When I heard that Blair Waldorf was one of the brave girls who would be joining the ranks of the Cond Nast fashion interns on last night’s Gossip Girl, I knew I had to tune in. Mostly due to the fact that I’ve been there and it really sucked but also because I was curious to see how the CW would further glamorize the fashion industry internships that shows like The Hills and The City made famous.
But, to my surprise, the episode was decidedly un-Devil Wears Prada like, and Blair’s boss, Epperly Lawrence (yes, really) made sure to get an appropriate dig at the film in early on. As a former intern at a major publication, I can tell you that based on my experiences, Blair’s menial gig at W was pretty true to life, with a few obvious exceptions. Below I share the lessons I learned in the fashion closet, and how they compare to Blair’s gig on Gossip Girl.
1. Your boss will likely never ask for your input or opinion on the first day, let alone about what to pull for a Steven Meisel shoot. Nor will you be asked to “write something special for the blog.”
I cringed during the first scene in the W fashion closet when Blair was holding up looks in front of the mirror. Seriously, who does that? The fashion closet Golden Rule is to never mess with the editors’/stylists’ racks. But the most puzzling thing about Blair and Dan’s first moments at the magazine was that Epperly not only welcomed Blair’s styling suggestions for a Lara Stone shoot, she also offered Dan an opportunity to write for the blog and to have a meeting with Lynn Hirschberg. Um, yeah right. I managed to make it through an internship or two without having a full conversation with my boss, let alone getting asked to do a special project.
2. You should never ask when you’ll get face time with the Editor In Chief, even if he has a supposed “open door policy.”
If you’re interning at a major publication, you probably shouldn’t expect to be introduced to the EIC during your stint, let alone get a one-on-one meeting with him or her. Don’t take it personally, they’re just really busy.
3. Steaming, pulling looks, filing returns, getting coffee, stuffing gift bags, heavy lifting, working (not attending) parties and sorting guest lists: All very real aspects of fashion internships.
Ah, yes. The glamorous duties bestowed upon fashion interns are endless. But if you take the time to pay attention instead of complaining, you’ll learn a TON. For instance, the names of the most prominent designers, models and stylists working in the industry, which PR houses rep which labels, and how the fashion cycle works.
4. Never, under any circumstance, try to sabotage your boss.
In typical Blair fashion, she poured Chanel No. 5 into Epperly’s coffee horrible idea. While your magazine boss might not be warm and fuzzy, she’s probably going to be working in the industry for a long time, and she undoubtedly has a ton of valuable contacts. If you are planning to have a career in fashion, you shouldn’t burn any bridges you never know when you’ll come in contact with your boss again. Plus, if you do your best and impress her, she’ll be more than willing to recommend you or keep you in mind for future positions.
5. Your mother doesn’t need to be a fashion designer or have any connections whatsoever for you to get an internship at a major publication. You also don’t have to go to Yale, Princeton or Penn.
Blair claims that she stalked Stefano Tonchi and sent upwards of 300 faxes in order to secure her internship at W. While I don’t believe for a second that her mother couldn’t have called and gotten her a position or at least an interview when it comes to finding these gigs, persistence really pays off. Cold e-mailing people on the magazine’s masthead worked for me, and your chances are even better if you aim to start at a smaller company, like one of your favorite fashion sites. Even if you have to send out 100 applications, don’t fret: The first internship is always the hardest to get.
6. Interns stick together they don’t try to destroy each other/get each other fired.
Times during fashion internships can get pretty treacherous. Luckily, we can look to our fellow closet comrades to commiserate when the times get tough. Sure, there is an element of friendly competition, but hours of sample returns would be downright unbearable if you didn’t have a friend’s shoulder to lean on.
7. Your boss will most likely not want to be your friend but don’t take it personally.
Epperly getting involved in the episode’s “intern drama” is probably unheard of, but I’ve had very different experiences in this category. I’ve interned for people who I never spoke to again, as well as for people who are now some of my dearest friends. Bottom line is, your feelings should not be hurt if your boss doesn’t want to buddy up with you, even if you’re close to the same age just do the job the very best you can. I promise, it will pay dividends.