by Patricia Falvo and Whitney Walker

When you work for a fashion magazine, you learn that beauty is not pretty. Consider the art of the beauty give-away, a practice common at most of the big fashion mags. Every few months, the beauty editor's assistant will take over the conference room and spread out last season's alpha-hydroxy creams and fuchsia-spectrum lipsticks across tables and on the floor. Sometimes the give-away is organized into 15-minute intervals to promote civil browsing; often it looks more like a piņata party. Those who value freebies know how to push and shove.

Talk!But all those laws were broken last year when Mirabella suddenly went under. (Now, some of you are thinking, "Huh? Mirabella's still around!" Yeah, but only after Rupert Murdoch fired the lot of us, sold the mag to Hachette Filipacchi, and told us to apply for our jobs all over again.) Shortly after Murdoch's henchmen made the announcement, the stunned staff milled about the office, slowly coming to terms with our collective state of unemployment. Office hierarchies broke down almost immediately: interns comforted editors, art directors chatted with the mail-room staff. Even the fashion department was willing to put regulation aside, and they busily prepared for a second, and more welcome, surprise.

"Lingerie give-away! Bras! Panties!"

Thankfully, the shock of losing our jobs hadn't curtailed an interest in free underwear. Staffers tore down to the fashion closet where push-up bras, thongs, teddies, and more had been dumped onto the carpet for the taking. Junior editors grabbed for bodysuits while senior editors indiscriminately scooped up slips to sort through later.

At some point, the initial greed gave way to basic human kindness. No one could stomach yanking a Natori camisole off another colleague's back, not knowing when she might be able to afford one again. "Who needs tights?" offered a polite soul close to the goods. "I need a 34C! Are there any 34Cs?" someone pleaded in desperation, and up flew a pink lace 34C. Thong-panty professionals encouraged first-timers to give them a try: "You'll get used to it, really!"

For five minutes, everyone paid attention to underwear rather than the dismal future. It was the first of many give-aways held in the following days, as one department after another emptied the contents of their closets. Mirabella baseball hats, last season's Manolo Blahniks, watches, jewelry, and belts by the dozens would take some of the sting out of the painful truth: Mirabella would be bought, the editor deposed, and employees assigned 15-minute slots in which to apply for their old jobs. Most chose the severance package instead.

We may have lost our jobs, but at least we have Wonderbras—and a little dignity.   </end>

Whitney Walker is a staff writer at The Daily News and Patricia Falvo is a reporter at
New York Magazine. Both live in Manhattan.