There’s a certain familiar formula that’s become de rigueur in the rarified niche of roman a chefs about the fashion industry. You’ve seen it before: the long suffering assistant is forced to toil over the nefarious editor in chief, running errands to find the perfect python headband and making emergency trips to Marc Jacobs when all she really wants is to be a serious journalist and write for the New Yorker. Karen Yampolsky puts a new spin on this tired recipe in her novel Falling Out of Fashion by focusing on a more interesting character: the boss
Ms. Yampolsky is ideally suited to write about the industry; she’s been an assistant to Jane Platt, the Editor-in-Chief of the eponymous Jane Magazine, for nine years. The novel centers around Jill White, an enterprising woman who founds Jill in the hope of creating a magazine that differs from all the other women’s glossies, only to struggle in the face of corporate control when her publishing company is acquired by the mega conglomerate Nestrom media. Anyone familiar with Jane magazine’s difficult fit into the Conde Nast family shouldn’t have no difficultly identifying the novel’s real life inspiration.
Yet Yampolsky’s novel more than a facile account of real life events. Jill White is a realistic character, whose flaws, talents, and unapologetic desire to have a successful magazine are a welcome respite from the whiny assistants that narrate other novels about the publishing industry. The author also provides an insider’s account of the view from the top, detailing the cars, the swag, and the kowtowing to advertisers that come with them.
Oddly enough, the main flaw in a novel that purports to detail the rise and fall of an editor is a lack of attention to pacing. Yampolsky sets herself the difficult task of describing Jill’s entire story from birth to her fall from grace, and there are periods of her life that certainly should have been glossed over. The descriptions of Jill’s time at boarding school and early life in New York City in particular feel obligatory and dull. On the other hand, the author simply states that a cover lines about sex must be toned down , without giving us the juicy details of the magazine’s metamorphosis. Apparently those who wish to have the real story must still look to the assistants. Fashionista Diaries, a reality television show chronicling the lives of two assistants who worked at Jane before it closed, is showing on the Soap channel this fall.