Not-So-Strange Bedfellows: Politics And Fashion

Having worked both for a fashion magazine and a United States Senator, I am the only Jezebel to have worked both in politics and in the fashion industry. (The first paycheck I ever got was noted on my bank statement as being a direct deposit from Hillary Rodham Clinton.) When I made the jump to fashion after having spent a great amount of time and energy working in politics, friends and family were shocked: Could there be two more disparate fields? But there are similarities! And since there's such a national (er, New Yorkish?) focus on runway shows and the presidential race this week, I figured it might be interesting to examine the similarities between between the two. After the jump, how the two stack up.

  • It's all about who you know. Wanna get a job working for your local elected official? Wanna get a job working for the editor-in-chief of a major fashion magazine? Good luck with having your resume finding your way to anyone's door unless you've got an 'in'. Having hired interns in both industries, the very few slots there are to fill are more often than not get taken by the daughter of the cousin of a high-ranking person in that establishment's college roommate.
  • It's all about what you wear. Think fashion's the only industry in which people judge you based on your appearance? LOL. When I was a Clintern, memos were circulated about the presence of flip-flops in the office... And not in a good way. My poor GOP gal pal was told she must wear pantyhose in the office of the Senator she works for. As for the ladymags, even peons in the fashion department are expected to chip in for a major seasonal "It" item — the better to show the higher-ups that they're willing to stay on top (or ahead) of the trends.
  • There are only 10 jobs in the entire industry. When I left Elle, editor in chief Robbie Myers assured me we would cross paths again as there "are only five jobs in the industry." Likewise with politics: In fact, fashion and politics are both small communities populated by a handful of people who bounce around the few available jobs, working their way up the ladder. By the time you've been in the business for five years, you'll feel like you're back in high school.
  • There is no new news. With fashion seasons scheduled every six months and elections scheduled every 2 years, both industries have both set calendars and news cycles... meaning, easy-to-anticipate headlines. And because there are so few players, there are just as few storylines: Grunge is back! Grunge is dead! Compassionate conservatism is the New America! Compassionate conservatism killed America! The media outlets try to convince us that these are new stories, but let me assure you: they are not. Sure, every once in a while a wunderkind (Chris Benz, Barack Obama) springs up, seemingly from nowhere and dazzles the masses with his or her brilliance, but the rest of the time we're simply watching the regulars (Ted Kennedy, Donna Karan) up to their same old tricks.
And lastly, (and probably most importantly) there's this:
  • Everyone just wants to sell something. Magazines aren't really about scouting, directing, and cultivating new aesthetics: They're about selling lipstick and bringing in advertising dollars. Politics, as cynical as it sounds, is just as mercenary and although there are some with good intentions and a desire to save the world and help the common man, most people are simply jostling for power by selling messages (and themselves) to the public. Money makes the world go round, and neither a candidate nor a magazine can get anywhere without it.