"Fashionista" is little more and little less than your average fluffy chick-lit book: A single smart gal in a job-from-hell, some quirky coworkers and plenty of witty little observations about whatever business Single Smart Gal is in. It's a guilty pleasure with a literate twist and a likably wry main character.
Glossy magazine Fashionista is like "Seinfeld" -- it's about nothing. All they do is retread celebrity fashion of the moment, check out celebrity fashion of the past, and just about anything vapid involving celebrities. (Seeing a trend here?) Vig Morgan got involved in this magazine for the glamour, but finds that it's sadly lacking. Iron-rod editor-in-chief Jane McNeill is intent on keeping it vapid and celebrity-driven, even though her staff yearns to give the mag a little substance.
Then a rebellion starts brewing in the ranks. Vig finds herself turned into the linchpin of a conspiracy to get controversial fashion artist Gavin Marshall and his Gilding the Lily (or, to be blunter, "Jesus in Drag" -- Jesus statues in designer women's garb) exhibit into the magazine. But will the uproar be enough to overturn Jane?
Ever since the publication of "The Nanny Diaries," there have been a slew of my-job-is-hell-and-my-boss-is-a-demon books. "Fashionistas" manages to avoid the pitfalls of most books like that. The biggest pit that it DOES fall into is the not-a-relationship that Vig has with the mysterious Alex Keller -- it really adds nothing to the book, and just seems to take up pages that could be devoted to catty power struggles.
Those catty power struggles are what make "Fashionista" so delicious at times. Vig's deadpan recounting of the quirky workplace characters is fun to read. While their oddities sometimes strain believability, they always manage to seem like people who could actually exist. And Messina does a decent job of lampooning the art world (Jesus statues with women's designer clothes), the fashion world, and magazines in general. Since she herself writes for magazines, it somehow doesn't seem surprising.
Vig actually seems like a smart, interesting female lead. She doesn't whine constantly about her weight, her boyfriend, and grimly takes it in stride when she has to cover Cate Blanchett's "curly" phase. Sort-of-boyfriend Alex is a nonentity, and so are quite a few of Vig's coworkers. Maya is a good sidekick for Vig: She's an emotional mess with unpublished novels, a nasty ex, and many stages of grief.
Lynn Messina's take on the fashion world is a nice beach-read. Or if you don't have a beach handy, then "Fashionista" is merely a pleasant light read with plenty of cattiness, fashion and inter-magazine power struggles.