What Piece Of Apparel Is Anna Wintour's Fashion "Rosebud"?

Anna Wintour, the greying éminence grise of fashion, submitted to questioning at the 92nd Street Y last night. The once publicity-shy editor has been increasingly visible lately — perhaps because she fears for her job.

There was that documentary she allowed to be made, and even did publicity for; that "conversation" with fellow Condé Nast editors-in-chief David Remnick and Graydon Carter; the Wall Street Journal interview; the 60 Minutes special, dedicated to her, that will finally air this weekend. An awfully full dance card for a woman who otherwise seems to regard the press as an impertinent gnat.

In her interview last night with Jonathan Tisch, Wintour, much like her magazine, addressed a limited number of exquisitely soft issues in predictable ways. Shockingly, she thinks Michelle Obama is fantastic. Wintour also denied advertisers exert any sway whatsoever over Vogue's editorial content (explain, then, why the ladymag feels the need to present head-to-toe runway looks that exactly duplicate designers' own ad campaigns, month after month and year after year?) Wintour of course denied she had any plans to retire: "Mostly I'm thinking about the next day. I think that I have the best job in the entire world." She weathered a vocal attack from PETA protesters who threw a banner from a balcony — "As I was saying, fashion means different things to different people," she said mirthfully, before continuing — and hinted that more models may be seen on Vogue covers in the near future. (That's probably no red herring: not only has scuttlebutt of that exact nature hit fashion blogs and forums as of late, but at one of her last public appearances, in December, Wintour said she hoped to have Michelle Obama on the cover — and that came true this March. The lady does not mess around with cover talk.)

But what seems to be on her mind more than anything else is a certain dress with sequins. At the Y, she said that before the economy cratered last fall:

I probably didn't delve as deeply as I should have into what things cost. Now I ask the price of every single outfit that comes into the office, and I think a lot of my editors have been quite surprised about what a little sequin dress from an unnamed designer might be, and if it's $25,000, we'll say, ‘Okay, well, not this time.'

You might remember that in February, she told the Wall Street Journal:

Without naming names, we had a little sequined thing that wouldn't come down to here on you [points to chest.] And I said, 'How much is it?' $25,000. I said, 'No. We're not going to photograph that right now.'

And, at the December editors' conversation, she related that when a $50,000 dress "not much bigger than your shirt, Graydon" came through the Vogue offices, she said:

I'm sorry, but we're not putting that in the magazine, no matter how magical Steven Meisel thinks it is.

This dress — and I'm confident it is a dress, even though the Wall Street Journal reporter, Rachel Dodes, came away with the impression that it might have been nothing more than "a bedazzled shrug" — is Anna Wintour's rosebud. It's the MacGuffin of the recession! This slinky sequined mini-thing, which costs either $25,000 or $50,000 or some other similarly absurd sum, which may or may not have been requested for a Meisel shoot, which may be by "an unnamed designer" or alternatively a designer Wintour wishes not to name (odds-on it's an advertiser, then) — this dress is the key to understanding the new fashion economy. Surely Anna wouldn't just be wasting our time with tired talking points and six-month-old stories about nothing.

Now all we have to do is identify the sucker. You know where to send the candidates.

Earlier: Being Anna: "Sometimes You Don't Love The Press"

Related: Anna Wintour Getting Ready For Her 60 Minutes Close Up [Gawker]
Anna Wintour Gets Chatty At Sundance [The Cut]
Anna Wintour Adresses Rumors About Leaving Vogue, Michelle Obama, The Recession, And More [The Cut]
In Which We Offend Anna Wintour And She Shoos Us Away [The Cut]
Just Asking: Anna Wintour [WSJ]