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Betsey Johnson’s Assistant Happily Goes to Work in a Slip and Lets Betsey Take Her to Parties on a Leash

Stephanie and Betsey at the ballet.

Betsey Johnson's assistant is Stephanie Wagenman, a 28-year-old Austin native and ex-ballerina. She interned at Betsey Johnson for two years while she was going to design school and teaching ballet before Betsey offered her the assistant job. For a lengthy questionnaire for Daily Front Row's feature where assistants talk about making restaurant reservations and GNC runs for their top New York fashion-people bosses, Wagenman posed reclined on a glass table wearing a loud outfit consisting of patterned gray leggings with a matching poufy-shouldered jacket and sky-high platform stiletto pumps. But wearing clothes is a big part of her job; when she's not doing grunty work like organizing Betsey's sketches or posing in clothes for Betsey's website, Betsey is trying to throw clothes on her

I am wearing a slip right now! I have great Betsey clothes in my closet at home, but it’s just pointless to put much effort into what I show up in. While I'm here, I change at least 50 times a day. Around the office, they call me Mowgli, like the character in The Jungle Book, because I run around in my underwear between fittings. I don’t even care—I’m like the least modest person in the world.

There are times when the job gets less fun and more tedious, such as when technology must be used.


She has no idea how to use a computer; she'll say so herself. She says she doesn’t like to touch computers because they break when she gets near them. I send emails for her. I recently tried explaining Facebook and Twitter to her … forget about it. Her phone is one of those flip phone things. She doesn’t know how to use the address book on her phone to dial people's numbers — I tried to show her once, and it was hilarious. She loses her phone all the time, so I have two or three backup phones for her. She’s been pretty good about keeping track of her phone lately, but she does have this one credit card that she lost a total of 56 times. But even though she loses or forgets all this stuff, in general I believe that 99.9 percent of the time, Betsey Johnson is right. She knows every single piece of vintage she owns; it’s insane.

Or when Stephanie is Betsey's plus one:

I went to the New York City Ballet with Betsey recently, and she decided to dress me up like one of the seven deadly sins. We picked wrath. Betsey drew all over me with a Sharpie, made my hair really crazy, dressed me in a giant hoop skirt with red bloomers and my butt showing — and she put me on a chain. She was dressed as anger management, and I was anger. I don’t know what crazy drugs you had to be on to think of this, but that’s just sane, normal life around here. The Post ran an item about how we almost knocked Sarah Jessica Parker off her heels.

Or, when lunch is served:

I have to make sure she gets fed and eats her lunch at 12 p.m., and she can’t eat too much shrimp so she won’t get mercury poisoning again. She eats shrimp cocktail every single day! I try to make her eat chicken soup at least once a month. She used to eat blueberries and yogurt every day, with about 10 packs of Equal in it. It’s gross. Betsey likes to eat out, and she never cooks — but she used to like to decorate cakes. It was actually a job she had when she was younger. And then she has “traveling music.”

"Traveling music" refers to Champagne, Stephanie explains. "There’s also 'funny coffee' which is when we put champagne in coffee mugs and sit at the table in the showroom, instead of drinking out of champagne flutes." She arrives at the office at 9 every morning, and Betsey rolls in at around 10 or 11. "Betsey leaves around 5:30 each day — she thinks we all should leave then, but we tend to stay a bit later than that." What? This job sounds awesome! A trifle terrifying, but mostly: awesome! Even the interns get to have fun there: According to Stephanie's blog, she organizes things like "Party Dress Tuesday."

Assistant Files, Vol. 17: Stephanie Wagenman, Betsey Johnson [DFR]

Photo: Amber De Vos/PatrickMcMullan.com

Copyright © 2013, New York Media LLC. All Rights Reserved. The Cut® are registered trademarks of New York Media LLC.

Copyright © 2013, New York Media LLC.
All Rights Reserved.

Copyright © 2013, New York Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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