Like Mean Girls and Clueless before it, The Devil Wears Prada is one of those movies that’s made such a huge cultural imprint on our society that quoting lines from it in everyday conversation is seen as normal behavior.
Despite being more than a decade old, the film is universally beloved for a lot of reasons: Most of us can relate to having a demanding boss (though probably not as venomous as Meryl Streep’s brilliant Miranda Priestly), we've all struggled when it comes to balancing career and personal life, and everyone loves a trying-on-clothes montage. But the movie is also compelling because of its insider look at an industry that's typically closed off and hidden behind heavy, glass doors for most people.
But how real is the portrayal? It’s well-known that Vogue’s Anna Wintour served as inspiration for Lauren Weisberger’s best-selling novel upon which the film is based, but there is no way bosses like Miranda, who can belittle you with a mere glance, or coworkers like Emily, whose identity is wholly wrapped up in her job, exist IRL. Or that your coworkers would reference you not by name but your dress size and condescend to you every chance they got, right? Right? Depends on who you ask. So, we asked.
Read on to find out what the people who have the jobs a million fashion-loving kids would kill for really think of the film and its depiction of their chosen industry.
Landon Peoples, associate editor at V Magazine
For all intents and purposes, I love The Devil Wears Prada, but it is scarily accurate—even today. Working in fashion, you’ll encounter every personality represented in that film—the nice ones, the mean ones, the backstabbers, and people who will really help you and want to see you succeed—and, you’ll also experience different working environments similar to the offices of Runway. But, nowadays, you can sort of customize how Devil Wears Prada you want your career to be. If you want that exact experience, work in print or at one of the old, storied publications. If you don’t want that experience, and you want a great work-life balance and an open, amicable office culture, then work at a digital media company. But whatever you do—work your ass off, and worry about the Chanel boots later.
Lauren Caruso, site director at StyleCaster
I don't think The Devil Wears Prada is an accurate take on the fashion industry at all! Of course, there are long hours and it's a lot of hard work—and the life of an assistant to someone as powerful and busy as an editor-in-chief truly is nonstop—but it's not nearly as catty as it was portrayed. You end up spending more time with your coworkers than you do with your actual families, so they become like family. Hell, some of my former coworkers are like family now. Sure, there are hiccups, but if anyone's secretly plotting to take someone else's spot in Paris, it's news to me.
Oh, and for the record, nobody has the time to give their subordinate an unreasonable task and then wait for them to fail! That whole Harry Potter book scene was just plot fodder. Finding and hiring the right person takes as much time as it does in any other industry, so why would you want to haze—or worse, sabotage—someone?
The fashion industry is pretty small—most editors spend time with each other at events, press trips, or working together on content swaps—so generally, it pays to be friendly and professional.
Shelley Brown, fashion and beauty editor at The Knot
In my early days as an intern and an editorial assistant in the fashion world, I experienced my fair share of Devil Wears Prada-esque situations: Balancing trays of cupcakes in six-inch pinpoint stilettos I definitely could not afford, lugging 200-pound trunks down flights of stairs, carrying flats of water bottles several miles to a shoot location in 100-degree heat. You get the idea. When I’d tell my friends back home about my job, they’d always cite the film: "Oh that’s so Devil Wears Prada!" or "OMG, you’re a less glam Anne Hathaway RN." And, of course, there’s always the inevitable question when you tell a stranger you work in fashion: “Is it exactly like Devil Wears Prada?”
In truth, there are always "personalities"—a fashion industry code word for highly eccentric individuals—you meet and work with. However, since becoming the fashion editor at The Knot, one of my favorite things about my work life is the genuine kindness—and true non-diva attitudes—of my coworkers. There is nothing Devil Wears Prada about this role, and that is one of the things I appreciate most. Sure, there are still parts of my job that are intensely physical—the trunk lugging and garment bag wrangling will never go away!—but I look forward to coming to work every day, and the "personalities" I work with now are great, really down-to-earth ones.
Rachel Torgerson, fashion editor at Cosmopolitan.com and Redbookmag.com
I vividly remember when The Devil Wears Prada came out—I felt like all the magazines I read were covering it in a can-you-believe-we’re-being-exposed kind of way. The "mystique" of fashion magazines was definitely heightened after I watched it, but I was extremely wary of working in such a competitive environment. Despite the anxiety I had, that this world would be full of catty, dismissive people, I still wanted to pursue this career. By the time I had my first few internships, it seemed like that attitude had vanished. Most of the people I’ve worked with have been wonderful, my bosses have wanted to mentor me, not put me down or give me impossible tasks. While everyone I’ve personally interacted with has been amazing, I have heard horror stories from friends who have experienced things similar to Andy, but those are becoming fewer and farther in between.
I’m not sure if the industry changed as a result of this movie and book, shining a light on its faults, or if it changed with the times, but I do think it is way better than it seems in the film. I think The Devil Wears Prada added extra drama to create a better story, but there was some real truth to it. I do think it has staying power because it isn’t just about fashion magazines or even journalism—it’s about overcoming serious obstacles, finding yourself, and hard work. These are themes anyone anywhere can understand and relate to, and seeing someone like Andy pull it off and achieve her dreams is the ultimate happy ending.
Christine Flammia, associate style editor at Esquire
The first time I watched The Devil Wears Prada, I actually watched it three times in a row. I couldn’t stop. I loved the way it broke down fashion into a true business and point of mastery. I spent so much of my time in college having to defend my love for fashion journalism—amid a presentation once, a classmate raised his hand and asked, "Is fashion journalism really even a career path?" I loved that the movie depicted the type of hard work that goes into such a specific beat. And don’t be fooled—Miranda Priestly is real. She’s a caricature of a person, really, but real nonetheless. The high expectations, the "don’t ask me a question you can Google the answer to," the never-make-the-same-mistake-twice attitude–those are actually quite useful, realistic, but unspoken fashion rules. The biggest differences between the movie and reality: Not everyone is so mean-spirited in his or her approach, and nearly zero people think that they can do the job of running a successful publication by themselves.
Tanisha Pina, associate market editor at Racked
I try not to think too often about how this one movie I watched when I was 14 very literally changed the course of my life, but I'll always have a sweet spot for it for that same reason. It's obviously a very over-the-top look at what the industry was at the time; you couldn't just go into the fashion closet as an assistant and "borrow" clothes, or else I wouldn't have been wearing Zara while working at Vanity Fair.
A lot of stuff though—running around the city schlepping heavy garment bags, absolute madness and tense vibes before a run-through, and the nonexistent work-life balance and equally nonexistent salary—was and is way too real. The whole idea that you drift away from your friends, family, significant others really isn't a stretch at the beginning of your career, either. Especially in the fashion closet, which is the very bottom of the totem pole, you're pulling 11- and 12-hour days sometimes, and when you're not, you're so tired you don't want to do anything.
With all that said, so much of what this industry is has changed since 2006—even in the last year since I've moved on to a digital publication—so as for staying power? Not so much. But I love that I grew up during a time where all of that was to some degree actually happening. I'll always love magazines and print and the chaos of it all, and TDWP will always remind me of being young and naive enough to want to be a part of it.
Marissa Smith, senior fashion market editor at NYLON
The Devil Wears Prada was and is my life. A lot of fashion editors might have different opinions, but the best thing about the movie, for me, is that I can explain my job to my family and friends that aren’t familiar with the editorial fashion industry. Although my job has evolved since I was someone’s assistant like Andy, it’s a good stepping stone to explain. There are, of course, parts that are not realistic, like her getting a complete makeover from the fashion closet, but the phone calls, running around on errands, knowing everything and anything asked of you—that’s all accurate to the job. You live, eat and breathe fashion for the first couple years of your career, and the movie showed that well. A lot of my friends and I refer to our craziest fashion stories from interning or being an assistant as "The Devil Wears Prada moment when…" I’ll always be grateful the movie was made, to show the real behind-the-scenes life of being a fashion editor. The glamorous and not so glamorous parts.
Jenna Igneri, assistant digital editor at Nylon
Growing up, I always loved fashion and knew it was what I wanted to do with my life, so by the time The Devil Wears Prada came out my junior year of high school, I was already gearing up to apply to fashion colleges in New York and one day pursue a career in the fashion editorial world. While the movie is and always will be dear to my heart, it paints a pretty ridiculous picture of what working for a fashion magazine is like—and that became pretty apparent by my first internship. Yes, some jobs will come with scary bosses and do entail plenty of late-night phone calls, but no, you never get to take home the Chanel. Especially not as an assistant.