Vogue’s Grace Coddington Steals the Show

Movies play a quiet but important role in Grace Coddington’s soon-to-be-released memoir. The former model and longtime creative director at Vogue has written an anecdotal, self-effacing skip through her childhood in Anglesey, Wales, her time in swinging London when she first joined Vogue, and her move to New York to become a major player in the fashion world. The book opens with commentary on one film in particular, “the movie that is the only reason anyone has ever heard of me” -- The September Issue, a 2009 documentary about Vogue of which Coddington wanted no part, even though she turned out to be the very best thing about it. But she also grew up on movies. Once a week she’d walk a mile along the seafront “avoiding the stinging sea spray” to take the bus to get to the town where the shabby movie theater was. Describing the place, she says “think of The Last Picture Show, only even more shabby.”

Later, in London, she “loved the gritty new-wave British films from that period: A Taste of Honey, A Kind of Loving, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Whistle Down the Wind.” While she never says so explicitly, her passion for cinema could account for the innovative, narrative style of fashion photography that she brought to Vogue.

A trip to the movies even introduces her working relationship with Anna Wintour. Two days into her editorship of British Vogue, Wintour wanted to see Betty Blue. The movie’s opening scene “goes on and on in dead silence for well over five long, embarrassing minutes, show[ing] a naked couple screwing on a bed.” Coddington was so uncomfortable she could hardly take it, while Wintour showed no emotion at all. For Coddington, this is an example of “how much significance Anna places on willpower trumping feelings.” For readers, it’s another welcome trip to the movies with Grace Coddington, imagined here by Brooklyn-based illustrator Nathan Gelgud.

Grace Coddington at the Movies