Say Grace

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Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington

I just finished listening to Grace Coddington read her memoir on Audible. Grace is the creative director at Vogue and the one who had the starring role in the 2009 movie, “The September Issue”, a documentary about how the leading fashion magazine puts together its fattest issue of the year. When most people talk about Vogue, the focus is usually on its world famous editor, Anna Wintour. Many of you will remember Anna from the movie “The Devil Wears Prada,” where she was played by Meryl Streep. The big surprise in “The September Issue” was the revelation that Grace was the true backbone of the magazine.

In reviewing “The September Issue” when it was first released, Time magazine noted, “If Wintour is the Pope then Coddington is Michelangelo.” I thought that was a great way to describe their roles at the magazine. Grace is all about fashion layouts, and Anna sets the tone and topics. Grace is very understated and leads a very quiet life, while Anna is much more flamboyant. Simply put, Grace is a great second banana.

Like most second bananas, Grace does most of the heaving lifting each month to make sure that Vogue is totally cutting edge. She is not at all interested in leading a glamorous life but rather a very quiet one, away from all the action when she is not working. She is all about researching and discovering new trends while her own personal style is pretty basic. At 70 years of age, Grace tends to be as natural looking as she can possibly be. She wears little makeup and let her once ravishing red hair go grey.

Grace reminds me so much of many of the editors I worked with at Women’s Wear Daily almost 40 years ago. They were not fashion plates. A few even looked disheveled and dated. As a young kid working for the Bible of the fashion business, I often wondered why these gals didn’t do more to be stylish and camera ready.

Grace is definitely a cut above the gals I worked with. For starters she spent years as a fashion model traveling the world and was the one that Vidal Sassoon used to create a simple, geometric, “Bauhaus-inspired” hair style called the wedge bob.

Unfortunately, at the age of 26, she was in car accident that left her somewhat disfigured. She later had plastic surgery to repair a lost eyelid. After a long recovery period, Grace gravitated to the editorial side of magazine work, where she developed a strong fashion sense.

It was fascinating listening to Grace read her autobiography in her very mesmerizing British accent. I didn’t really know much about the fashion world, so I found her journey meeting and working with all of the icons in the business very captivating. Grace’s honesty and professionalism are a great example for anyone who wants to know what it takes to be taken seriously in any field.

Once again, I encourage all to listen to books on Audible or any digital format. I probably never would have read this book in print. My choices are very diverse when I know my eyes will not be doing all the work.

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