My Life At Not Vogue, Chapter Five
The best party of the year was the Not Vogue Christmas party, but I almost couldn’t go because the fashion closet was a disaster. We’d just done this giant shoot of Kiera Knightly for the cover, and piles of clothes still needed to be bagged, tagged, and sent back to KCD and PR Consulting. We were, like, hemmoraging chiffon.
This is how returns go: pick up a $6000 dress. Shove it into a garment bag like it’s a dead squirrel. Stick an address on it, throw it on a rack, and screech for the intern to run it downstairs, where a messenger picks it up and ferries it back to sample heaven. Once it’s gone, you check it off your list of clothes, and voila. You are now a bonafide assistant fashion editor.
The party started at 8, and at 7:50 we only had one dress left – a black Lanvin sheath that they needed for a Kate Winslet movie in London the next day. I was filling out the FedEx form when I realized the closet was spotless – no racks of clothes, and no Lanvin dress in sight. This was not good, and of course, Marianne picked that exact second to check on me.
“Ava, FedEx is waiting downstairs. Have you wrapped up the Lanvin yet?”
“Where’s the Lanvin?”
“Well Ava, it didn’t just walk away on it’s little platinum zipper, did it? Come on now, where did it go?”
“Honestly Marianne,” I reply, “I’m not sure it even came back. I mean, maybe Kiera kept it for the Pride and Prejudice premiere? I know every inch of this closet, and there hasn’t been a Lanvin dress in sight since it was first called in.”
“Ava,” starts Marianne, and all of a sudden there’s a healthy flush in her cheeks. This is bad. Marianne looks sick and sallow unless she’s angry. This is very bad. “Ava,” she continues, “Your only responsibilities are to answer my phones and to run this fashion closet. It hasn’t gone unnoticed that since Karl expressed his desire to use you as his Chanel cruisewear model, your attitude has vastly plummeted, as has your esteem from the staff. You have worn flat shoes twice this week and I’ve noticed sugar packets- not even splenda, but sugar – on the outskirts of your desk. Perhaps you should consider whether you need a job with less responsibility and sophistication, and let me know your thoughts on the matter tomorrow.”
“Now Ava, stop crying and get your coat. We have a party to attend.”
And so we did. Ironically, the best part of the Not Vogue Christmas party was the food. I mean, it was the only time during the year when we could actually, publicly, eat. Of course, I couldn’t eat because I was too upset about Marianne’s lecture – did she fire me? – and the missing Lanvin dress – where the hell was it?
Before I could escape to the bathroom and sob some more, it was time for the secret santa exchange, where everyone swapped gifts. The rumor was that Marianne always rigged it, to make sure all the office feuds got solved (or perpetuated) with free stuff.
That meant Cher, our accessories director, got a yearlong pass to Equinox and a giant hint to drop ten pounds. Fashion director Alessa got a $1000 gift card to Starbucks – a reminder from the publisher to stop skipping the morning staff meetings. And Marianne got a big black box from Valeria, taped so tightly that she had to slice through the packaging with her Cartier lock bracelet.
Inside were a bunch of styrofoam packing peanuts and a card that Marianne quickly snatched. It was on flimsy paper, and almost looked like a receipt. Wait a minute, it was a receipt…
“Dear eBay Customer,” read Marianne aloud, “here is the Lanvin dress from the latest collection. I can assure you it’s only been worn once, by Kiera Knightly. Your $4000 investment is certainly worth the extravagance. Thanks for your purchase, Valeria.”
The room froze like a forehead after Botox. Marianne dumped the box over, and inside was the missing Lanvin dress. Immediately, I burst into tears – this must be how it feels when your kid runs away in Disney World and the police find him on Space Mountain. And everyone is staring but I don’t care. We found the dress. I’m not in trouble. It was only stolen.
Wait a second.
“Wait a second,” snarls Marianne, “Valeria…”
“Marianne, wait, I can explain. It’s just… it’s the wrong package; your present must be under my desk… I can explain,” she grovels, hiding behind the collar of her McQueen coat like a scolded puppy. Everyone stares.
“Go ahead Valeria,” answers Marianne in a hushed tone. “Why don’t you explain?”
Pause. Finally: “It’s just a dress. Lanvin makes hundreds of dresses. This is just one. And I DESERVE it. I work 24/7 for you, Marianne. I give up my sanity for you. I have your passport photos retouched so you always look glamorous! I make sure Oscar and Zac never make empire waists because you look terrible in them! I try your fad diets first to make sure they really work! And what do I get in return?! Nothing! No acknowledgement, no support… don’t I at least deserve a dress?”
“Of course you do,” answers Marianne, as the entire staff collectively drops its jaw. “Of course you deserve the dress, Valeria. I’ll trade you for it – you take the dress, and tomorrow you can give me your letter of resignation. And if you steal any of my stationery to write it, I swear I’ll have you arrested.”
Pause. Valeria flees. Then:
“Ava, stop crying this very second,” snaps Marianne. “I’ve gotten you a present.”
She pushes forward a very large Chanel box and I am aghast.
“Go on,” she instructs, “open it up.”
Inside is her dry cleaning.
“I’ll need it back first thing tomorrow, okay Ava?”
Marianne winks and weirdly, I’m relieved.