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Emily Dent

Non-Verbal Communication

Dr. Gary Deaton

9 March 2017

Adornment in The Devil Wears Prada

In the 2006 movie The Devil Wears Prada, Northwestern Journalism graduate, Andrea

Andy Sachs, played by Anne Hathaway, stumbles into a challenging position as the assistant to

Runway Magazines Editor in Chief, Miranda Priestly. Andrea starts this job as an introduction

into the world of journalism, hoping that within a year she will be able to work at any other

major publication. In order to be taken seriously for this position Andy must completely

transform her wardrobe. So as what seems to be a theme for Anne Hathaway movies, her

character undergoes an extreme makeover both physically and mentally and in complete

Princess Diaries fashion, Anne Hathaways character is transformed from a polyester-clad girl

into a well-dressed woman. As Andys physical appearance transforms so does her mindset, no

longer concerned about the feelings of others and only concerned about the advancement of her

career, the new Andy, dressed in rigid black silhouettes and matching black Stilettos finds herself

questioning whether her fashion change is the problem or her own mindset. Andys new look,

adorned with power, taste, and grace allows her to excel in the workplace.

Andys look in the beginning of the movie makes her fall victim to the plainness

penalty, meaning because her physical appearance is communicating to others that she should

be overlooked and not taken seriously, which in turn penalizes her career and almost costs her

the job at Runway. However, the movies first real turning point, when Andys actions start to

greatly affect her personal life, is also the first time she starts to dress like the rest of the
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powerful women in her office. With the help of her coworker Nigel, who takes her under his

wing, Andys look transforms from plain, light colors, comfort shoes and unruly hair to slim

black pants, black jackets, bold jewelry, thigh high boots and power bangs. Before Andys new

look is revealed, her coworkers, Emily and Serena, are shown gossiping about how

unfashionable and incompetent Andy is for the job and when Andy walks into the office Serena

says, You look good (36:19), while Emily seems threatened by Andys transformation. But

why should Andys work achievements depend on the way she dresses? Whether fair or not, a

beauty premium is exactly what leads Andy to success while working for Runway

Magazine. According to a 2005 study done by Markus M. Mobius of Harvard University and

Tanya S. Rosenblat of Wesleyan University, Workers of above average beauty earn about 10 to

15 percent more than workers of below average beauty (Mobius 3). After Andys

transformation, her coworkers start to view her as someone that they should be taking seriously

and the effects are quickly seen. Miranda starts to show more respect towards Andy by giving

her the responsibility of dropping off her dry cleaning and the book of ideas for the next edition

of her magazine, something extremely valuable and important to her.

In addition to the beauty premium, Andy is receiving the benefits that come with a more

structured, masculine way of dress. According to Susan B. Kaisers essay Womens

Appearance and Clothing within Organizations, Managerial characteristics such as

forcefulness, self-reliance, dynamism, aggressiveness, and decisiveness were found to be

associated more with certain suit and blouse combinations than with a feminine dress (Forsythe

et al., 1984) (Guerrero 77). In the scene where Andys new look is revealed she is wearing

skinny black jeans, a black blazer, and tall black high-heeled boots. Masculine in color-scheme
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and structures, Andys new look gives her the power that her colleagues need in order to take her


Andys transformation also causes a halo/devil horn affect. In one scene, Andy is sent to

a party to pick up a dress for Miranda where the designer, James Holt, says, Come on, youre

working for Miranda Priestly now, you must be in desperate need for some hard liquor (41:38-

41:41). This comment can be seen as relatively negative, however in many other instances Andy

is reminded that You work a year for her [Miranda] and you can get a job at any magazine you

want. A million girls would kill for this job (4:14-4:20). Although, Miranda is seen as extremely

demanding and cold towards her employees, she also has a reputation of perfection. Because of

this reputation she requires all of the people that work under her to also maintain an impeccable

image, which in turn, is the reason why Andy is ultimately forced to conform to the magazines

impossibly high beauty expectations. So when Andy meets James at this party and he sees that

she is well dressed and finds out that she is Mirandas assistant he automatically assumes that she

is stressed and high strung.

This newly found identity changes the way that people form impressions of Andy. In the

beginning of the movie, just by simply looking at the way Andy dresses and carries herself,

someone would assume that she is simple and smart, but also average and plain with low self-

esteem. However, when Andy undergoes her makeover she starts to carry herself more proudly,

with longer strides, better posture, and an uplifted chin. If it werent for her new clothes,

hairstyle, and makeup, Andy would not have the self-esteem to carry herself with such pride,

which allows her to form a system of impression management that highlights all of her best

qualitiesphysical and mental. Because of this for the first time Andy seems to be subjected to

the male gaze. Her long-term boyfriend Nate seems to love her for who she is and not how she
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dresses or does her hair, but once Andy transforms her wardrobe and switches up her hair, she

automatically starts to see the effects that her looks can have on men. In a small argument about

her new-found style with Nate, Andy ends the argument by showing Nate her new bra. In order

to feel comfortable and confident with her changing look, Andy feels like she has to wear

something that benefits her boyfriend in some way, perpetuating the idea that women only dress

for men.

In addition to Andys impression management, she acquires a new system of impression

formation. With her newfound sense of fashion, Andy becomes more quick to judge people by

their appearance. At the party where Andy meets the designer James Holt, she also meets

Christian Thompson, who although is very attractive, is very manipulative and a perfect example

of the halo effect. At first Andy blows off his advances because she has a boyfriend and can

partially see that he does not have good intentions. However, after Christian helps her get ahead

in her job by finding a copy of the newest Harry Potter book before it has been released for

Mirandas twin daughters, Andy is quick to trust him and doesnt consider that he has any mal-

intentions. Instead, Andy ends up sleeping up with him while in Paris for Fashion Week while on

a break with her boyfriend and finds out that the entire time he was part of a plot to replace

Miranda as the editor of Runway with her rival, Jacqueline Follett, the editor of the Italian

version of Runway. Before Andy started working for Miranda, she would have seen through the

halo Christian carries himself with and would not have been so easily wooed by his good looks,

charm, and successful career and would have been less quick to trust him. Andys process of

impression formation changed from identifying someone by their intelligence and integrity to

judging someone based mostly on their appearance, which causes her to be taken advantage of

by Christian.
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However, Andys initial system of impression formation was not always stable and

moral. In the beginning of the movie Andy is quick to judge Miranda and the rest of the

employees at Runway as being shallow, unintelligent, and unoriginal. Andy is so caught up with

the stereotypes and prototypes that fill the fashion industry. At first, it seems like everyone in the

office is only concerned about being a size 0, what designer theyre wearing, and how they can

get ahead in their careers. However, Andy is quickly proven wrong about this when her and

Nigel eventually become friends because of their mutual interest in one day getting the credit

they deserve for the work they do and also their shared resentment of the unfair practices of the

fashion industry. Because of people like Nigel, Andy comes to realize that although people who

work in the fashion industry have the stereotype of being shallow and vain, their prototypes tends

to be hardworking, dedicated, ambitious, and talented because that is what is required for the job.

Eventually Andy becomes unhappy with the person that she has become and returns back

to her normal life, leaving Miranda alone at an event in Paris after she explained to Andy that she

had sacrificed Emilys career to get ahead in hers. However, she first has to repair her

relationship with Nate and find another job. In order to this she must code-switch back to how

she spoke and communicated before working at Runway. Before breaking up with her Nate says,

You used to say this is just a job, you used to make fun of the Runway girls, what happened?

Now youve become one of them (16:10-16:20). At this point in the movie Andy is unable to

switch between the person she is at work and the person she actually is, which is causing her

relationships to suffer. Because work has become her top priority, rather than her personal

relationships, Andy loses part of who she is when her work life starts to interfere with her

personal life. Andy starts to take work calls while out to dinner with her friends and talks about

fashion and judges other people based on their looks with them, showing them that she has
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become everything that she once hated. Unable to code-switch and change the way she

communicates in the two different settings; Andy lets her work self become her actual self.

However, after leaving the fashion world Andy is able to switch back to who she used to be,

dressing in a more modest and subtle way, caring for others before herself, and overall shows her

genuine self.

In The Devil Wears Prada, Anne Hathaways character, Andy Sachs, changes the way

she looks to excel in a job in the fashion industry which ultimately causes change in her behavior

and nonverbal communication. Andy loses her sense of integrity and through her nonverbals, she

inadvertently shows that she lost interest in the people closest to her. Although Andys

transformation brings her great success in her career because great style tends to come with great

power (at least in the fashion industry), Andy is incapable of having power in the workplace and

strength in relationships.
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Works Cited

Guerrero, Laura K., and Michael L. Hecht. The nonverbal communication reader: classic and

contemporary readings. 3rd ed. Long Grove, IL: Waveland, 2008. Print.

Mobius, Markus M., and Tanya S. Rosenblat. "Why Beauty Matters." American Economic

Review 96.1 (2006): 222-35. Web.

The Devil wears Prada. Dir. David Frankel. Perf. Stanley Tucci, Anne Hathaway, and Meryl

Streep. N.p., n.d. Web.