By Megan Bingham
Working as a magazine editor in New York City, you’re bound to pick up a few tricks of the fashion trade.
During my two-year stint at a national women’s magazine, I watched models stomp through the office on Go-Sees, overheard conversations that would make the Conde Elevator tweeter blush, and had my fair share of sartorial disasters — I was wearing a horizontal-striped cardigan when I met Stacy London — before I figured out, ahem, what not to wear.
So to prevent my Devil Wears Prada moments from going to waste, I’m sharing three of the most important fashion lessons I learned as an NYC editor . . . other than not wearing boxy sweaters. Because that should be a given, right?
1. Always Have a Backup Plan
About a month into my full-time magazine gig, I was invited to the opening of Beauty and Essex, a new restaurant on the Lower East Side. It was December, and I had recently picked up some versatile black booties with two-inch heels as an early Christmas present to myself.
Since the heels weren’t over-the-top tall, I thought I’d easily be able to do a full day in the office and then hit the opening after work wearing those kicks.
I ended up hobbling into the city’s hottest new restaurant — spoiler alert — with blisters literally bursting on my heels.
No, I didn’t enjoy the decadent small plates and luxe decor. Yes, I just wanted to be back in my teeny, tiny apartment soaking my tootsies.
Lesson: Always carry a spare pair of flats in your bag. Always.
After that night, I got a bigger purse so I had room for flats. My backup shoes were a cheap pair I picked up in an East Harlem bodega. So this Christmas I’m asking Santa for a foldable-flat upgrade: Tieks.
I know this is controversial.
But before you accuse me of taking away your favorite dark shades, hear me out. While it’s true that black is perennially chic and easy to style, there is so much to be said for bright colors.
Amid the sea of black leather and black jeans and black scarves in Manhattan, I loved to wear jewel-tone dresses. I usually went for a sheath or A-line cuts in one solid color, but occasionally I did experiment with color-block or patterned options.
And here’s the thing: even though I’m not a small woman, I found that bright solids were flattering, slimming, and just as easy to style as your average LBD.
And here’s how I knew I was on to something.
Part of my job involved scheduling meetings for the director of my department and greeting her visitors when they arrived at the office. One day, I walked to elevator to greet chef Carla Hall, who was promoting ABC’s The Chew.
I was wearing my favorite cobalt-blue dress with a gold pendant necklace. As I motioned to usher Carla into the office, she blurted out, “My, aren’t you pretty? What a great color!”
Out of the mouth of TV chefs, people.
Lesson: Don’t fear color. It does a body — any size or type — good.
3. Smile Though Your Shoe Is Breaking
Speaking of celebrity chefs, I learned another important fashion lesson from Ace of Cakes’ Duff Goldman. I was interviewing the cake connoisseur about his new collaboration with Godiva on a line of cake-flavored truffles. In my estimation, our Q&A had gone pretty well, but as I stood up to leave, the strap on my tan wedges broke clean off.
As a perpetually klutzy individual, this was far from my first wardrobe malfunction in the Tri-state area, but it was my first in front of a chef with a show watched by millions. So I shrugged, flashed a big grin, and hobbled out of that interview with my head held high.
Lesson: Your outfit isn’t everything.
If something goes wrong — something rips, your baby urps on you, or, heaven forbid, you’re wearing a schlumpy sweater when you meet your style idol — just smile and keep going. Confidence can go a long way in diffusing wardrobe maladies.