The Devil Wears Prada film preview

EMMA LEE Working on a fashion magazine is just an endless round of fabulous parties and designer freebies right? A big screen version of former Vogue intern Lauren Weisberger’s satire The Devil Wears Prada arrives at cinemas today, starring Meryl Streep as boss from hell Miranda Priestly. Emma Lee has a preview.


When the novel The Devil Wears Prada was published in 2003, it went straight into the New York Times bestseller list and stayed there for six months.

If you were to judge it by its cover, there wasn't really anything to set it apart from all the other “chick lit” novels on the market - right down to the use of the swirly font that for some bizarre reason publishers seem to believe is the key to attracting women to read books.

But it was the similarities between art and real life that were the real talking point.

The book's author, Lauren Weisberger, had worked as an assistant on the world's biggest fashion magazine, Vogue under the British-born editor Anna Wintour - a woman whose icy demeanour has earned her the nickname “nuclear” Wintour.

The book tells the story of young college graduate and aspiring journalist Andy Sachs, who wins an assistant's job at the fictional women's glossy fashion magazine Runway, edited by the fearsome Miranda Priestly.

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The qualifications needed for Andy's job include a thick skin, telepathic powers to predict Miranda's bizarre demands (including getting hold of two copies of a not yet published Harry Potter book for her twins), nerves of steel and no social life whatsoever.

But, as she's regularly told, a million girls would kill for her job.

Weisberger has denied that malevolent Miranda is based on Wintour, saying the book is part fiction and part a mish-mash of the experiences of her and her friends in their first jobs. Critics and readers would beg to differ, though.

Wintour, who is one of the most influential people in fashion, has been editor-in-chief of US Vogue since 1998.

Famed for her severe bob haircut and fondness for wearing sunglasses, she started out working in the fashion department of Harpers and Queen in the 1970s and also edited British Vogue and House and Garden.

She's credited with playing a part in the success of the designers Michael Kors, John Galliano and Stella McCartney.

And the similarities between Runway and Vogue don't end with the woman at the helm. Fictional fashion editor Nigel is said to be modelled on editor-at-large and Wintour's confidant Andre Leon Talley.

Conde Nast, which publishes Vogue, is said to have a similar canteen to Runway's fictional publishers Elias-Clark - such is the fear of gaining a pound or two that carbs are off the menu.

Now the book has made it onto the big screen, starring Oscar-winning Meryl Streep as Miranda, and Hepburn-esque Anne Hathaway as downtrodden Andy.

And the whole Wintour/Priestly debate has been stirred up again, with the former rumoured to be furious about it.

But Wintour did go to the film's premiere - and was said to actually be wearing Prada.

During promotional rounds for the film Streep said: “I think that's apocryphal. I don't think it's true. She came to a charity benefit screening in the US, which was very graceful of her considering it is based on a book about her.

“The characterisation in the film doesn't resemble her so I don't see her in any way blackballing us.

“I never considered making her (Miranda) English or in any way like Anna Wintour because that felt too constricting and I wanted to have complete freedom in creating the character.

“Most of my models for this character are American and I stole from people I know, not from the English person who runs Vogue because I don't know her and I don't really know anything about her.”

The Devil Wears Prada shows the fashion world at its most shallow.

In the opening scene, one member of staff is seen swapping her comfy clogs for Dolce and Gabbana stilettos on hearing that Miranda is on her way into work.

Despite not knowing her Christian Dior from her Calvin Klein, she is soon swooning over Marc Jacobs bags. Her preppy dress sense is regularly sniffed at by her fashionista colleagues until she caves in and asks stylist Nigel to give her a makeover from items in the legendary fashion closet, which is a jumble sale of designer cast-offs.

She also bows to pressure and slims down to a size four (a UK size eight).

As well as having a sharply tailored script, the Devil Wears Prada is also a fascinating insight into the glamorous side of the business and the not so glamorous (long hours).

The film's other selling point is the fabulous outfits, put together by Patricia Field.

But as Streep says: “I think it's a fantasy story, but people like Miranda do exist in many areas of corporate life. Usually they are men - we just put a dress on her.”

The Devil Wears Prada is out now.

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