Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Devil Wears Prada I

The Devil Wears Prada, a movie about a campus journalist who ends up working for the editor-in-chief of Runway which is considered the fashion magazine, is a perfect demonstration of the adage that clothes make the person and that one can be excluded from a certain field in many ways.

Andy, Anne Hathaway's character was clearly not dressed appropriately. The clothes she wore to her job interview and the clothes she wore to work caused her co-workers to raise their eyebrows and make critical remarks. She had no working knowledge of the industry and thiswas apparent in her failure to recognize the first names of icons of the fashion industry.

Andy becomes frustrated because no matter how hard she worked, her efforts were not appreciated. Then she decided to ask the fashion director of the magazine to give her a clothing make-over and from then on she moved from success to success in her work.

What this transition shows is that practice can not only be distinguished as being appropriate or inappropriate but within particular fields, in the pursuit of particular stakes, practice can be right or wrong. Strategies, in particular, are right or wrong.

Dressing appropriately was a good strategy, or the right strategy for Andy to get ahead. In order for her to get ahead, she had to wear the right clothes, and the right brand and had to have the right look.

Dressing appropriately is not just good strategy in the fashion industry, it is also the right strategy in any field. The corporate world has spawned an entire culture of power dressing. There is an entire industry composed of stylists.

Sometimes, dressing appropriately means dressing down rather than dressing up. Among students, for example, attire that is too formal or too garish would be considered "different". Slippers are in now among students and faculty are shocked by this particular instance of dressing down.

Some people refuse to dress appropriately, choosing to assert their own unique identity and swim against the tide. This is fine (we all have the freedom to do what we want to do, after all) but these people have greater difficulty getting ahead precisely because they are too different.
There is a contestant of Philippine idol, for example, who is a lesbian or a transgender (I'm not sure how she identifies herself). Her clothes are nowhere near being girlish. She has a good voice but the judges pick on her by asking if she will ever wear a skirt in the contest. Choosing to wear clothes not usually associated with girls is her prerogative. But dressing in a way that the judges and some sectors in Philippine society may consider inappropriate may cost her the contest. Some people may not accept her rebelliousness and assertion of difference.

Practices need not be viewed from the perspective of morality (i.e. good or evil). That is another discussion altogether. But practices are inevitably implicated in the discussion of whether or not your strategies are right or wrong for getting ahead in a particular field.

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