New Vanity Fair Editor's Personal Style Ignites Heated Twitter Storm

Radhika Jones - TimesTalks: On Raising a Feminist Talk - Getty - H 2017
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"Wearing a dress and tights on your first day of work is... not a story," wrote a Teen Vogue editor on Twitter. "Women writers doing other industry women dirty for clicks is such bullshit."

Vanity Fair's new editor-in-chief, Radhika Jones, was put under a fashion microscope while meeting with staff ahead of her official start date on Dec. 11. Unsurprisingly, critical comments on her personal style enraged the Twittersphere, where many wondered why her personal dress was being commented on at all.

On Friday, WWD's Misty White Sidell reported that Jones' look — a navy shift dress embellished with zippers — was sneered at by an unnamed Conde Nast fashion editor at One World Trade. "The outfit was interesting," the editor reportedly remarked candidly to her "industry peers" in a conversation observed by Sidell.

Per the WWD piece, Jones was also the recipient of one of Conde Nast creative director Anna Wintour's "trademark stoic glares" for wearing tights with tiny foxes on them, a clever if perhaps offbeat choice. "I’m not sure if I should include a new pair of tights in her welcome basket," the editor reportedly sneered to friends.

The comments in the article, titled "Vanity Fair Fashion Staff Nonplussed by New Editor's Personal Style," reads like the diary of mean girls critiquing the outfit choice of the new student at school — and certainly caught the eye of fashion and media personalities alike.

Without specifically mentioning the WWD piece or the controversy surrounding Jones' style, fashion designer-turned-activist Prabal Gurung tweeted about her accomplishments, directly quoting Sidell's description of the EIC's lengthy résumé, which includes stints at Time and The Paris Review, not to mention degrees from Harvard and Columbia. "Impressive, isn't it?" wrote Gurung

In this particular moment in time, when there is a heightened awareness about gender issues, commentary on Jones' dress feels particularly inappropriate. (Jodi Kantor, Jones' former Times colleague who co-authored the piece that broke the Harvey Weinstein scandal, was one of the Twitter users to lament Jones' reduction to an outfit critique.) Reflexively, we ask whether Jones' male predecessor, Graydon Carter, would have received the same kind of very public media attention during his first staff meeting? Had fashion editors been gossiping about his suit choice or hair style on his first day at the office, would it have been deemed newsworthy enough to publish? Probably not.

The controversy also raises the question of whether, in this new age of feminism, when sexual harassment  and gender issues are taking center stage in the cultural conversation, a female editor's appearance should matter to a magazine? (Rumor has it that Jones will be responsible for shifting the magazine in a more literary direction.) On the other hand, a publication is not just the print product any longer, but a full-fledged brand which includes public-facing staff and image-driven events, including in Vanity Fair's case, the starry Oscar party.

But there is a crucial difference between "outdated" dressing, and dressing in a manner that is inappropriate. To us, a shift dress — no matter the embellishments — seems entirely office appropriate. Regarding the editor's comments about Wintour's reaction, we have a hard time believing that the creative director, who likely met with Jones multiple times while she was still a candidate, would be surprised by her style so late in the game. And Vanity Fair may be posh, but it isn't Vogue.

In this case, Jones' credentials speak louder than her navy blue shift dress.