Grace Coddington, my fashion idol

OK, so the headline is a little misleading. I’m not a fashionista, so technically I don’t actually have a fashion idol. But after watching the documentary “The September Issue”, it’s the only way I can describe Vogue creative director Grace Coddington.

(Totally aside: before I watched this film, I watched “The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia”. Quite a contrast, I must say.)

The documentary, directed by R.J. Cutler, takes viewers on a behind-the-scenes peek at making of the September 2007 issue of Vogue magazine. While editor Anna Wintour was supposed to be the main focus, it was creative director Grace Coddington who stole the show. Not that Wintour isn’t interesting; had the filmmakers wanted, they could have explored her in depth and had an intriguing film. (Her daughter’s thoughts on her mother’s career were surprising, for example.)

But Grace Coddington was the warm fuzzy in this flick. She’s smart, personable, chatty, feisty, and much more interesting to watch than Wintour, at least in this documentary.

That’s not why I love her, though.

Anna Wintour (left) with Grace Coddington (right)

Have you seen her hair!?

When I first saw her, my thought was, “Gee, they let her get away with letting her gray roots  peek through? Has someone suggested a less frizzy coif?” That’s because, without a flat iron and regular appointments at the salon, I’d have the same hair. And thanks to the fashion industry, I’ve been brainwashed to believe that not having perfect hair is a beauty disaster.

And yet, there Grace Coddington is, hobnobbing with the fashion industry’s most respected designers and photographers and insiders, hair all afriz. I wanted to cry, I was so happy.

Even more, she looks her age. Well, not her actual age; she’s almost 70. But she doesn’t look nipped and tucked and Botoxed. She looks like a woman who has lived and enjoyed life.

Not only that, in the documentary she wears frumpy shoes. She wears a lot of black dresses that I suspect hide the soft body of an older woman. While she’s a creative genius, she also doesn’t seem to feel the need to put on airs or  play to the industry images of perfection.

Yay for Grace Coddington!

At 46, I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few years frustrated with the aging process. Extra pounds refusing to budge. Hair that, as it gets grayer and grayer, is more difficult to color and style. Feet that just aren’t happy in heels. Eyeballs in need of bifocals.

My image of what I should look like, much as I hate to admit it, is influenced by the media. Magazines, TV, movies, etc. And I’m a woman who knows that those images are fake, that magazine covers are airbrushed and edited. But still, as I see other women my age who don’t seem to have wrinkles or fat or glasses or gray hair, I get more and me unhappy with the way I look.

After watching “The September Issue” I have a different outlook. Grace Coddington isn’t respected in the industry because of the way she looks. She’s intelligent. She’s creative. People see what’s inside of her, past her frizzy hair and simple wardrobe.

And for that, I thank her.

You can check out “The September Issue” on Netflix.

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