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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hello, Vogue!

Hello, Vogue

By Nicole Coombe

“She works where?!”

I was a semester away from a Bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism and wanted to kill my brother. He called me from Claremont, California, and while chatting, our conversation turned to a recently graduated friend of his whose senior thesis in Art History had focused on French Couture. She’d just moved to New York. She was in charge of running the infamous fashion closet at Vogue.

When we hung up the phone, I had both sufficiently and equally reprimanded him and made him feel utterly guilty for keeping such information from me, his little sister. I was head-spinning obsessed with New York Fashion and fresh out of an internship at Harper’s BAZAAR. The idea of Vogue was like a white light in the deafened darkness of fashion inferiority—it called to me. I was determined to get into those offices. I forced my brother to agree that if he ever had the chance to put a word in for me, he would.

He did.

Two weeks later, I listened to his voicemail.

“Dude. You gotta call me back. My friend at Vogue needs an intern. Don’t wait. Hurry Up.”

Within the week, I was in touch with his friend and in the process of scheduling an interview. Dialing her 212 office number, my nerves half hoped for voice mail. And then she answered.

“Hello, Vogue,” she sung, her voice rising. It was a famous, light-hearted, and somewhat old-fashioned greeting. Two words that I was sure would change my life. Later that evening, with an interview set for sometime the following week, I began to sketch outfits for the meeting. I wanted to look classic, to appear effortless in appearance… not to stand out as a fashion junkie but to fit in as a woman of style. Piles of crumpled up paper later, I put on a timeless black pencil skirt and a pair of black platform peep-toe pumps.

Then it struck me. I already owned the perfect top.

While out consignment shopping months earlier, I’d come across a lightweight cotton Miu Miu blouse in a sheer cream. It was short-sleeved with a wide neckline and trimmed in a very slight ruffle. Cut in tight princess lines, a strip of hooks and eyes going down the center front acted as closures. It was my first designer buy that wasn’t from the Bridge section of a department store. Referencing historic undergarments, Miuccia Prada’s modern interpretation of the corset cover was originally intended as a modesty piece and now injected with the ingénue innocence of the Miu Miu label. It was real, live, made-in-Italy fashion, and it gave me butterflies.

It was the shirt that was going to get me a gig at Vogue Magazine, the fashion bible of America—perhaps the world. On that hot summer, New York afternoon, I walked into 4 Times Square and met the Fashion Assistant in charge of “the closet” and the American Market Editor. With my nails painted French Pink, I shook their hands and warmly smiled, convincing them I’d do whatever they needed, anything they could ask for. I’d start next week if they would have me as soon. I gratefully and gracefully accepted the position.

For the next few months, I took the train into Manhattan, and in a stall in the ladies room of Penn Station, I changed out of my street clothes and pulled on my skirt and tights. I slipped into my heels. I was the Superman of Fashion Interns. Most days ten blocks to Times Square was my personal runway. Other times, there was a Town Car outside waiting for me. Sliding my sunglasses down over my face and getting into the back of that car, I was transformed.

And it was all because of that fatefully found Miu Miu shirt.

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