The real-life story behind ‘The Devil Wears Prada’?

by Beth Wiffen

Wiffen - The Real Story behinDevil wears prada cover photo
The September Issue, 2009, directed by R J Cutler (top) The Devil Wears Prada, 2006, directed by David Frankel (bottom)

From the bestselling book to a beloved film, The Devil Wears Prada holds a special place in people’s hearts.  However, this story may not be as ‘fictional’ as author Lauren Weisberger would have you believe; speculation suggests that Miranda Priestly is based on Vogue Editor-in-Chief, Anna Wintour.  The similarities become apparent when you compare the Devil Wears Prada to R J Cutler’s documentary The September Issue.

The facts:

  • Weisberger worked as an assistant to Wintour before writing the ‘The Devil Wears Prada’.
  • Weisberger has never publicly admitted the character is based on Wintour.
  • The September Issue was released in 2009, three years after the film version of Devil Wears Prada.

In shot by shot comparisons of the two films, it is hard to deny that they are linked.

Devil Wears Prada Compare 1
The Devil Wears Prada, 2006, directed by David Frankel
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The September Issue, 2009, directed by R J Cutler

These early shots show offices full of artistic decorations and souvenirs of the women’s successes, highlighting their prominence in the fashion industry.

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The Devil Wears Prada – Andy Sachs (Miranda Priestly’s Assistant)
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The September Issue – Wintour’s assistant answering phones

Wintour, who describes herself as ‘stubborn’, is called the ‘Ice Woman’ by her employees. Throughout the Devil Wears Prada, we see Miranda’s no-nonsense attitude and cutting words.  ‘By all means move at a glacial pace. You know how that thrills me’ is a favourite quote of mine and embodies this attitude.  Her ruthlessness is also evident in the ‘run-through’ scene:

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The Devil Wears Prada – Miranda deciding which items to feature in the magazine
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The September Issue – Showcasing potential clothes for a photoshoot

In both shots we see the critical nature of the editors, but also how the employees understand the value of their opinions: these women have the final say on everything to do with the magazine.

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The Devil Wears Prada – both editors are looking away from the camera as they are being driven around the city in the final shots
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The September Issue – Wintour is often shown in the documentary with her arms crossed, suggesting she is commonly unimpressed with what she is being shown

The resemblance between the two films is almost uncanny, and suggests The September Issue was deliberately referencing frames from The Devil Wears Prada.  The magazines are clearly important to millions of people; Vogue is a ‘bible’ and Runway is ‘a beacon of hope’.  The films portray these women with respect and almost gratitude, alongside being ruthless in the editorial process.  Despite the similarities that Weisberger’s cut-throat leading lady shares with her, The September Issue presents Wintour as inspiring.  Now, audiences can appreciate the work that goes into creating one of the most popular magazines of all time.  The devil may wear Prada, but Wintour is first and foremost the embodiment of a successful business woman.

 

 

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