Posted by: maryg09 | April 24, 2009

Unemployment According to Vogue

Posted by contributor Mary Gustafson

As a general rule, I try to avoid buying magazines that will inspire only rage — such as any issue of Maxim — but the May issue of Vogue called out to me from its impulse-purchase post in the grocery check-out aisle. It was the coverline reading “You’re Fired! Surviving and Thriving After the Pink Slip” that got me.

I thought that maybe I’d kind of be able to relate to the article’s author, a recently laid off Village Voice reporter/editor. But either alternative dailies pay a LOT better than I would’ve thought, or this woman has some other huge source of income that she isn’t disclosing. I can’t figure out if Vogue thought it was providing service journalism or material for a future chick lit novel with this article, but it definitely did not succeed on either front since I could not a) relate to the author or b) feel even the least bit bad for her. Here’s why:

  1. For starters, it’s poor form that she even mentions her former company by name. I may not live in Manhattan, but I know the New York media world is small and most people can’t afford to burn bridges like that.
  2. The author probably thought she was humbling herself when she said “After the shock wore off I realized I was in much better shape than a lot of other Americans,” and then goes on to admit that she already has a flourishing freelance career. But if that’s the case, why is this article even worth publishing? Finances can’t be that bad if she doesn’t even have to file for unemployment.
  3. The author reveals that her low point was the day a fashion designer advised her to attempt to live only off of her freelance income and have her severance payments direct deposited. “I hated this idea. Previously I had kept the money in one big lump and just bought whatever I wanted.” She then suffered the indignity of being told by a banker that after considering fixed expenses, such as her mortgage, maintenance, cable, etc., she should endeavor to spend only $50 a day for everything else.
  4. The author opines that her BlackBerry’s calculator indicates that she needs to earn a minimum of $92,000 annually to survive. Her attempts at economizing thus far include not spending $900 for a sweater, and buying a stamp pad to make her own business cards instead of having them done at Tiffany like all her friends suggested. She also opts for a $118 silk blouse from Anthrpologie instead of a $1,000 designer version.
  5. For an alternative newspaper reporter, this woman is a little out of touch with the price of things, especially considering her self-professed shopping addiction. She expresses such sticker shock whilst shopping for home-office supplies: “So we were at Staples, where to my amazement I learned that a combination printer/copier cost only $99, or far less than the cheapest Marc Jacobs T-shirt.”
  6. Another pearl of wisdom: “I finally abandoned the budget business entirely. Instead, I concentrated on getting assignments. I stopped being snobby about writing for the Internet.” Oh, the horror!
  7. Finally, Vogue readers are supposed feel uplifted by the author’s moment of clarity by way of the First Lady’s fashion sense: “On January 20, when Michelle Obama turned up in her glorious Isabel Toledo ensemble, it was impossible to be depressed. If Toledo, the consummate downtown designer who’s had plenty of ups and downs herself, can triumph, I thought, then maybe so can I.” Empowered, she runs back to reclaim an antique sapphire and diamond ring she had to return to the dealer after she was laid off.



  1. I was similarly appalled for these same reasons – I generally expect Vogue to be completely out of touch but when even Conde Nast is in the kind of dire straits the rest of us are facing, you’d think they’d be able to inject a little poignancy into the commentary on our current economic plight. Instead, they’ve turned up the vapid and delusional and I’d imagine they’ll continue to lose readers like me in the process.

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