Faking It at Fashion Week
As an entertainment and comedy writer, my day-to-day involvement with fashion is mostly limited to sales at Zara and posts asking, “Who Wore It Better?” (Note: The answer is always Gwyneth).
So I was a little surprised when I was charged with flying to New York to cover Fashion Week for Hollywire.com. I was tasked with blogging about the shows and producing behind-the-scenes videos with Hollywire’s very talented host Chelsea Briggs. I had no idea what to expect. I’ve always been casual observer of the fashion world, but suddenly I was thrown into the belly of the beast. It would be like a fair-weathered basketball fan getting a call from the Knicks’ coach saying, “Oh, you like basketball? Suit up, kid, you’re the starting center on Monday.” (If “Suit up, kid” is any indication, my basketball knowledge comes strictly from inspirational sports movies.) And to make matters worse, in this game, the uniform in question is a body-con dress and 8-inch stacked stilettos.
in this game, the uniform in question is a body-con dress and 8-inch stacked stilettos.
The night before I left, in the midst of a packing meltdown, I finished my third glass of wine, looked in the mirror and said: “You’re stylish. You’re smart. How hard could this whole thing be?” (Aw, Melissa. You were so naive back in early September.) It took me roughly five out of the six days I was there to crack the system, but I did–and with a surprising amount of my dignity (and my bank account balance) in tact.
The first morning, walking up to Lincoln Center, my eyes didn’t know where to focus. There were beautiful people in crazy-amazing head-to-toe designer outfits at every turn. I immediately became aware that I was the only person wearing a cotton maxi skirt and darted to the bathroom. This is one of my most stylish LA outfits! Why did I feel like I was the only one at a costume party not wearing a costume? Answer: I was.
Lesson 1: Fashion Week is a Costume Party.
Fashion Week isn’t about Little Black Dresses. It’s about neon blue ostrich feather skirts with plastic chartreuse heels.
While there’s still an expectation to maintain the sleek lines and modern silhouettes that we see in the magazines, Fashion Week is a chance to bring out the craziest pieces you have in your wardrobe and translate them into a real outfit. So after a few minutes hiding out in a bathroom stall feeling like a Forever 21-clad fraud, I did what any red-blooded twenty-something girl would do: I put on red lipstick.
Lesson 2: Find Your Flair.
For some it’s a statement necklace. For others it’s a top bun. For me, it was expertly applied bold, red lip. That became my go-to every day. It’s a small accent that made me feel polished, feminine and a bit more confident than I actually am.
From there, I decided to up my game by adding one sweet piece of flair to each outfit. My favorite came in this otherwise simple white blouse-purple pants combo. Flair solution: Just add chains. I already loved the on-trend effect of buttoning a blouse all the way to the collar, but I never thought beyond it. Adding layers of chains made it fun, unique and hopefully just the right amount weird. That was Day 3. And it was the first outfit where I felt like I finally fit in at the costume ball. And while I may have figured out the uniform, there was still the problem of access since I’m a writer for an LA-based entertainment website, and not, you know, the editor of Vogue.
Lesson 3: Act Like You Know What You’re Doing, Especially When You Don’t.
You know how wild animals can smell fear? So can fashion PR chicks. Going from fashion show to backstage interviews to after-parties, I was met at every entrance with an angry (but like, chic-angry) woman wearing a headset and wielding a clipboard. She would eye me up and down, looking as if she just took a deep whiff of expired yogurt and say, “Ummmm, who are you?” The first time, I failed this test. I stuttered over the contact I had with the designer, I avoided eye contact, got flustered and within seconds got pushed – literally pushed – out of line.
A few shows later, I figured it out. Phone in-hand, sunglasses on, channeling my best Darla Marks, I would just breeze past Ms. Clipboard. Half the time, she wouldn’t even notice. If she did stop me, I would turn back and say, “Oh, didn’t see you, we have a 3:30 with Designer X confirmed by Publicist Y.” If I wasn’t on the right list, it didn’t matter. She respected my bravado and it got me through 90% of these setbacks. And the other 10% of the time, we had to be scrappy. Which brings me to…
Lesson 4: Make Friends With the Ushers.
Most of my seats were standing room (please reference the “not the editor of Vogue” paragraph in section 2), and so I would inevitably be herded into a sea of eager girls crowding the upper decks.
Many of these girls would just go for a seat, which is fair since about 20% of the RSVPs don’t show, but it’s a dicey move. I saw more than one girl kicked out of a seat by an usher and even more awkward, get kicked out by the person who actually had the seat. So instead of taking a gamble, I started chatting up the ushers. I would ask when the house would close and if there would be seats free. Not only would they let me know first when seats were fair game, they often would point out a seat that I should take, which was usually the best open spot. Apparently when you’re nice to underpaid employees, they respond in turn. Weird!
There were still several shows where I had to stand in the back, but really, watching Monique Lhuillier gowns sweep down a runway from any angle is amazing, even if your feet are killing you.
Lesson 5: Always Carry Emergency Flats.
More baffling than their mile-long legs and 23-inch waists, these flocks of fashion girls had balls of steel – balls of their feet, that is.
The way they would effortlessly glide up Broadway in 8-inch heels, I had to believe these were not Christian Loubitons, but in fact just very stylish extensions of their feet. How lucky they were to be born with stiletto feet! What chic genes!
But I, born with mere mortal feet, did not have it so easy. After days running from Lincoln Center to my hotel to Milk Studios, my feet were blistered into oblivion. Sitting on the sidewalk one afternoon in defeat, I spotted a girl across the street grabbing a pair of flats out of her purse. My life changed. Starting Day 4, as soon as I would leave a show, I would duck around an alley and slip on the only pair of flats I packed: my brown suede Oxfords, or as I like to call them, my two best friends. I’ve never had such an emotional connection to shoes before. And once my feet, and my confidence, finally found zen, it hit me…
Lesson 6: Fashion Week is about Fashion Shows.
Crazy notion, I know – but hear me out. Fashion Week is this bizarre other dimension where every member of the audience is in the spotlight. Or at least thinks so. Some are actual famous people, sure, but the audience’s vanity, anxieties and neuroses, (present company included), can often overpower what went to see: living art.
That’s what the shows felt like. These masterful works of art on these beautiful creatures floating down the runways, were like something out of a haute couture dream. While most of the pieces won’t be purchased by anyone outside of the 1%, they will all be translated into clothes we covet come Spring 2013. But until then, the color stories, the innovative silhouettes, the rich fabrics exist in this fleeting, untouchable place. And those 10 minute shows between the hours of hilarious nonsense made it all worthwhile.