With Fashion Week underway and Anna Wintour’s famous Met Gala just around the corner, let’s take a look back at this 2006 classic.
Though The Devil Wears Prada isn’t technically a true story, it is a movie that exposed some brutal truths about the fashion industry to a wide audience. The 2003 bestseller it’s based on is a roman à clef—that is, a thinly-veiled fictionalization of real people—written by Lauren Weisberger, former assistant to Vogue’s legendary editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.
In the screen version, Anne Hathaway stars as bright-eyed ingenue Andy, an aspiring journalist who somewhat implausibly stumbles into a job assisting Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestley, the fearsome editor-in-chief of fashion magazine Runway. As the title suggests, Miranda is monstrous, but she’s also extraordinary, and Andy finds herself drawn in against her better judgment.
Since Andy undergoes such a dramatic shift throughout the movie—aesthetically, as well as emotionally—it’s intriguing to wonder what kind of mood board she’d put together. Here are a few ideas . . .
The Inspiration: Serious Journalism
Much to the horror of Andy’s Runway colleagues, she has no interest in fashion, and has never even heard of her new boss. She wants to be a serious journalist—as the editor of her student paper, she wrote an award-winning series of articles on the janitors’ union—and only deigns to work at Runway because it’s the only publication that responded to her application.
But, by the end of the movie, she moves on to a dream newspaper job, thanks to a surprise recommendation from Miranda.
“There’s kind of a romance between Andy and Miranda, and the audience wants to know how it gets resolved, so we wanted to leave them with some closure,” screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna told Films42 of that moment, which doesn’t appear in the book.
“Miranda doesn’t give Andy anything when they see each other on the street [at the end], she doesn’t smile at her, but we know.”
The Inspiration: Carbs
There are a few things that set Andy apart from her prickly Runway coworkers. She’s capable of smiling, she’s (gasp) a size six, and she eats carbs. Specifically, a lot of really delicious-looking sandwiches.
On her way to the office for her Runway interview, she grabs a classic onion bagel, which Nigel (Stanley Tucci) can later smell on her. And, after a truly awful day, her chef boyfriend Nate does, perhaps, the only useful thing in the entire movie—makes her a grilled cheese sandwich with Jarlsberg. (Important to note: She doesn’t actually eat it, though. Miranda’s influence.)
The Inspiration: Burnout
To say Andy’s thrown in the deep end is an understatement. She’s on call for Miranda 24/7, expected to juggle seventeen tasks at once, and work actual miracles—like finding a flight from Florida to New York in the middle of a hurricane—and look immaculate as she does it.
Miranda has no boundaries and makes unreasonable demands on Andy’s personal time, which starts to impact her relationship with her friends and boyfriend. The stress soon takes a toll, and it’s only thanks to a savage pep talk from Stanley Tucci’s Nigel that Andy sticks it out.
According to McKenna, she had to dial up the intensity and brutality of the world after her initial draft, on the advice of an anonymous fashion insider. “I had enormous trouble finding anyone in the fashion world who’d talk to me, because people were afraid of Anna and Vogue, not wanting to be blackballed,” she told EW.
“There was one person who spoke to me, whose name I will never divulge, who read it and said, ‘The people in this movie are too nice. No one in that world is too nice. They don’t have to be, and they don’t have time to be.’ After that, I did a pass to make everyone a bit busier and meaner.”
The Inspiration: Downtown Manhattan (Specifically Tribeca)
When Andy finally does get to go home, she can retreat from the fast-paced world of The Elias-Clark Company and ride the subway back downtown to her stunning Tribeca loft.
While it’s not totally clear how she and Nate can afford the rent on this place, the suspension of disbelief is worth it—just look at all those beautiful cobblestone streets that Andy gets to exhaustedly walk through!
The Inspiration: Vintage Vogue Covers
Though no one mentions the name Vogue, it’s clear that Runway is a stand-in for the iconic fashion magazine. And, despite her initial lack of interest in all things fashion, Andy gets seduced by the unique power and history of the Runway brand.
If she had an online mood board, it’d surely include a few vintage covers as she starts to delve more into the magazine’s history.
The Inspiration: Breaking up
Let’s face it, Andy’s relationship with Nate was never going to last, with or without the added strain of her demanding job. He’s unsupportive of her dreams, and casually dismissive toward her well before she gives him any reason to be. When she tells him she got hired at a fashion magazine, his incredulous response is: “What was it, a phone interview?”
But Nate isn’t wrong to be upset as he watches Andy transform into a totally different, more callous person, who prioritizes work over everything else—including his birthday. Their breakup is a long time coming, and Anne Hathaway felt strongly that they shouldn’t reconcile romantically at the end of the movie.
“The movie used to end with a slightly more upbeat scene with Nate, more of a reconciliation,” McKenna told EW. “They’re so young and they’re choosing spouses for their life, but we know that twenty-five-year-olds are not in that position . . . I had written a more conventional ending where they run through the park together or something.”
The Inspiration: Fashion Week
Andy’s transformation from ingenue to devil-in-the-making is complete when she says yes to accompanying Miranda to Paris Fashion Week in place of long-suffering executive assistant Emily (Emily Blunt), whose entire life has basically been leading up to this trip.
It’s also during Fashion Week that Andy realizes just how cutthroat Miranda is, and how mistaken she’s been to invest all of her time and energy in trying to please her. But, before all of that, she gets to take in some stunning runway looks.
Despite the movie’s couture pedigree, costume designer Patricia Field didn’t have a huge budget to work with—and some big names in fashion balked at taking part, for fear of upsetting Anna Wintour.
“I personally was not worried about reactions from the fashion industry,” she told Racked. “We had a few designers who were a bit frightened to participate . . . but I just told them, first of all, I’m not doing Anna Wintour, and second of all, I would never want to pressure any designer into something they were not comfortable with. It’s not like we only had three choices in terms of which designers we pulled.”
The Inspiration: Paris
Though Andy’s trip to the City of Lights becomes a dark night of the soul for her, the city also clearly exhilarates her. Sometimes, a change of scenery is exactly what you need to bring things into focus. And, for Andy, the Paris trip makes her realize she’s heading down a path she doesn’t like.
So, what’s a girl to do but dramatically step out of her cab, stride across a busy street, and throw her work phone into a Parisian fountain?
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Cover image via Sean Pavone.