“Haute couture,” “on trend,” and “The September issue” are now part of the everyday parlance of third-year journalism student Rebecca Stadlen, who has spent the last year working for Vogue, one of the world’s most influential fashion magazines.
From June to December 2011, Stadlen completed a co-op at Vogue’s New York City headquarters, writing culture and news stories for print and Vogue.com and assisting with high-fashion photo shoots.
Her tenure was extended to a semester-long internship, which ended in June with a full-time job offer — as an undergraduate — to write for the magazine over the summer.
“I didn’t always know that I wanted to work in fashion,” says Stadlen, whose childhood dream was to become a ballerina and a lawyer. “In a way, working at Vogue is a perfect combination of the two — there’s an element of intensity as well as this need for precision and poise.
Stadlen was bit by the journalism bug thanks in large part to her stepfather, who produces and edits the leading TV news magazine 60 Minutes. “I kind of grew up around it all,” she says. “He taught me to be a storyteller.”
This summer, Stadlen will have the opportunity to prepare the iconic “September issue” — the make or break book of the year for every major fashion glossy. The magazine’s most popular edition was the subject of a 2009 behind-the-scenes documentary aptly named “The September Issue,” which followed Vogue editor Anna Wintour and her staff during the production of the September 2007 issue — the biggest in its 117-year history and, at 840 pages in length, a world record for a monthly magazine.
Stadlen credits a freshman-year journalism course for preparing her to ace high-pressure writing assignments and giving her the confidence and experience to communicate daily with representatives from the fashion industry’s top players, from Chanel to Louis Vuitton.
“We were tasked to step outside of the box and dig for stories,” she says of the class. “For one assignment I had to call politicians at the State House, which was nerve-racking at first, but after that and my Vogue experience, I feel like I could comfortably pick up the phone and call the President of the United States.”
On the surface, Stadlen’s experience reflects that of Anne Hathaway’s character in the hit film “The Devil Wears Prada,” which was adapted from the eponymous roman a clef. In the film, Hathaway plays a journalism student working for the impossibly demanding fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly, who is portrayed by Meryl Streep and believed to be based on Wintour.
But Stadlen says that that depiction could not be further from the truth. As she puts it, “The editor-in-chief elevates the whole team and her example helps to push us to want to be our best.”