DiscoverChick Lit

The Tale of Miss Berta London

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Worth reading 😎

When Miss Berta finds her life crumbling, she hones her skills to start life all over again. It's a reminder that we can all start again.

Synopsis

Miss Berta's days as fashion editor were not what she expected. Her mother was a fashion icon. Therefore, she felt it was her duty to live her mother's legacy and be a fashion mogul. Miss Berta learns a hard lesson: life is more than the material world. She hits rock bottom and has no choice, but to become a nanny for a rich family, the Williamson's. She has to adapt to this social class. This new job she receives as nanny makes her a grounded person and she uses these new skills to create a magazine, that will bring families closer together. She serves her purpose as a mentor, solving problems for troubled families. Miss Berta London is a character, who becomes appreciated by all, once given the chance.

        This book opens with a busy scene. We are introduced to Miss Berta quickly and realize that she is a diligent, posh, but inspired leader of a magazine. While she takes pleasure and inspiration from the small things around her, she also tends to push people away. We learn that she came from a repressed fashion family that discouraged her from pursuing what she loved. This character is the center of change, and that works well for the plot of the novel as a whole. Miss Berta is a strong character and tries to work through her past in order to be successful and return to glory after a crisis occurs.


              One thing that struck me was the casual mention of OCD. I really think writers need to start thinking about the ways they are appropriating and misrepresenting mental health – particularly since this book is specifically meant for YA readers. It’s a small thing, but it makes a big impact in the ways mental health is represented across different forums. Other than that, I found that jumps in time were awkward and took me out of the story until I realized where the writer dove back in.


              Structurally, the use of flashbacks are an effective way to recognize the ways Miss Berta grew up and the circumstances that led her to be who she is now. It creates a connection to her present time that makes readers understand what motivates her decisions. I did notice a lot of errors with the writing of the dialogue, so if that’s something that bothers readers, I would not suggest this book.


              Ultimately, this is a story of someone that finds herself facing new challenges and then finds ways to persevere. I would give this to young readers because it highlights an important lesson in transference of skills and that it is never too late to start over. Readers also learn the importance of networking and pushing yourself.  We get to see some of the nastiness of the fashion industry as well as the ways in which people from different backgrounds relate to the world. This is a lovely story for young readers. 

Reviewed by

I have been a reader forever. I still hold the record for reading the most books in Grade 1, and I have maintained that momentum. Now, I have a degree in English Literature and share my passion as an English teacher. I also have a blog where I occasionally post book reviews.

Synopsis

Miss Berta's days as fashion editor were not what she expected. Her mother was a fashion icon. Therefore, she felt it was her duty to live her mother's legacy and be a fashion mogul. Miss Berta learns a hard lesson: life is more than the material world. She hits rock bottom and has no choice, but to become a nanny for a rich family, the Williamson's. She has to adapt to this social class. This new job she receives as nanny makes her a grounded person and she uses these new skills to create a magazine, that will bring families closer together. She serves her purpose as a mentor, solving problems for troubled families. Miss Berta London is a character, who becomes appreciated by all, once given the chance.

Who Is Miss Berta?

A strange woman with a mean grin paraded through the hustle-bustle streets of New York City. The cars were obnoxiously loud, beeping their horns, shuffling past one another in the chaos. People were scattered from the north, south, east, and west of the city, trying to find taxis, catch the underground rail train, or find the nearest bus stop.

Living downtown was the norm for Miss Berta London. She commuted back and forth from her home to her job, and lived only fifteen blocks away from work in the well-known, popular Eloquent Headquarters located on East Sixty-Eighth Street. The Upper East Side was the sophisticated side of New York City. The rich and wealthy belonged on this side of town. Living and working in this big, saturated, expensive city, Miss Berta watched the ill-dressed individuals. She walked past them with frustration on her way to work. The onlookers, on the contrary, watched her with amazement and envy because of her extravagant style of dress.

Miss Berta always set the fashion trends for the start of each season. Her eyeglasses were of the vintage style of the 1950s era. Her long, draped dress covered her entire lower body. She had on brown flat shoes, to complement her feet. She wore brown shoes everywhere, with her strange mahogany-colored beret hat and blazer, along with her button-up blouses. Her short, shoulder-length hair was ebony black and cut in an orderly coif. The young generation of New Yorkers imitated this hairstyle. Miss Berta was a genius among them; they admired her daring attitude of ostentation. In her mind, fashion was art. It was colorful, dull, bright, or polka dot stripes—anything the trends needed to be for that specific era. As the seasons changed, so, too, would Miss Berta’s fashion trends. New York City propelled her creativity; it was responsible for her fashion genius, and influenced her fashion sense. Women from history also influenced her: Marie Antoinette and Queen Victoria. Both were queens of their respective lands who transcended the fashion era of their époque. In the weekly newspaper articles, some media critics compared her to Queen Victoria, with a modern twist. Other critics espoused her as Marie Antoinette, the experimental fashion icon, because she always knew what was hip, although she herself never gave into the trends from other competitors.

A brightly lit building with a eye catching red, black, and yellow billboard displayed the words Eloquent Fashion Magazine: Elitism Is Our Motto. The billboard promoted the fall season fashion line with a slideshow of models wearing purplish-blue ostrich-style dresses. These were elongated dresses, accessorized by feathers.

Not only was this building reflecting the creative artistic capabilities Miss Berta possessed, it was also Miss Berta’s sanctuary. The entire building was an extension of her outer self. The building epitomized fashion. Fashion was her escape from reality and the invention of who she was as a person.

On Miss Berta’s daily walk toward the vibrant Eloquent Fashion Magazine building, she noticed the advertisements that surrounded the building. These advertisements were placed in front of independent clothing stores. Managers and directors of these businesses alike felt if they were to be located near this grand building, they, too, had a promising future in the world of fashion. These independent stores fueled Miss Berta’s competitiveness. She constantly had to think outside the box from her competitors. It was a challenge because these local, independent clothing stores imitated everything she did. In a way, they were spies, who wanted to know what the secret was to her constant success.

As Miss Berta continually walked past the degraded New York City subway system, she noticed graffiti on the walls of the train station, which led to the escalators toward the exit. The spray-painted graffiti on the walls of the subway gave her an idea that would change her career in fashion forever. Graffiti would be one of the new themes for the future, but not for the upcoming photo shoot, which would promote the fall issue of the magazine and feature nature and vintage elements. The autumn leaves fell and were brown, and Miss Berta decided this was the direction she wanted for the magazine’s upcoming release.

Nevertheless, she did take photographs of the graffiti-covered buildings. There was a particular design she noticed on the ally building she had passed. It was a large rose on the side of the brick building, which was spray-painted in bright neon colors. The image took her breath away. She took a snapshot of the image and sent it with a text, which read, “Something to consider working with in the future.” Romero, one of her trusted colleagues received the message in a matter of seconds.

On her way to work, she passed Logan High School, a prestigious, coeducational school. The inner-city schoolchildren approached Miss Berta and asked for her autograph, but she snarled them away. Many middle school and high school children were constantly late each morning, because they wanted to witness Miss Berta’s daily passing as she entered the glamorous Eloquent Fashion Magazine building, which was guarded by an intense amount of security.

“Stay back!” Miss Berta’s main security guard, Xenox, a muscular man scowled, blocking the children from Miss Berta’s passage, as she shoved past the crowd. They constantly took photographs of her, while sticking out their pens and notebooks for her to autograph their issue of Eloquent Fashion Magazine.

“Please! Sign this for me?” one girl cried, but Miss Berta was indifferent to her request.

“Miss Berta!” The crowd yelled. Some attempted to grab her clothing, but others were more restrained because they were too frightened of her security. Miss Berta relied on Xenox for everything. He was her head security. His responsibilities exceeded the other two security guards’. Miss Berta had high regard for him, because she relied on him to keep her safe at all times. Lex, Miss Berta’s second line of security, was relaxed, kind, and friendly. Miss Berta usually relied on Lex for emotional support. He always had a positive quote or word to bestow on Miss Berta in times of need. Moe was her third line of defense. He was nonchalant and sluggish. He was on board because Miss Berta needed a third security guard, due to the shoving crowds, which fought to get near her. One late afternoon, Miss Berta could not walk down the street without being harassed by a crowd of people. It took her security guards a few hours to get her through the crowd that day, as night descended. Nevertheless, they managed the task and were successful, and Miss Berta was finally home.

                 Miss Berta lived in a luxuriously strange house with mahogany-brown curtains and two eighteenth century–style pianos—one in her living room and the other in her recreation room; a room Miss Berta kept for sketching and painting. Both pianos were white as snow and were freshly new, though they gave off a musty scent. The navy-blue king-size couches took up a big portion of the living room space. The living room had a hallway, which led to a circular hall used for dancing. (This space never got utilized; it was merely a passageway into the kitchen.) The living room floor was made of marble material. The chandeliers were exquisitely decorated in Art Deco style and lit the high ceiling brightly.

Miss Berta’s chef, Cephas Pasteur, was French; he made all her meals. He found his home in Miss Berta’s kitchen. Miss Berta also had two housekeepers: Christine, a short woman with a chubby, round face, whose responsibilities included washing and ironing Miss Berta’s clothes, organizing her closet space, and walking her two dogs, who despised Alexis, the other housekeeper. The dogs attempted to attack him whenever he tried to take them out on their daily walks. His responsibilities were to vacuum all the carpeted floors, clean the bathrooms, scrub the bathtubs, and mop the floors to all five bedrooms in the house. Miss Berta never complained about her home and its upkeep because it was always immaculate.

Her neighbors spied on her frequently, peeking through their curtains. Mary Whitmore had been married to her husband Ralph, for twenty years. They both were sixty-five. Ralph was a very nonchalant man. His wife, on the contrary, was a nosy, nagging woman, who always wanted to know what was going on behind Miss Berta’s closed doors. During weeknights and on Saturday, Mary Whitmore spent most of her time spying on Miss Berta. She sometimes invited Miss Berta to rendezvous with the neighbors.

Miss Berta frequently looked out her window to find Mary peering right back. “Any plans this Saturday Miss Berta?” and “How are your bulldogs, Molly and Sarah?” Miss Whitmore yelled through the window of her upscale Manhattan condominium home one chilly, sunny morning.

“My business is my business, Whitmore!” Miss Berta announced in a disconcerting, cold, slithering tone.

“Not to worry,” Mrs. Whitmore proclaimed, as she closed the curtains to her second-floor bedroom. Miss Berta watched her with an evil facial expression from her garden. Ralph had been observing the whole scene from his rocking chair near the window on the second floor, while Mrs. Whitmore gazed at him distastefully.

“She was right for that one dear,” Mr. Whitmore proclaimed at his wife. Mrs. Whitmore was shocked at his response. She turned away. Ralph returned to watching the news. A middle-aged woman with brown hair on the television screen was corresponding with her news-anchor counterpart. Both were dressed in suits, discussing the stagnant economy of 2008. Miss Berta was thirty-nine years old, facing a middle-age crisis. She had so much responsibility as editor in chief of Eloquent Fashion Magazine, the top fashion magazine nationwide. She was in charge of making official decisions. The stylists picked out the wardrobe for the models, but Miss Berta had final approval over the wardrobe selections for the photo shoots. She also had recruiters, who were responsible for interviewing potential employees, but Miss Berta made the final hiring decisions. Her hired models were held to a high caliber and had to complete eight photographic shots in a period of three days. Her photographers were not like the usual photographers who gave detailed directions for every shot. The models had to adapt to every situation. Every day the set changed, the lighting changed, the stylists changed, hair and makeup designers changed their application and products. She held her staff highly responsible for their professionalism and attained skills.

Miss Berta was not a lethargic manager—one who relied on an assistant for help during the creative process for the magazine. Instead, she relied on herself. Her diligence drove people to be petrified of her. She had a heavy case of obsessive-compulsive disorder, especially on the job. She worked late night hours. The monstrosity of each late night at the office left her in anguish.

It was a typical Monday. Miss Berta paced the corridor of her dimly lit office. She searched and searched through the expired Eloquent Fashion Magazine titles, which dated back to 1998. She browsed the pictures from the file cabinet of her assistant secretary Anna. Anna kept a record of Eloquent Fashion Magazine’s history. Each magazine, along with the magazine’s yearly calendar, was filed chronologically. Miss Berta browsed through the year 2000’s pictures. One faded picture took Miss Berta’s fancy; it was one she had to enlarge at her home office studio. The year of the photo dated 1998.

The night was young. It was six o’clock when the sun began to fall. Miss Berta was in her multicolored sweater with the initials EFM in black on the back. She looked at a faded and tattered photograph, which lay on her desk. It caught her attention because her mother was in the picture. The photograph displayed in numbers the year 1998, the year her mother had died. The portrait of her mother was natural. It was the only photograph she had of her mother, without makeup and wearing simple clothing. Her mother looked to be fifty-eight. She looked so youthful and her clothes were conservative. The vintage-style piano in the picture gave Miss Berta the incentive to have nature and vintage elements in the magazine’s upcoming release. Miss Berta dove into a brainstorming session for the magazine, grasping ideas from the photographs, which lay on her desk. She read a quote on a second photograph, which lay on her desk. It said: “Use nature tones.” This was signed in her mother’s writing. In the photo, her mother was twenty-five. Although the photograph was tattered, the nature-toned hat her mother wore gave her an idea. She jotted down notes about this natured toned greenish, brown hat her mother wore.

Miss Berta concluded that she should bring back natural vintage, bohemian style to her magazine. She clipped the picture to her overhead drawing board as a reminder. It was getting late at the office, so she grabbed her trench coat from where it hung, picked up her handbag, and placed her bright red beret hat on her head. As she exited the EFM building with her three-line of security guards, she found her driver outside waiting for her. Her line of security made sure they followed behind her driver, as he drove Miss Berta home.

She gathered her things from the car and exited without saying good-bye to her designated driver Luke, who was always silent on the drive home. Meanwhile, three of her security guards smiled and waved at her and drove off.

At home, Miss Berta turned off the living room light switch and yawned, then headed upstairs to her bedroom. In her brightly lit bathroom, she quickly washed her face and brushed her teeth and threw on her pajamas. The entire night caused her to fret over the layout and design for the magazine cover. In the world of Miss Berta London, life was simple, yet complex. Her philosophy was simple: “You’re fired” or “Better get that fixed, and if it’s not, you’re fired.” These two were her most popular phrases to use among her employees. She used them to keep her employees from neglecting their deadlines. She was very strict about time. All assignments had to be completed according to schedule.

The following day, employees at Eloquent Fashion Magazine were frantic due to preparations. The day of the photo-shoot was approaching and time was running out. Alfonzo Romero, an Italian photographer, was Miss Berta’s loyal companion and photographer for Eloquent Fashion Magazine. Born and raised a perfectionist, his strategy as a photographer was very analytical. His process was slow and long. This strategy frustrated Heather, a model for Eloquent Fashion Magazine. She was constantly tired, especially of the constant criticism she received on a daily basis. It was a typical day at the headquarters and the stylists, photographers, and set designers moved about the building in a hastened pace. Romero stood in place with his multitudes of cameras surrounding him. He pointed toward a youngish-looking model named Heather Tilling, the magazine’s top model.

“Turn your head sideways, turn your face to the right. Don’t forget to attract the camera with your eyes.” Romero rotated the camera around the set as he snapped photos. “Heather, I need you to smile,” Romero announced. Heather followed his instruction cooperatively, but sulked as she felt the displeasure at being used as a live mannequin. Nevertheless, her hand movements were seamless and delicate. She shot eight camera shots with Romero. Romero repositioned three cameras, which were placed in a pyramid setup before him. The lighting crew worked around Romero. They contrasted the lighting on the set from a somber seamless backdrop to a green screen used for light reflection. Strobe lights were used. These lights were responsible for balancing daylight along with the studio light, to create a warmer lighting effect for the models. The hair and makeup team coordinated with the lighting crew and photographers. The lighting Romero set up, stripped the set from the nature toned theme Miss Berta anticipated.

Romero never spoke ill of his boss. Many nights during the winter season, Miss Berta kept him overnight. Romero illuminated the pictures he had taken of models earlier in the day to Photoshop them the next night.

“Romero, I want you to finish editing these photographs and have all of them completed to show me tomorrow.” Romero humbly acknowledged her requests. “Sure thing. It’s going to be an overnight job.”

“What job isn’t at EFM? Here, we are dedicated to being the best.” Miss Berta closed the door behind her, as she left Romero to complete his Photoshop and Illustrator adaptations for the following morning.

It was 6:00 a.m. Monday morning. Miss Berta sat by her window, drinking blackberry tea. She looked into her garden, which flourished with white daisies, while observing her two bulldogs. As she watched the two dogs play with each other, she began to close her eyes slightly. Her mind took her back to when she was a little girl. Her father sat at the breakfast table, reading his newspaper and smoking a cigar.

“Daddy, do you have to go to work today?” Little Berta asked sadly. Her father wore his usual blue suit. “Yes dear, daddy’s got to go to work to make you happy,” he announced in his deep, stern voice. His response made her face fill with sadness, but she was aware that this was a typical day in her life. Each time, her parents left her at home with a nanny. She couldn’t understand at that age why she spent most of her days with a person other than her parents. She wanted to be with them always. Little Berta was seven and a half. She was clinging to her teddy bear, as she watched her father intently read his daily newspaper and sip on a cup of coffee. “Well Scott and I will miss you daddy.” She responded to her father. Mr. London smiled and lifted his daughter to place her onto his lap.

“Thomas, we have to get going!” A high-pitched voice from the corridor belted in agitation. A woman came strolling into the kitchen wearing bright red lipstick. She had shiny hair, which was cut into a short bob. She wore a mink coat and six-inch black leather heels. Mr. London and little Berta took their attention away from each other and focused on the vibrant woman who stood in front of them. Mr. London stood up and hugged her, as she entered the room.

Berta’s mother laughed continuously at his advances. “Not now honey,” replied the woman as she pushed Mr. London away.

“You promised Berta and me that all of us would be going camping instead of making an appearance for that photo shoot for the women of New York City, to express themselves as superior to everyone in the fashion world. It’s not fair to Berta or me. We love you, they don’t.” Mr. London boldly announced.

Smugly, the woman crossed her arms in agitation. “Berta does not enjoy the outdoors, nor do I!” Mr. London said. “She is a shopaholic, like her mother.” Mrs. London stated.

“Mommy!” Little Berta yelled loudly. The lady had her arms out to embrace little Berta, who ran toward her mother.

“Oh honey, I miss you already. We’ll go shopping later,” said Adline. Little Berta crossed her arms and pouted.

“I hate shopping, Mommy! I want to help children.” She said.

Adline was shocked at this response. “Why honey?” Adline looked disappointed.

“Mommy, I want to help children, so they can be happy like me.” Little Berta replied confidently.

Mr. London smiled at his daughter’s words and sat down, while he continued to read his newspaper. “I don’t think she’s going for that today, Adline dearest,” Mr. London answered, as his wife Adline rolled her eyes.

“Daddy doesn’t understand the world of princesses, does he Berta?” Adline whispered to little Berta, who giggled to herself. Adline carried little Berta to the breakfast table, and placed her on her lap. Meanwhile, her daughter grabbed a piece of rye toast, and reached for the strawberry jam. She began to fiddle with the jar. As she twisted it sideways, she lost control of it.

“Careful Berta, Mommy’s wearing Versace today!”

Little Berta simply looked up at her mother as the jam spilled all over her mother’s expensive white suit. Berta trembled, as her legs were shaking, while she had her thumb in her mouth.

“Berta!” Adline screamed angrily at her little Berta.

Miss Berta opened her eyes and looked at her watch. She was back in her present reality. She was in her bedroom. The flowered linen curtains hanging above, draped over the window seal. Miss Berta lifted her head, as her ruffled hair fell to her shoulders. She looked around the room and saw her two dogs on the floor play fighting. “Quiet,” Miss Berta ordered her two dogs. The dogs fell quiet. They had anticipated Miss Berta would throw a toy ball for them to chase after. “Oh darn, I’m late,” she whispered to herself as she checked the time on her glamorous watch.

It was the day of a major event for the magazine. Miss Berta was no longer the innocent little girl in her flashback, who asked her father a million questions at a time, but a mature, stern and strict adult who had to prepare her team for an intense photo shoot for the fall issue.

At work that day, Miss Berta paced the hallways with frustration and anxiety because her daily tasks had fallen behind schedule. Romero had the layout of the entire show, ready to show Miss Berta. The entire staff was on crunch time, because the entire photo shoot had to be ready by tomorrow.

Top representatives from some of the best fashion companies were to attend. She relied on this shoot for them to recognize her vision. Representatives from Belle, Aurora, Moi, and Chantel designers came from all over the world in hopes that they were to be featured in Eloquent Fashion Magazine, to showcase their clothing to the world. Romero and Heather had the photographs Romero had taken the previous night. They awaited Miss Berta to give her approval of which designers would be showcased. These companies were well known in France, Monaco, Italy, South Africa, and Germany. The pressure was intense. Miss Berta’s assistants scrambled around the room, trying to make sure the models were on cue, and the set designs were creatively assembled.

The models practiced their poses and runway walks. Everyone seemed to be aiming for perfection. “C’est aujourd’hui, let’s look alive, people! Heather, you look terrible!”

“I’m sorry Berta, I thought—” stated Heather, her arms crossed. Miss Berta cut Heather off before she completed her sentence. “Well, you thought wrong! Where is Romero?” Miss Berta announced distastefully.

Miss Berta looked outside the tall window and saw a small airplane land in downtown Thompson Square Park, three helicopters followed. New York security officers, NYPD blocked off the park in preparation for the landing of the designers. Miss Berta stomped around the office in her flats. “They’re here! Heather, work on your poses, you look like you’re laying eggs!” Miss Berta belted as Heather sighed deeply.

Heather Tilling’s attire consisted of a long black dress with a mix of yellow and pink polka dots. The accents made the fall season designs a risk for Eloquent Fashion Magazine. The V-shaped neckline and ruffles complimented the dress in an unusual way. Nevertheless, the black-heeled boots she wore, with bright neon orange lipstick, was diversely strange.

“Turn your head sideways and turn your heels a little bit to the right,” Romero said, as he directed the models.

Heather followed Romero’s instructions. She made the photographs fierce and striking.

Miss Berta observed Heather with crossed arms. “Heather! Didn’t I already tell you how terrible you look! What were you doing yesterday? Your dark circles are scaring Romero!” Miss Berta shrieked.

“No Madame Berta, she needed some eye makeup to cover the dark circles,” replied Romero while Miss Berta stormed off angrily. “Anna! Get some eye makeup on Heather’s owl eyes, please!” Anna came running with a clipboard in her arms and a small briefcase at her side. She opened the briefcase and pulled out a whole heap of makeup supplies. The large black makeup case had beige, green, and caramel brown eye makeup. Anna pulled out the blue eye makeup and began to apply to the models’ eyelids.

Miss Berta paced the runway eight times, examining the entire platform until it met her ideal of perfection. Though there was room for complaint, she pointed to the side of the red carpet. “Anna! Get some diamond-looking stones on each side of the red carpet!” Miss Berta ordered rapidly. Anna patiently nodded her head and ran off. Five minutes later, she arrived with a tall, thin brown-haired man who carried a big case of extra materials: stones and brushes. The brunet man opened the case and placed the shiny, diamond-style stones on each side of the runway’s carpet. This was very unusual for the “nature tones” Miss Berta had in mind for the photo shoot. The staff did as they were told without a word in response. Nevertheless, they did not understand why Miss Berta decided to make a drastic change so suddenly, while the fashion design representatives witnessed this change. Miss Berta decided that the nature tone theme she had previously decided on was boring and depressing.

Her readers would be in shock because of the big change. They expected Miss Berta to use nature tones during the fall season because she always did, but this time, she decided she would make a drastic change. Nature tones would be a thing of the past.

As the man completed the task of placing the shiny stones on the runway’s carpet, the runway lit up vividly, adding excitement to the set. The key lights, the main source of lights for any live production, shone brightly.

The time for the commencement of the photo shoot drew near. Miss Berta gathered her team around her. “I’ll be back with Pierre Monet and the other nine design representatives, who will be featured in the magazine this month, so please don’t embarrass me, and don’t embarrass yourselves.” Miss Berta announced to her staff, as she walked away wearily.

Heather crossed her arms, as she watched Miss Berta walk toward the building’s exit. She began to pout. “Remind me why we do this?” Heather broke out in tears, due to her irrational sentiment.

Romero put down his camera. “What on earth are you doing, Heather? You are ruining your makeup!” Romero broke out in anger, repulsed by Heather’s lack of concern for the photo shoot. Anna approached Heather with a makeup kit in her arms. “Heather, pull yourself together! Our careers are on the line!” Anna snapped at her.

Heather took a deep breath. “I just need a minute.”

“A minute!” Anna and Romero yelled back at her. “Miss Berta and the designers are coming any minute!” Heather looked at Anna and Romero, while the technical team, lighting crew, hair and makeup, DJ, and backstage crew watched Heather’s breakdown. Her behavior worried each of them.

Romero clapped his hands together, in order to get everyone’s attention. “What are you doing, people? Get back to work!” Romero said to the Eloquent Fashion Magazine staff. The staff returned to their workstations.

Heather sighed and prepared herself once again for the photo shoot. She wiped her tears, and straightened up her clothes and posture. Romero picked up his camera while Anna went behind the scenes, to assist the backstage models.

The backstage models were annoyed by Heather’s demand for attention. “Who does she think she is?” A frizzy-haired model remarked to the composed model standing next to her.

Miss Berta came bursting through the door, followed by a strange man wearing a long dark suit coat. He held a briefcase in his right hand. Pierre Monet, a fifty-five-year-old frenchman was the representative from Chantel Fashion, sat down comfortably in one of the seats that had been set out for the audience. The seats were of black and brown leather material and were arranged in alphabetical order. This allowed for the formalities that everyone invited would have a seat of their own, to witness the fall season photo shoot for Eloquent Fashion Magazine. Gluten-free sodas, juices, sandwiches, caviar, and water were displayed on a lengthy brown table behind each seat. The waitresses and waiters were remotely slim in figure. Their bones were clearly visible under their skin. Each of them had their hair coiffed backward. Their uniform consisted of white shirts and black pants. Miss Berta realized, in order to promote her magazine, her staff had to promote a wild image for this particular shoot.

Eight representatives walked in with notepads and pens in their hands. Each of them took their seats in the audience. Monroe, a blonde forty-year-old woman with a short haircut representing Moi Fashion, appeared in a purplish-pink cashmere sweater. Her eyes were deep blue. “Hallo, I am here for the photo shoot,” Monroe announced in a strong french accent. Miss Berta directed the woman to one of the vacant seats. Monroe sat down and began writing in her little black notepad. It took at least an hour for the seats to be filled. The lights dimmed and the runway lit up brightly with pastel, neon lights. The diamond stones on the red carpet reflected onto the ceiling, making it look like a rainbow from the Milky Way Galaxy. Heather and the other models practiced their poses. Romero prepared all three of his cameras.

Miss Berta stood before the crowd confidently. “I would like to welcome all of you to our September issue photo shoot. My goal is to promote the different vibes of our city. My inspiration for this event came from graffiti, the urban punk style. I have ventured throughout New York City to capture different shades of color that I witness on a daily basis. I have decided to change the designers this year. I have chosen clothing that will brighten the fall season. The designers I am looking for to feature in Eloquent Fashion Magazine will have a flair for graffiti and luminous pastels. My team and I have worked long hours, day and night, to bring you the best show possible. We want you to enjoy the show. Be thrilled that we are featuring your clothing in our magazine. If you need anything, my assistants are standing on either side of the carpet. Just raise your hand, and they’ll be happy to help you. Bienvenue! Enjoy!”

The audience applauded as Miss Berta walked off the set. “Donald, music!” She announced. Donald the DJ played the first record, while Heather, the first model, walked out onto the runway with a bounce in her step. She posed at the end of the runway, while Romero and the other photographers took photographs of her from every angle. Heather paced herself, trying to stay on beat as she walked down the runway. Her arms swung past her waist. The black dress she had on was pink, with orange polka dots. “She represents Moi clothing,” Miss Berta announced. Heather ended her runway walk and went backstage as the music continued.

A slim girl followed Heather as she cat-walked down the runway. Her mini green and blue evening gown was bright. She wore yellow shoes and a neon yellow pastel scarf, with dots on it. She walked onto the runway with a small handbag in her hand. At that point, Miss Berta began to introduce each of the fashion lines by name. “Here we have Aurora Designs,” Miss Berta announced while one of the models lingered on the runway.

The audience of representatives watched with distasteful expression the following model. Her accessories were poorly assembled. She wore polka dot stripes with ripped, colorful prints of neon blue, neon pink, and yellow. Graffiti was drizzled over her clothing. The crowd squinted. The bright colors on the clothes were blinding. The audience scowled and booed, as the remaining models walked backstage to change clothes. Romero and another photographer, Max Bren, suddenly appeared. Max was a slim young man who wore glasses. His hair was coiffed neatly. He was Romero’s aide for the photography department at Eloquent Fashion Magazine. He followed all his instructions. He followed the last model; who was to be photographed, but couldn’t help but notice how displeased the audience became. The neon lights, orchestrated by the lighting crew, blinded their eyes.

Jolene walked onto the runway; she looked about nineteen. Her face was thin and her cheekbones were visible. Her legs were as thin as toothpicks. She entered onto the runway wearing black, tight zebra-print fitted pants and diamond studded silver heels. She modeled the clothing as professionally as she could, but she realized her clothing was blinding from the headlights above her. “Here we have Chantel Designs,” announced Miss Berta as the young girl strutted down the runway. Her face was painted in graffiti designs. Romero and the other photographers snapped their cameras like paparazzi following famous actors and actresses. There were ten models remaining; each wore clothing that was not color coordinated. Each ensemble was mixed and matched, following the urban style Miss Berta had in mind. The ensembles consisted of splattered paint on white clothing, mixed with splatters of red, white, and blue.

Miss Berta felt something wasn’t going quite right. She continued to watch the show alongside the audience. All the models wore designers from Chantel to Aurora couture; handbags, hair accessories, and jewelry complemented the ensembles. Miss Berta relied on the avant-garde style from everyday people, people she saw on a daily basis. Street fashion was the common trend in her vision. The audience continued to scrunch their faces as the models walked off the runway. By the end of the show, the audience did not clap. The silence felt uncomfortable for everyone in the room.

Miss Berta came to the realization that the audience was displeased toward the end of the photo shoot. Her heart sank as she witnessed the silent room. The models portrayed a sick demeanor. They walked the runway with atrocious color combinations. Each model filled the entire room with what a distasteful aroma, because of the exaggerations of their clothing.

The photo shoot came to a conclusion, as Monroe, the representative for Moi Designs, stood up and announced her opinion in a strong-accent. “How could you consider choosing some of these models for the Moi line?”

Miss Berta hesitated at this question. “I felt Moi was all about seriousness and off-the-edge fashion.”

Pierre interrupted and shook his head in disappointment. “Absolutely not. If you were doing your research about our company, you would know that we are all about poise, sophistication, and subtlety. I am sorry, but Chantal cannot accept to be featured in Eloquent Fashion Magazine. The model ensembles were mixed and matched with extreme, vibrant colors. The lighting in this room was blinding my eyes!” Pierre stormed off toward the exit while Miss Berta’s jaw dropped. The other representatives watched the scene and began to slowly disperse toward the exit. Miss Berta’s line of security, Xenox, Lex, and Moe, restrained the crowd from causing uproar. The audience exited. Xenox approached Miss Berta. He had noticed her unease when Pierre Monet left the room. He instructed Lex to keep the audience under control. Lex relayed the instruction to Moe, through his headpiece.

Monroe continued to stand up. “Me too. I am sorry, but these models look like dogs when they are supposed to look like cats!” Monroe crossed her arms obliquely. “The entire show lacked color coordination. I could not stand the models, with graffiti painted on their faces!” She snapped, while she stood up before the remaining audience and explained that the models were not striking enough, which would give the clothing a bad reputation. Monroe stormed off, snatching her handbag and tailcoat. The remaining representatives threw out a slur of negative comments.

Monroe agreed with the representatives from the Chantel and Aurora. The other seven representatives had left the room, without a word of explanation. These three left were the only representatives who voiced their opinions, “I’m sorry.” The remainder representatives from Moi, Chantal and Aurora grabbed their jackets and stormed off toward the exit, briefcases in their arms. Representative after representative diminished the large crowd, which flocked from the room. The photographers took pictures of the people leaving. As the crowd left, Miss Berta felt appalled. She did not expect this abrupt change for this photo shoot, to affect her entire fashion career. She did not have time to think of the consequences.

The room was trashed with food from the snack bar displayed on the floor. Romero was disappointed with the outcome of the show. He was exhausted; he and the entire staff alike did not believe what they had witnessed. It was the first time in history this happened to the magazine. Miss Berta’s face had a heavy, saddened expression, as she was disgruntled because of the outcome. The employees from Eloquent Fashion Magazine voiced their opinions for the first time, describing each of their individual concerns. This shocked Miss Berta.

“An unsuccessful show,” Romero contagiously announced.

“Perhaps I should have invested more time and energy,” Miss Berta expressed as she looked upon the faces of her team. She especially looked toward Romero for emotional support. “What do you think happened Romero?” She asked with anxiety. The question boggled her mind: What was she to do?

Romero, in his strong European accent, spoke calmly and collectively. “Excessively edgy, Madame Berta. You fell short this time. The graffiti concept was exaggerated. Not to mention the lighting; it blinded me as I was photographing the models.

“You can easily fix it; that is why I hired you,” Miss Berta replied.

Romero continued, “The abrupt change from nature tone to graffiti was a big weight on all our shoulders. We all anticipated nature to be the theme, not graffiti. I remember you sending me that picture of that rose, which was painted in graffiti, but we always do nature in September. That threw the entire staff off the routine this month.”

Miss Berta glared at Romero, who was exasperated at this point and out of breath. It was the first time he’d expressed his opinion to her without restraint. The remaining employees watched the dynamics of the power struggle begin to change as a result of the photo shoot. Miss Berta slowly expressed her rationale to her team. “Everyone, gather around. We have to start over, to win back their favor.” The employees circled around Miss Berta, while silence swept across the room.


 

About the author

Jihan Latimer is an inspirational writer, who has always taken a passion for the written word. Ever since grade school, she took it upon herself to keep a journal at her side, and write whatever she thought, making up her own adventures as she went along. view profile

Published on July 10, 2020

150000 words

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Chick Lit

Reviewed by

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