ‘couture houses’ and the works highly overrated. Just because you don’t have a single ‘brand’ or whatever in your closet doesn’t mean you are ‘unfashionable’. That theory is just sad and pathetic. I’ve found a blog that practically reflects my values and thoughts and hence, the immediate addiction. All I’ll say is keep up with the great work and I’m honestly starving for more…

  8. Pingback: Go Behind the Scenes at Fashion Shows, Get Beauty Advice and More - Deals2Inbox

  9. Definitely agree with your review of The September issue, I too also found myself leaning towards Grace and her fantastic editorial styling. Learned a lot from watching this documentary, and hope another one comes out that shows these magazines integrating with online media like twitter, bloggers, etc.
    ~Giselle
    http://www.machinewashwarm.blogspot.com

  10. Alright Miss Halie! I check in every day hoping you’ve updated. I am addicted to YOUR blog. So, you must blog more often. For ME. haha. But seriously, I miss your writing and your insight. Love your blog, girl.

    I really enjoyed September Issue. Just seeing how much work goes into that magazine was mind blowing. My husband actually watched it with me and he really enjoyed it too. I think documentaries in general are very compelling. And this one did not disappoint.

    Missed you tons. XO
    Tracy

  11. Saw this over Christmas
    Enjoyed it very much and she didn’t seem quite as bizarre as the world leads us to believe
    I think she owes a lot to the editor with the bush red hair, can’t remember her name.

    As for your blogging, take time for you, but return to blogging for the fun. When it stops being fun, what’s the point right??
    Brett

  12. I love that you did this. I sort of cried through a lot of September Issue. The women are so beautiful with lines and crinkles showing with the same nonchalance of their drop-dead impeccably tailored pants, lyrical dresses and luxurious shawls and sweaters. It’s physically demanding tromping up and down here and there to find small designers, deal with the drama of large houses, make advertisers happy and still turn out an issue that is truly beautiful … when it’s the work of Ms. Coddington. In their spare time, they have put young indie designers into collaborations with the Gap, featured the white shirt group produced on the cover, sparred with the government of France to do more to support a fragile industry, picked up the phone to implore a buyer to look at a talented designer with little resources and meandered in the battlefield of photographers and models. On a budget. They could run the world, these “dames” … long live the Ladies!!!

    It’s a wonderful world, really it is. I miss it madly!!!

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