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Keep Calm and Style On: Thank you, Anna

Jessie Christian | Wednesday, January 23, 2013

On a late Sunday evening in mid-January, I sat stranded between mounds of unsorted clothing and an empty suitcase. A year ago, if you had asked me what to wear to an internship interview, I would have grabbed a pair of modest black heels, my black Banana Republic suit and a colorful top – and then called myself a risk-taker. This was a new day, however, and with the peaceful sighs of my sleeping roommate as my nighttime soundtrack, I glanced hopelessly up at the temporarily retired suit ensemble.

“Is there a wrong thing to wear to an interview with you?” An interviewer once asked Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Magazine. Her response was simple, but delivered a devastating blow to my understanding of interview preparation.

“A suit, I have to say. But who knows? Maybe next year I’ll love suits. And I don’t mind jeans. If there’s a girl applying to work in the fashion department and she comes in here with a great pair of jeans pulled together with the right top, it’s fine.”

On another occasion, Anna advised her readers to embrace style as unique.

“Create your own individual style. I’m not interested in the girl who walks into my office in a head-to-toe label look that’s straight off the runway. I’m interested in a girl who puts herself together in an original way.”

Upon reading these words, I took one look at my congested closet and had a minor mental breakdown. In just a few hours, while students would begin the long journey back to campus for yet another semester of classes, I would be headed to the Big Apple for an interview at the headquarters of the Devil in Prada herself. I knew that meeting with Anna was not going to happen that day. Still, following her advice made the thought of walking into the Condé Nast building and vying for an internship with one of the company’s fashion brands slightly less distressing.  

With the fashion icon’s advice in mind, I stripped the notable pieces from my wardrobe and separated them into piles by type of garment. I had underestimated the difficulty of the challenge. Picking a month’s worth of outfits for break was easy, but picking a single outfit for a situation where the outfit counted the most was a dagger in my fashionably indecisive heart. 

Naturally, I referred to some of my best resources in order to help me narrow things down. My Instagram feed, though dependably entertaining and filled with posts of models, designers, and brands, was not the source of inspiration that I so desired. After scanning the various other forms of social media for ideas, I resolved to stop overthinking, put down the computer and find the solution myself. 

Once I did this, I was surprised when the process became infinitely easier. I realized that I had read Anna’s words without actually internalizing the message-originality over industry influence. With key words such as “clean,” “classy” and “professional” in mind, I was standing in front of a stylish ensemble in no time, built to adapt to whatever the day would deliver. 

The following morning, I departed from South Bend in a baby pink sheer button up top, a black high-waist and pleated skirt, silky black opaque tights and a pair of matching pink cutout loafers. Along with two plaited French braids, I added a pair of sleek, golden hoop earrings and a tightly linked collar necklace to match. To brave the cold, I grabbed my trusty winter coat and headed out the door. 

After my long and arduous journey to and through the busy streets of New York, when I finally made it to Condé Nast, I was relieved by what I saw. I walked into a room, of twenty or so fashionably clad girls my age, and the only suits I saw were on the two young men in the room. “They’re here for the corporate internship,” the internship coordinator said, acknowledging that she had pinpointed my gaze. I let out a comical sigh of relief and she laughed. “Thank you, Anna,” I thought, as I took my seat. 


Contact Jessie Christian at jchrist7@nd.edu