Photo Shoot Lessons From The VOGUE Accessories Closet

Dear Michelle:

We are pleased to offer you an internship in the Accessories Department at VOGUE Magazine. Summer 2007 is about to show you everything you’ve ever dreamed to happen in your career.

And now, enough of that nonsense, let’s get on to The Dress Code: Not only will you need to dress amazingly every single day, but this summer it is especially important we have your absolute best and only spectacular outfits come forth, because VOGUE will be filming a world-rocking documentary about the making of The September Issue and we can’t have any hoodrats running around like slobs in last year’s Tom Ford.

We’ll pay you in boundless showcases of unrequited love.

See you Monday at 8:30 AM sharp and good luck.




For an aspiring fashion magazine editor, this note was the holy grail of college accomplishments. Holy Chanel. So, you’re telling me that every day I wake up I not only have to be dressed to possibly encounter Anna Wintour, Andre Leon Talley and Grace Coddington, I have to also dress as though I could – at any moment – be caught on film having a panic attack over a pair of purple peep toe Mary Janes? This was going to be the best summer EVER!!!

The morning my internship began, I woke up at 5am. In a one-bedroom sublet in the beating heart of Murray Hill, I danced around in my underwear to VOGUE on repeat, trying on outfit after outfit after outfit. WAHOO!!! Shoe changes, jewelry swaps, red and maroon lipstick trials, hair pulled up or left down? The absolute pinnacle of dressing-up occasions – and I get to do it twice every week! Ultimately I decided on a brown safari-utilitarian belted dress from Zara, my hair pulled back tight like this biddie means business.

The summer was a Fall 2007 accessory wonderland! I spent it in a glorious room slung floor to ceiling with this seasons’s heels, boots, flats, purses, satchels, clutches, necklaces, cuffs, rings, brooches, gloves, stockings, socks, hats, scarves, belts, furs, sunglasses, clear glasses, suspenders, all in rainbow order, sorted precariously by style. It landed me in more black cars than I’ve taken in my life. Black cars that whisked me away to Brooklyn to retrieve a package from Alexis Bittar; black cars to jet uptown to Bvlgari for a $140,000 bag of watches. I’d sleep on my way there. Oogle on the way back. It was the life.

The bottom-feeders of VOGUE, fifteen and strong, our primary function was to equip editors for photo shoots with a grotesque amount of options to create their vision. For every one hat you see in the issue, six interns took black cars to various parts of the city to retrieve the finest hats made, and eight interns sent Urban Express to pick up the rest. The theme of the September Issue, you may remember, was largely color-blocking. No expense was too great to pull in every plausible color-blocking piece in existence for the editors to choose from.

Nothing was more important than pleasing the editors.

If an editor was less than pleased, it meant catastrophe.

I recall one particular catastrophe. It started like: “Michelle, please pack up that black Miu Miu belt. Harper’s Bazaar needs it for a shoot and they’re on the way as we speak.”

I go through the file cabinet. The Polaroids that documented its existence were missing. Shit.

On the finite list of skills needed as an Accessories Intern, the most important is Polaroid photography. Every time a new accessory entered the VOGUE closet, an intern would immediately photograph it from multiple angles and staple the Polaroids to profile sheets, including designer name, date in, colors, fabric and design description, PR company, contact person… each record carefully filed away alphabetically for easy tracking. When the item was ready to be sent back, a messenger form would be stapled to the profile sheet, and filed in a separate cabinet.

When this system did not work, trouble ensued.

I started digging through the Classic Black Belt Drawer, surely the most boring drawer in all of VOGUE. Which I’m fine with, except a Miu Miu belt was nowhere to be found. I checked in the trendy belt drawer. Not there either. The brown belt drawer… there were brown Miu Miu belts but obviously that would never do. A figurative bead of sweat formed on my brow.

I immediately took to dumping the contents of the belt drawers out on the floor. First the classic belt drawer, examining each belt one by one, curling them each back up neatly. Could this Prada belt count as Miu Miu? This Armani belt looks nice –  perhaps we could offer a substitute? The trendy-black-belt-drawer-dumping proved fruitless as well. I had no idea what I’d do. “Hey, you know that emergency belt request? Sorry, I can’t make that happen for you at this time. Come again soon!” 

NEVER!  I have balls but not that many. It was time to enlist other interns. We were the MINIONS. We stuck together. We were strong. And we WILL make this belt suface in the next ten minutes. Check the suitcases that just arrived back from India. Check ALL the polaroids filed under M and N, make sure there’s no rogue form. Did someone forget to photograph it out for Grace’s Napa feature? Can someone start going through the handbag drawers?

Our boss got wind of the Intern Army formation and inserted herself. NOBODY could remember what happened to this belt!? Harper’s Bazaar had LENT it to us, and they wanted it back. Now!!! It needed to board a flight to Paris tomorrow, and the PR girls at Miu Miu should not need to get involved here. Why did I not let her know sooner that we were having this issue? Now the black car was waiting downstairs.

I failed. Not only had I failed in outcome, I failed in protocol.

Harper’s Bazaar would not have their belt. I have made an editor look bad – one who had the astonishing skill of being able to survive only on ice cubes. The fashion gods would not be pleased.

Moral of the story: I meant what I said about spontaneous photo shoots.

I love the glamour of a real photo shoot, but I hate waste. It wasn’t my time or money, but I just didn’t like all the wasted efforts I saw; all the energy exerted into placating the un-placate-able.

What I love are photo shoots that show something real, not something that sent seven unpaid summer interns in a tizzy. I love to let accessories tell a story – one between that accessory and the person who actually loves it.

Like the story you have been watching between me and my new Fall bag.

You followed us on a sunny Sunday after brunch in Park Slope, then chilled with us for an hour while we basked in the beautiful slanted rays of Prospect Park. Then after this splendid sunny day of the great urban outdoors, you caught us the night before in the very standard pink tiled bathroom at a house party nearby, followed by the 4am bodega run.

To me, it’s most interesting to see what people are really like. Chipped nails because they just don’t give a shit, naturally straggly hair, bodies of all sorts enjoying LIFE! I love featuring the very real garments and accessories people choose to wear on a particular day for a particular outing.

The real places these accessories travel.

And what they carry inside them.

There’s fashion and culture everywhere – if you’re too busy pummeling through through the Classic Black Belt Drawer, you might miss it.


The STAR! My new blue fall bag: The Duane Street Messenger by IIIBeca by Joy Gryson. In Joy’s new, well-priced, modern and sophisticated line of hers, 3% (or III%, if you will) wholesale of every purchase goes to three (III) of Joy’s favorite NYC non-profits. The bag comes in a handful of really sexy colors and nothing in the collection is priced over $200.

Sunglasses – Chanel
Watch – ESQ by Movado
Dress – Aqua (I know!)
Blazer – Silence and Noise

PS. I spent over two months in that accessories closet… I’ve got plenty more VOGUE stories where that came from, don’t you worry!

2 thoughts on “Photo Shoot Lessons From The VOGUE Accessories Closet

  1. Pingback: Afros, Vital To The Soul | before and afro

  2. Pingback: All About New York City » Blog Archive » Local New York City White Lady Wears Afro Wig, Takes Photos with Black People, Becomes Enlightened [Racism]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s