Do you ever feel jealous when you read magazine articles about "normal girls" who are ostensibly "just like you" yet lead obnoxiously perfect-sounding lives? Like, they throw weekly intimate dinner parties for their 15 closest friends, or their summer "must-have" is one great $500 sarong, or their boyfriend leaves them waterproof love notes in the shower? This email exchange between a girl who won an expensive LBD from Lucky Magazine and the editor who completely misconstrued her words is a good reminder that magazine editors are very, very talented at exaggerating and distorting the details in their glossy pages — and, in turn, making you anxious that you're missing out on your own perfect life, which might be just within reach if you keep subscribing.
28-year-old Rosemary Avance won a $750 little black dress from Jahaanara back in February through the magazine's "Lucky Breaks" contest, but was told she wouldn't receive it until June or July since it was custom-made and coming to her all of the way from Dubai. That turned out to be lie #1. ("I was only ever asked if I wanted a size Small, Medium, or Large," Rosemary wrote to us. "'Custom-made' apparently only means they do not carry this dress in stock.") When a Lucky editor asked her for a quote in May for July's issue, she obliged, but made it clear that she had not actually worn the dress and didn't want to be quoted as saying that she had. So imagine her surprise when she saw the below quote next to her name and photo:
"I've won a few small prizes in my life, but nothing compares to winning this gorgeous dress by Jahaanara! The designer custom-made it for me, so it fits perfectly. I've worn it out to dinner with my husband and out dancing with my girlfriends— and I'll be wearing it to an upcoming wedding. Thanks, Lucky Breaks!"
Upset, Rosemary emailed the magazine and received a roundabout explanation from staffer Bobby Schuessler that she found unsatisfying: "Your dress is on its way, since I believe you said you will be receiving this June, so you will have the dress by the time the issue is off newsstands, which again verifies everything you submitted with our research department." Uh, what? His spin would be almost impressive if it wasn't so confusing. Rosemary also left a comment on Lucky's Facebook page, which she says was deleted, and wrote a few more emails without receiving any further response. She's still pissed. "Lucky and the dress manufacturer got a free commercial endorsement from me for a super expensive dress I've never even seen," she told us. "Not to mention, I've actually never gone 'out dancing with my girlfriends' in my life."
Check out their email exchange (Schuessler's messages are bolded to make for an easier read) and see how your fashion magazine sausage gets made:
How are you? We are planning on using our photo in the July issue as of now. Could you just give me your last name and age for this? THANKS!
Thanks! My full name is Rosemary Avance, and I'll be 28 later this month.
Would love to know about the fit and how it looks on! Also, what was your husband's reaction and your girlfriend's reaction to the dress. THANKS!!
Hi again... unfortunately although I won the dress in February, I got an email from the public relations company that handles the prizes and they said it won't be mailed from Dubai until June so I don't expect to receive the dress till June or July. Apparently they are custom made & take a while.
Sorry for all the questions, but your photo is looking great! When you receive this dress, would you ever plan on wearing it to work? Maybe with a structured blazer?
Definitely. I'm a graduate student and teaching assistant and I think this dress will look great with a belt, blazer, and some bright pumps. Perfect outfit for the summer course I'm teaching!
So I know you don't necessarily have that dress right now, but just for the text could we say-you wore it dancing with your girlfriends?
Let me know! You're looking great on the page!
No, I haven't received the dress. I look forward to wearing it when I do!
Great! Given the nature of the page, could we say you look forward to wearing dancing with girlfriends?
So sorry to bother you again! I promise this is the last time. The designer really wants to play up "the evening out" angle. Could we say something about how you'll wear to special events, weddings, etc. THANKS!
Sure, that sounds fine.
And then later, after she saw the piece in print and emailed Schuessler:
This is Rosemary Avance, the winner of the Jahaanara dress that is featured on page 107 of the July issue. I just saw the issue and am appalled that you printed a "quote" from me that is inaccurate and which I expressly asked you NOT to print (see email exchange below). The quote reads, "I've won a few small prizes in my life, but nothing compares to winning this gorgeous dress by Jahaanara! The designer custom-made it for me, so it fits perfectly. I've worn it out to dinner with my husband and out dancing with my girlfriends— and I'll be wearing it to an upcoming wedding. Thanks, Lucky Breaks!"
As I mentioned repeatedly in my email exchanges with Bobby Schuessler and Maiya Norton, while I was told in February that I won, I have NOT received this dress. I have NOT worn it, and do not feel comfortable endorsing it in this way. I have obviously not worn this dress out with my husband and out dancing with friends, and I have no upcoming wedding to attend. The quote is misleading in another way, too: it claims the dress was "custom-made" and "fits perfectly." Although I was told it would be "custom-made", I was only ever asked if I wanted a size Small, Medium, or Large. "Custom-made" apparently only means they do not carry this dress in stock.
This lack of journalistic integrity in such a seemingly simple matter is really disappointing. If you purposely fabricate quotes from readers, I know now I cannot rely on any other information in your magazine to be ethically reported.
We apologize for the below. We work on a very long lead time for this. This issue will be on newsstands for a month, and Lucky Breaks run for two months online. Your dress is on its way, since I believe you said you will be receiving this June, so you will have the dress by the time the issue is off newsstands, which again verifies everything you submitted with our research department. Let me know if you have any other questions.
When we contacted Schuessler for details, he referred us to a publicist, who wrote:
Unfortunately, the designer fell ill and production of the dress was pushed back. As a result, Rosemary's dress was not received in advance of these personal events. She is absolutely still scheduled to receive this custom made dress and we're certain she will love wearing it.
But Rosemary doesn't care as much about why she hasn't received the dress; she's upset that words she never said were attributed to her in order to endorse a sweepstakes, a dress, and a lifestyle she — and, likely, many Lucky readers — can't even relate to in the first place. It makes sense that magazine editors who are used to writing peppy, fairytale-like copy wouldn't be able to understand. And any gal who wouldn't want to be remembered as a social butterfly beloved by her doting husband and fun-loving besties must be crazy, right?
Update: A Jezebel friend and high-ranking fashion editor wrote in to say: "I don't think people know how much MONEY both the designer and the magazine are making off the quote. That amount of space in a magazine costs money. If it was a celebrity, they'd be paid an endorsement fee. So misconstruing the quote is essentially false, unpaid advertising."