Grace Coddington is Really Beautiful
Grace Coddington, the model (in Nina Ricci), before the car accident and massive plastic surgery
“Anna Wintour’s a sell out.” One friend said. “This Vogue documentary.. it’s like reality television. She’s bought into the game.”
“She’s desperate. Her contract is up, end of the year.” Another friend said. “This way she can prove to Sy Newhouse that she’s really a celebrity. She’s important enough that a movie was made about her.”
Anna’s been grilled to death, analyzed even for her clip on David Letterman. The discussion’s so old, it’s rotting…. People love sniffing the dead before they’re buried. But the one thing, I didn’t expect upon seeing “The September Issue,” the documentary (R.J. Cutler) about American Vogue, was to find HOPE. And “hope” — that emotional precursor to elation — is called Grace Coddington.
Grace talks about her childhood in North Wales, how she walked (perhaps miles) to the mailbox to get her copy of the British edition of Vogue each month. The pages fascinated her, the fantasies, the visual stories, yet she felt too humble to be a part of it. Lucky for her (and for us!), someone sent her photo into a contest where she was discovered and placed right into the actual pages of Vogue. David Bailey shot her. She wore Nina Ricci. She gazed forth with melt your heart doe eyes and chiseled cheekbones until a car accident literally crushed it all. After loads of reconstructive surgery, the young Grace had come too far from far off Wales to return to obscurity. So, she became a junior editor at British Vogue.
The rest is history, as she now shares Vogue’s American masthead as creative director. The current Grace still styles her own shoots. In the documentary, she pulls together a 1920’s inspired couture shoot of models wearing Galliano in which the girls blend like pastel feathers, warm yet so still that they could balance teacups on their foreheads. Delacroix might have painted it. Anna Wintour — compiling her September issue to meet marketable standards — kills it.
Grace never quite gets over the loss of this particular tableau in the 89 minutes of footage. We see her looking out at the Jardins des Tuileries in Paris. She talks about never shutting her eyes in that city because every detail could inspire her creatively. She calls herself ” a romantic,” but then lamentably reminds herself that she must “always move forward,” more like Anna.
Yet the tides are shifting. With economic bottoms falling, yes people will be more prudent in spending. But, times like these also awaken the heartstrings. Sentimental objects mean more and images that inspire dreams, like those often executed under Coddington’s eye, remain those that we remember.
In this film, I saw a woman who showed a true beauty. Yes, she may have lost her stunning outward looks in an accident. But she’s a nice woman. She flips a few wry jokes. She brings a raspberry creme tartlet to a model cinched in a corset and tells her to dig in. She’s still that girl from Wales who now helped me to remember how I got caught up in fashion. (While I was reading Dickens and Mark Twain, I also spent money on the Vogue foreign editions.) The combination of old world and new fashion, spurred the imagination.
Grace Coddington is truly beautiful, more so now than ever.
ps: Congratulations to Sue Stemp on the birth of Harmony George Kevin Roche, August 21, 2009. xx!