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I shouldn’t be a fish out of water. At this point, I should be a comfortable fish hanging with these other fish I know, in our common water, which is fashion. But I’m not.
Until this NYFW I had never, ever been to a fashion show.
I’ve worked as a Senior Editor for Racked for more than a year, but I haven’t become any more of a fashion person than I was when I started. I love everyone I work with, but Real and True Fashion People scare me. I’ve learned a lot about skin care and the business behind your favorite mall brands, but I’m still the editor most likely to ask "who?" of the designer names my coworkers, and many of our readers, know very well. Worst of all, up until this NYFW I had never, ever been to a fashion show.
So my colleagues helped me remedy that, and we remedied it so hard we killed it. Not only did I go to a show, I took advantage of every absurd promotion the assembled publicists of New York could throw at a single fashion week. I rented a whole assortment of dresses from VillageLuxe, using Executive Editor Julia Rubin’s code. I booked a Lexus to take me to the show, posing on the phone as Shopping Director Tiffany Yannetta. I TaskRabbited an "Instagram Husband" of my very own, pretending to be someone who posts pictures of themselves to their Instagram (I mostly post ‘grams of funny license plates, the way your dad would if he had IG, follow me @luckypaperstars). And finally, disguised as an editor who received a real invitation to the show, I attended the Marchesa Spring 2017 fashion show, which was [TKTK GREAT JOKE ABOUT TULLE HERE].
Getting to go to a crazy fancy event and then hating on it is the kind of thing for which we collectively roll our eyes at Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham. And rightfully so! But before we get to my extremely trenchant thoughts on the meaning of Marchesa’s show, I want to talk logistics. If you’re going to take advantage of as many free or subsidized promotions as possible, logistics are high-key stressful.
First up: get a dress. Simple, right? For this event, I used VillageLuxe, an app allows you to borrow clothing from another woman’s closet (or a Stranger’s Things, as Entertainment Editor Elana Fishman put it). After filling out a quick form detailing my favorite evening bag ("pockets") and most inspirational designer ("Madewell??"), I applied to rent a Fendi dress that I confidently described to my colleagues as "like what a costume designer would put on a fashion editor," what with it being "black and sharp lines or whatever."
The night before the show, I went to pick up my dress from a basement under Burberry. There was a mix-up and no dress, so a very nice and also fashionable woman named Lauren took my number and said that she would text me other options and send them to my office the next day.
The morning of the show, I became extremely convinced that something would go wrong with the rented dresses, and I should wear a decent backup outfit. But did I have a decent back up outfit? Were these clothes of mine not all rags? Staring at my closet, I vacillated wildly between "no one cares; no one will be looking at you" and "they’re all going to judge you; they all know that dress is from Anthropologie because they know EVERYTHING and you know NOTHING." At one point I found myself wearing my favorite cutoffs, whispering into the mirror, "you have to show them you don’t care what they think."
Did I have a decent back up outfit? Were these clothes of mine not all rags?
I ended up in a black crepe Madewell top, a stretchy pencil skirt from H&M I don’t wear in public because it makes people stand up for me on the subway, and the same Dolce Vita mules I’ve worn every day since my podiatrist told me I have bad feet. This was, it turned out, a good idea.
Lauren sent four beautiful, mostly-Stella McCartney dresses over to the Racked office, and I retired to my dressing room (the 9th floor bathroom) to try them on. On my decidedly non-fashion body, each dress looked progressively worse than the one before, until the final option got stuck just below my boobs, leaving me bottomless and trapped. The best of the three dresses that managed to cover my body looked similar to the outfit I was already wearing with the additional a few more inches of paunch and half a peplum, so I decided to stick with what I know.
Next up: the car. Lexus, a sponsor of NYFW, offered free rides to attendees. Because I was not on anyone’s list, I didn’t receive the email invitation from Lexus that my colleagues did, so in an unnecessary act of subterfuge, I called their number pretending to be Racked Shopping Director Tiffany Yannetta.
"Hi, this is Tiffany Yannetta, from Racked, I wanna book a car," I said, totally normally, when the phone was answered.
"Okay, will this be for yourself, or someone else?" the operator asked. I was thrown. This was allowed?
"Oh, uh, someone else. For a Meredith Haggerty."
"Great, will the car need to wait?"
Love isn’t about gender, it’s about finding that special someone who can take flattering pictures of you inside a Lexus.
I panicked. A ride both ways felt decadent. "No, she can find her own way home," I laughed, wondering why I was laughing and why I had said that and how I would get home.
I told the kindly operator where I needed to be picked up and dropped off; she said I would have the car for a full hour before the show. That’s a lot! I wondered if we should we just do donuts in a parking lot.
Finally, my Instagram husband. TaskRabbit, which if you don’t know is a proud member of this gig economy that employs helpful people to do small jobs aka tasks for you and yours, was offering "Instagram Husbands" aka photographers for NYFW.
But in this progressive age, love isn’t about gender, it’s about finding that special someone who can take flattering pictures of you inside a Lexus. So, my "Instagram Husband" ended up being a "Instagram Wifey," an awesome woman named Mayra.
And so, with all the elements in place, kind of, I was now first fashion show ready.
On The Big Day, my Instagram Wife arrives a little early. Mayra and I learn we both like Diet Coke, and since I’ve embarked on serious relationships with much less in common, this bodes well for our marriage. We take some pictures at my desk where I pretend to work. Outside, I ask her for tips on Instagram poses, and giggle awkwardly every time she points her camera at me. We go to Bryant Park to pretend to be confused about where all the tents are. So far, we’re nailing it.
In the car, our driver, Zev, gives us free waters, which is sweet. One more perk! He’s cool with Mayra taking pictures of me doing important things on my phone like pretending to look at emails and asking if I look like a businesswoman looking at her emails. We ask Zev about his fashion week, and he tells us that he’s driven famous people, but can’t tell us who they are. Then he segues into a story about a very wealthy but not nice former employer who had somewhere between 35 and 38 bathrooms in his 80 room house. We talk about how big houses need to be nearly half bathrooms. It’s all very fashion.
Arriving at Skylight Moynihan Station, Mayra and I enter a scene that is — and I’d like to paint a word picture here — crazy. There are people everywhere, milling around: angry photographers, probable models, dudes with backpacks, confused and upset tourists, an old man in a seersucker suit speaking French. At least one person is Courtney Love, maybe more. The outside-millers wear flowing garments and incredible prints but also a lot of black; they wear just bras or huge caftans or long dresses with bedazzled crosses on bald men. I try to notice trends and write down, "woman wearing braid." It’s truly madness, and when one camera snaps, all the other cameras rush to snap too. Everyone there is very possibly the Next Big Thing, including me and Mayra.
Key point that I didn’t know: when you finally leave the overwhelming outside area and all the new friends you've made, including your wife (bye Mayra, thank you!), you’re ushered into an overwhelming holding pen. There you see Carole Radziwell from Real Housewives of New York and hear people say things like, "She hurt her back in Aspen." and "Worst. Facelift. Ever." and "Hi, oh my god, I’ve worn that!" People in the pen know each other and mingle lightly, while I try to figure out if I’m cutting some kind of line or not, edging my way forward.
The actual room where this particular show is held is called "The Dock." The walls and floor are black, the lights are low, and the room is longer than it is wide — the way a dock is. On each side, chairs are lined up along a wide piece of saran wrap, which will later become the runway. I worry the models will slip, but before the show, someone comes and removes the saran wrap, which I think was a good call, even if it would have been very funny.
I worry the models will slip, but before the show, someone comes and removes the saran wrap, which I think was a good call.
At one end of the room there is what seemed to be a permanent wall of undulating, yelling faces, like the slack visages in the House of Black and White, the temple dedicated to the Many-Faced God — but animate and dedicated to getting a good angle on a very young girl in a pastel cloud of a dress. These are the professional photographers; all through the show they scream out "cell phone!" and I never know exactly why.
I find my seat and try to recognize front row-worthy people. Across from me, a woman is being styled for a candid shot. I assume she’s important and she looks familiar, but I can’t place her. (Later I find out she’s Joanna Coles). I see A+ Who Nina Dobrev, another woman I recognize from a short arc on How I Met Your Mother, and Karolina Kurkova, but I don’t see Alyssa Milano, I don’t see Coco Rocha (with whom I’ve always thought I could be great friends), and — worst of all — I don’t see Jerry Hall. Still, they are all there, as am I.
The woman seated directly in front of me is wearing the kind of short lace dress you’d see on a K-Pop star, and when photographers zero in on her, I do my best to photobomb her, proving I don’t belong here. Everyone else seems to respect the power of the camera.
Some seem like they’d suit a concert pianist, others seem like a good fit for Vladimir Putin’s sex games (which I imagine have an Anastasia bent).
And then the show starts, for real. There’s trance music and filtered light and for what feels like a long moment, nothing happens. And then the models appear. Later, when the show is ending and all the models walk out to show their looks one final time, I'm shocked to realize that each model is a individual woman. Walking past with their sleek hair and identical faces, I think there are about six of them, tops, cycling through and changing outfits at light speed.
The dresses themselves are, as I mentioned earlier, a lot of tulle, and pastel. They feature intricate beadwork and delicate flounce and a lot of fake flowers. Some words I wrote down during the show: "vase-like," "see through fairy princess," "floaty," "drowned in a river bed," "don’t write ‘prom dress,’" and the outlier, "Oscar statue but sexual."
So far, I think: "this show is pretty!" and "‘this show is pretty’ will make for a terrible article! think of something good!" I try to think about where these creations might actually be worn. Some seem like they’d suit a concert pianist, others seem like a good fit for Vladimir Putin’s sex games (which I imagine have an Anastasia bent). I could just think this because piano music is playing and at least some of these models must be Russian. I chide myself again for failing to have good, outsider-y thoughts.
But then, I tell myself to cut it out, because I’m missing it. I tell myself to stop taking notes and stressing about the lack of comedic potential in tulle, and just be at the show. I force myself to breathe and look around. And then I get it, immediately. No one there is just being at the fashion show. They’re taking photos, or making mental notes about the dresses, or trying not to trip on their intense model shoes, or straining to be seen, or, if they’re real pros, thinking about work or dinner later or their kid’s math test, bored. No one is really there.
I have so much more in common with these people than I thought.