On Friday, one of my friends and Skirt style inspiration posted this now-infamous article about Radhika Jones (incoming editor for Vanity Fair) meeting with Conde Nast heavyweights in (quelle horreur!) fox-printed tights. The piece, written at the expense of “mean girl” fashion editors, reads like a deleted scene from “The Devil Wears Prada”:
“She seemed nervous. The outfit was interesting,” the staffer noted. According to the fashion editor—who omitted Jones’ admirable literary accomplishments from conversation—the incoming editor wore a navy shiftdress strewn with zippers, a garment deemed as “iffy” at best.
Jones’ choice of hosiery proved most offensive, according to the editor. For the occasion, Jones had chosen a pair of tights—not in a neutral black or gray as is common in the halls of Vogue—but rather a pair covered with illustrated, cartoon foxes.
The animal caricatures may have also been too much for Vogue editor in chief and Condé Nast artistic director Anna Wintour, who is said to have fixed one of her trademark stoic glares upon Jones’ hosiery throughout the duration of the staff meeting.
It’s fun to read and relay because we all want to see Meryl Streep—I’m sorry, Miranda Priestly—I’m sorry, I mean ANNA WINTOUR—taken down for being shitty to a fresh-faced underdog. The satisfaction hits that delightful schadenfreude zone between anyone who was ever teased by Abercrombie-wearing middle schoolers for their just-awakening fashion choices, along with all of us who have been ignored and rejected by the New York media elite (i.e. me; I am describing me).
By the article’s account, Jones was nonplussed by the normcore rejection she received for the whimsical tights, likely Anthropologie’s
mature millennial variety. This is not surprising. Jones is a grown, successful woman who has served as a powerful book editor and has risen this far already staying true to her own sense of style. We can continue to root for her and roll our eyes at the out-of-touch old guard as they are petrified within their own dying medium.
What gets glossed over a bit in this article is the hostility at which other employees, especially women, treat people with a distinct and self-assured level of style. I’m not talking about Andi and her terrible blue sweater. I’m talking about women who dress thoughtfully, specifically, and truthfully.
There is a reason Anthropologie stocks $40 fox tights. A reason that New Seasons has an entire wall devoted to Sock It To Me’s patterned knee-high socks. ModCloth didn’t get gobbled up by an evil corporation for no reason
. We, the twenty- and thirty-somethings of this cruel 21st century, prefer a pop of joy in our workaday ensembles. In a world where only the shittiest news is certain, sometimes you just want to hang your head down and catch a glimpse of something cute.
As simple as this pleasure may be, I have never worked in an office where I could get away with it without comment.
When I was living in Tucson, I worked as a technical editor alongside a woman named, oh, let’s call her Delores. She was a tiny thing, her only bulk coming from the enormous cable knit sweaters she wore every single day, even when it was 115 degrees out and no amount of air conditioning could keep the relentless sun from baking the walls and weaponizing window glass. Her expression was always set at some range of scowl, which I attributed to a lifetime in Arizona. I could hardly blame her for that.
I knew the office was conservative in every sense. No jeans, even on Fridays, but an every-Friday meeting where the owner would come out and give a speech about how bad Obama’s policies were fucking over the mining industry (ahhh, the good old days!). I couldn’t wear patterned tights without dying of heat stroke, so my fashion expression was limited to the occasional sparkly shoe or flamingo print blouse. This is what working on the east coast must be like, I thought in my Dress Barn sheath dresses.
At the office Christmas party, held at a country club down the way from the office in the evening, I wore a holiday cupcake printed dress with red velvet heels. I kept the Christmas tree hats and snowman fascinators in my closet because I didn’t want to cause some kind of accessory panic. I thought, this is an understated version of my holiday self.
While I was chatting with a few people in the lobby, waiting for a crack at the shrimp display, Delores, still in her sweater, still scowling, maybe a few drinks in, came up to me.
“You and your damn shoes. You’re too much and I can’t stand it.”
I burst into a laughing fit, because I had no idea what else to do with my face and/or body. My shoes weren’t inappropriate or unsafe or offensive, or even ugly. Just “too much” for Delores. For her part, she kept glaring at me, up until the day I moved out of Arizona without so much as a goodbye.
It is endlessly jarring when someone makes a shitty comment about a bold pattern or pop on one of my outfits at work, because I don’t think twice about pinning an Erstwilder
brooch to my sleeve or slipping into a pair of cat heels. It’s something I do for me, to make days doing something I don’t always enjoy less unenjoyable. Comments are a willful reminder that choices I make, even if they are up to professional and dress code standards (as ridiculous and subjective as they may often be), are not allowed to be my own. They are up for critique and debate.
But honestly, isn’t it a little sad that a negligibly kitschy pair of tights rocks someone’s world that much? Or that velvet shoes are a total mental bloc to working with someone? How set and self-conscious must one be to witness a deviation and have their world close in on itself? I have witnessed unspeakable crimes of untucked shirts and wintertime shorts and the office pajama pant in my 10-year career, but I stay in my lane. I look down at my sparkly feet. It is enough to be myself. It is a privilege and a joy, and it is enough.
In the last few years since being dragged by Delores, I have stopped laughing. I’m sick of giving everyone a pass for being an asshole and turning my appearance into a comment thread. So, as I come into my bitchy own in my mid-thirties, I shut it down. Like last Christmas, when I was wearing my favorite holiday sweater to work before vacation, and a coworker stopped by without invitation to take inventory of my wardrobe choice.
“Breaking out those ugly holiday sweaters, eh?” He asked.
“It’s a sweater and it’s a holiday,” I said. “But I don’t own anything ugly.”
He walked away confused and probably nonplussed, but I felt vindicated beyond measure. As I’m sure Radhika Jones feels when she sees that those Anthropologie fox tights are sold out for now and forever.