The Worst Kind Of Fashion Person, According To Truth-Teller, Amy Odell

If you’ve ever been lucky enough (or lost enough) to find yourself at a real-world, on-Planet-Earth Fashion Show, you’ll realize that the media has been lying to you all this time. While the people lined up in the front row are swarmed by cameras and reporters, they’re not likely the ones to have perspective about what’s going on. It’s the back row that contains the truest spirit, enthusiasm, and most critical eye. And in 2008, that’s where you found former editor at The Cut and current editor at Cosmpolitan.com, Amy Odell.

Odell’s biting coverage of the fashion industry’s antics helped define that age of fashion journalism, and the sticky spots and magical situations she found herself in became the chapters of her newest book, Tales From The Back Row. Never one to sugarcoat things, Odell bridges the gap between blind fashion fanaticism and “why is that a thing” pessimism — and provides a reality check to both the ugly and the beautiful sides of the industry.

We spoke with Odell about how her viewpoint hasn’t switched, even as she’s moved up rows, why “blogging” doesn’t feel like an accurate word now, and the most terrible sorts of fashion people she’s encountered (of whom she’s met plenty).
Photographed by Kathleen Kamphausen.
Your book captures such an important time in fashion where digital started to encroach on print's territory. What do you think about the current state of fashion blogging?
"Blogging feels like a funny old school term to me now because no one really has a 'blog' anymore. Everyone has to have websites and Instagram feeds and Facebook pages and Snapchat accounts and Periscope and YouTube channels, and the thing that makes you famous might be your Instagram feed, even if you have a supplementary website or 'blog.' It seems to me like the most successful fashion bloggers realized, as the internet and social media evolved, that they have to be multi-platform brands, and then used those platforms to start businesses, like clothing lines or expanding their sites to become full-fledged online magazines. I think the internet became saturated with people who wanted to be famous fashion bloggers over the past few years, and as a result, it's much harder to stand out. You can't just post beautiful photos on Instagram and expect to become a star – too many people are doing that now. You have to stand for something or have an interesting job or a talent to attract a following."

If you were to write one more chapter of the book chronicling a more recent fashion experience or concept, what would it be about?
"There is a lot that I could have put in the book that I didn't for the purpose of keeping it tightly edited. I write about my wedding dress in the book — I went shopping for it after having margaritas with Chelsea Handler, which was just kind of the best day ever, but at some point I want to write about the bachelorette party I took to Iceland with my girlfriends. We saw a horse theater show where the performers (both man and horse) wore full gold sequin outfits, and we spent the whole time wearing the least sexy clothes of all time. It was hilarious and glorious, and convinced me that if you're taking a girls' trip, you should never have to pack heels for it."

In the book, you talk about blow-back from PR, the subjects of not-so-nice articles, etc. Are you particularly nervous about offending anyone who is mentioned in the book? Could you not care less?
"I could worry about offending people, but if I did, the book wouldn't be unique. In fashion, we're overly concerned with not offending people, and I don't think that leads to the most interesting reporting and writing. As journalists, it's our job to publish the most interesting, informative articles we can possibly create. Readers are not coming to us for press releases, they're coming to us for honesty and facts and, in the case of my book, a sense of humor. All that said, I did send a copy of the book to Rachel Zoe, who I write about, and I heard she had good feelings about it."
Your voice and sardonic take on the ridiculous side of fashion kind of guided fashion journalism in 2008. What voices do you feel are really compelling for right now?
"That is a really nice thing to say! I'm not sure I defined 2008 in any way, but what a fun year to look back on. I think we were all still dancing to "I Kissed a Girl." I love reading so many people, it's hard to narrow it down to a few. In fashion specifically, I love Vanessa Friedman at The New York Times, Christina Binkley at WSJ, Cathy Horyn who's now writing for The Cut. I'm biased, but I love reading senior style editor Charles Manning's post for Cosmopolitan.com because he brings such a unique sense of humor to his stories, which is why I wanted him to work for me so badly. I also still love reading The Cut and Man Repeller and Into the Gloss, which are all helmed by really impressive, smart women."

What's the worst type of fashion personality, in your opinion?
"The worst type of fashion personality is someone who has no aspirations beyond getting their pictures taken for the internet and showing up to parties. I think self-promotion is beneficial, especially for women (who usually feel more uncomfortable with it than their male counterparts and therefore shy away from boasting about their accomplishments), but people can tell when you have talent and when you don’t, and when your most defining characteristic is your ability to get attention for no reason. I think that's why people in the industry have become so disgusted with street style at fashion week."

Do you miss working the fashion beat?
"I am still working it! I continue to go to Fashion Week, not in the same intense way I used to, but that's actually a welcome change. The difference is, if I want to spend time with my husband during fashion week, I can. I don't have to worry about finding him an extra ticket to a fashion show so we can see each other during waking hours. As fun as it is to take him to shows and hear his perspective, and try to get him to put his New Yorker away and pay attention, I think we just both feel more at home at, like, Shake Shack."

More from Styling Tips

It's hardly a secret that fall and layering come hand-in-hand. With transitional weather swooping in, and the daily too-hot-too-cold conundrum, we find ...
Remember when Kim Kardashian wore bike shorts and the entire internet collectively freaked out? Well, it seems like she was on to something. Despite the ...
Jeans, sweater, booties, repeat. If you don't push yourself beyond this tried-and-true combination, fall dressing can get old...fast. Don't get us wrong...
If you're like us, Beauty and the Beast was in heavy VHS rotation when you were a kid. And, if that's the case, there's a good chance you were as besotted ...
The switch happened recently: Whereas half-dome breasts achieved via push-up bras were once the shape to mimic, bralettes have made way for more natural ...
Sometimes it can feel like life is just a constant rotation between large plastic bins of clothing — as soon as you're finally getting settled into your ...
Sometimes, looking a certain height is all about perspective
(Paid Content) Dressing for your age is a game that's rigged: Try as you may, the outcome is fixed and not often in your favor. One moment women are told ...
You can switch out your clothes all you want, but you can’t really replicate the way glasses can completely transform you. It’s like presenting an ...
No matter what country you came from or what country you're headed to, first-generation immigrants have a tricky relationship with fashion. What's normal ...
When you're young, you get used to being asked what you want to be when you grow up. But why should that stop when you actually reach adulthood? You don't ...
This story was originally published on August 4, 2014. Even though we've all experienced most temperatures, we have selective memory about what they're ...
If you've ever looked at model-street-style roundups and said to yourself, Gosh, I could never afford that, or even, Yeah, but they get all that stuff for ...
Cutouts have always seemed like a really daring thing to wear, especially if you were the kind of woman who wore bras most of the time and didn't consider ...