Book Review: Inside Vogue A Diary of My 100th Year by Alexandra Shulman

Inside Vogue

This review follows on very nicely from the event I attended with Alexandra Schulman in conversation with Miriam Gonzales Durantez a couple of weeks ago.  I bought the book at the event and began reading it almost instantly.  And instantly I was hooked. Alexandra Schulman is the Editor in chief of Vogue.  During Vogues centenary year, she kept a diary, detailing the emotional and logistical minefield of producing the 100th anniversary issue, organising the star studded Vogue 100 gala and working with numerous big name designers all under the scrutiny of a TV documentary crew who filmed her every move.  It was quite a year and she records it all with excellent detail.

I’m sure there was never any doubt that Alexandra Schulman could write, she’s a bonefied journalist for heavens sake.  What I hadn’t banked on was how well she could write and how much I would enjoy her writing.  She stated that she wrote this diary because she has a terrible memory and didn’t want to forget this momentous year.  I for one and so pleased she did.

I found it hard to put this book down.  I was so fascinated by not only the process of putting a magazine together but by a life so different from my own.  There is no doubt that Shulmans life is busy, in fact jam packed.  Most minutes of most days are accounted for, whether its making decisions about seating plans at yet another prestigous Vogue event, attending the never ending fashion shows, or deciding on the front cover whilst all the time trying not to overspend (too much). I clearly remember Schulman recently saying, ‘women can’t have it all’  To many, her life would seem to defy that as she rushes home from work a 12 hour working day and cooks a fabulous dinner, and yet her book clearly documents the domestic chaos leading such a busy life lead to.

“…one chicken and a dozen chipolates.  It would be easier to order in a takeaway but I know that to cook roast chicken for Sam and David the night before I go to Milan will make me feel better about myself.  It will be kind of reconnection with the person I am when I’m not working and whom occasionally I lose track of”

I read this book and a week late bought a copy of Vogue, not something I would usually do.  Much to Shulman’s annoyance I am the person that reads Vogue in the hairdressers rather than buying my own copy.  I have read and scrutinised the March Issue with a renewed interest.  I still don’t understand what makes one image so much better than another or why a model poses in a particular way but I think I have a better appreciation of the level  of detail and the hours of creative endeavour that goes into producing each copy.

As I think back over this book and look at the extracts I highlighted as I was reading I think it was the insight into Shulman’s flaws or normality that interested me most.  She writes with an honesty about issues that I imagine most women could relate to.  The pressure to look good and opening the wardrobe to find you have nothing to wear.  Now its hard to imagine that the editor of  Vogue would never not have anything to wear but its reassuring to know she may on occasion feel this.

“…On top of this I must by some clothes.  I have weeks of events and fashion shows coming up and nothing to wear.  Clearly ‘nothing’ is a relative term as I have two cupboards full of clothes but nothing I have is new and I’m meant to look like somebody who has new clothes.”

” I have a completely free Saturday, apart from working on the June cover for a bit in the office and decide to go into the centre of town to look for some new clothes……I find myself on the fashion floor of Selfridges, which stocks every conceivable designer, utterly lost as to which direction to turn.  Problem number one is that I don’t know where to find anything.  I am the editor of Vogue, surely this should not be happening….I decide to approach it as I would an unfamiliar supermarket and search via categories…”

Of course there is lots of excellent detail about working with the Duchess of Cambridge (who is lovely and charming) to secure that cover shot and the dinners and presentations she attends, but it is the mundane that is also logged so clearly.  Schulman may be the editor of Vogue but she still has to deal with broken boilers and put the bins out.

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