The Devil Wears Prada is an iconic clashing of the worlds of fashion, corporate America, burnout and toxic work culture. Most of all, it is a film that works its way through the meaning of success.
Andrea, or “Andy” Sachs, is the representative, normal, everyday girl. She gets rushed and swallowed up into this fast-paced universe of high fashion, snooty coworkers, and the ultimate looming fear of the devil that wears Prada — her boss, Miranda Priestley. Over the duration of the movie, Andy Sachs gradually becomes a sort of puppet of Miranda’s. She starts wearing the uniform — a.k.a. Jimmy Choo’s, Chanel, and other high-end fashion brands. This transformation of her outer appearance ultimately grows into a symbolic summoning of her “selling her soul to the devil.” She even loses weight in the process, from a size six (which Stanley Tucci’s character Nigel describes to be the new size 14 in the world of fashion) to a size four (or the new size six). Eventually, she gets to the point where her boyfriend and best friends call her out for becoming just like one of those girls she judged and despised before she became this on-call robot for Runway and all things fashion.
While Andy profusely rejects any notion of that kind, it mirrored to me, as a viewer, and the sacrificial exchange that we feel the need to make (or inevitably end up making) when it comes to becoming very successful, well-off or well-known. It seems that the more and more you rise to the top of the working world, the more you may lose in your personal life. Your work life becomes your personal life. But Nigel explains to Andy that that’s just what comes along with doing well at work. And something about that reality just isn’t right. As a higher-up in Runway, Nigel is telling us that we can’t actually have both. Because there is a limit on the amount of time in a day, the amount of energy we hold as one person and maybe the amount of balance that we can really achieve. This reality is getting harder to accept for young adults in a workforce that has created millions of remote/work-from-home (WFH) roles and one that pushes a narrative for prioritizing mental health and work-life balance.
As you see Andy struggling to find that perfect balance between her work and personal life, you come to see that she can’t. So, she chooses. She chooses work for a while, which causes her breakup with her boyfriend and creates tension with her best friends. Then, she completely chooses her personal life and well-being when she walks away from everything that she had been working on for the past several months.
In her time at Runway, Andy’s life is utter chaos. She’s on-call, has early and hectic mornings and runs errands for her boss late at night. She is constantly trying to check numerous things off her to-do list while also looking her best. In a way, the utter excess and glamour that is representative of the fashion world, where all of Andy’s chaos takes root in, is a reflection of her life. With all these bags, dresses, belts, and so on, there seems to be so much of what people like Andy want: achievements. But the world of fashion (our goals, desires and what society tells us we need or should do) will always be faster than the person who is buying the items (reality/what you can reasonably handle as one human being). There’s too much and we can’t keep up. Andy can’t keep up. She realizes she can’t have it all, but most importantly, she doesn’t want it all. She just wants what is hers and to her, that feels like her old self, her real self. The Andy that wants to be a journalist, wear comfy clothes, and put on Chapstick as her daily morning maintenance routine.
There is a scene at the end of the movie where Andy walks past the Runway building and makes eye contact with Miranda across the street right before she enters her car. Being across the street from one another blocked off by Miranda’s Benz and chilling stare, and with Andy dressed in her regular jeans and satchel, shows the separation that exists between them and their lifestyles of choice now. But as Andy peacefully smiles at Miranda, who hides her own until she gets into the car, we see that the two have grown a mutual respect for each other and their decisions. They are now in completely different worlds. This is not to say that Miranda is wrong for choosing the lifestyle she has. Maybe just as Andy seems lighter, freer and happier with choosing a role at a small newspaper makes that the right decision for her, the hustle and cutthroat day-to-day that Miranda continuously chooses may be what fulfills her personal goals. Or maybe Andy is what Miranda could have chosen and has wanted for a long time. But for her, it is not as simple or easy to get off the ride. Either way, both of them have to sacrifice an alternate version of themselves and I think this is the reality that every single one of us has to accept when it comes to building our own lives.
Seeing Andy’s growth in this movie made me realize how important it is to know what you want. Because you can so easily get caught up in a world you never thought you would, as Andy did. And when you start building momentum that grows into a full-blown trajectory ride, it’s really hard to get off. Because the trajectory makes you see all that you have done and everything that can potentially come your way. And that mental visual makes you feel like you have so much more to lose. But Andy shows us that you always have a choice. No matter what, no matter how many people you may have to immensely disappoint, or how this may look, you can always step away, step back, take a breather, and even completely step out. Her journey on Runway represents the ultimate dilemma of evaluating what you’re willing to endure and sacrifice in hopes of achieving certain desires you have for yourself. You just need to ask yourself if you’re actually getting what you want out of where you’re applying your hard work. And we can rely on the fact that life still continues and holds many things to look forward to even after big altering decisions are made just as Andy has shown us.