Stuck on the Runways as Fashion Week Takes Off

Diary of a mad housedress

January 31
7:57 p.m.
Fashion Week doesn’t officially start until tomorrow, but I already have a gift bag! I get it at FIT’s Madam Gres exhibit, a retrospective honoring the French designer who was famous for her sculptural evening dresses and her pluck standing up to the Nazis, as well as a borderline-nutty reclusiveness—when she passed away penniless at 90, her daughter kept her death a secret for over a year. Equally weird is the contents of the gift bag: not the usual lavender eye shadow or rock-hard granola bar, but three starkly unglamorous boxes of something called “Cura-heat, Air activated Therapeutic Hat packs,” that nevertheless may prove useful in the week ahead.

February 1
4:25 p.m.
The Milanese magazine editor next to me, who is sporting a Cartier Baignoire watch, muses before the Yeohlee show (black tights; quilted ponchos) about her recent visit to Prada on Fifth Avenue: “Organza pajamas! You look like you work in a mental institution and became one of your patients—just try it on! And $4,000!”

6:51 p.m. Rushing in the rain from Rachel Comey (little white socks; librarian dresses) to Erin Fetherston in the Bryan Park tents (chiffon minis), I see something I really like, but it’s not on a runway: It’s a squashed gray cardigan in the window of super-cheap Forever 21. It’s either artfully wrinkled in the manner of Martin Margiela or has simply been hung on the mannequin unpressed.

February 2
12:11 p.m.
Amid the wood paneling and chandeliers at the Prince George ballroom, Costello Tagliapietra (leopard prints; pencil skirts) offers frocks seemingly inspired by Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dresses, which is as close as I’ll get to DVF this season because Diane dumped me from her guest list. Is it because I wrote how silly I think her attempts to copyright her designs are? (In fashion, like co-op boards, country clubs, and sororities, you never know why you’re blackballed.) Oh, well. When Costello and Tagliapietra emerge at the end of the show, two big bears clad in plaid and suspenders and holding hands—they’ve been partners in business and life for years—I realize I’d rather wear a lumberjack shirt and a pair of braces than a jersey dress any day.

6:37 p.m. Anna Wintour and Bergdorf Goodman’s Linda Fargo are in the audience at Threeasfour (satin draping; puffy capes)—a long way from the days when this design collective, then known as AsFour (the fourth member departed after a hideous quarrel and now has his own line), used to let its pit bull do a manic spin down the runway at the end of the show, which terrified me. When I reminisce about this with Threeasfour’s Adi Gil, she shakes her head. “That’s a long time ago, Lynn,” she says, resplendent in a piebald gray vintage fur that has been tricked out with sequined patches. “We’ve grown up.”

February 3
6:16 p.m.
Lingering before the Jonathan Saunders show (chiffon 1930s dresses; crystal pleating), I fall into conversation with a guy who is recording something—a podcast, maybe?—and is sporting a grosgrain ribbon fashioned around his neck like a bow tie. “The Goodwill is the only place to shop,” he tells me softly, shortly before a parade of Saunders frocks, which retail in the $3,000 range, saunter down the catwalk.

February 4
2:19 p.m.
At Betsey Johnson (denim cat suits; wallpaper prints), the theme is Beat Girl, and Betsey—ever the meticulous curator—has decked out round tables at the edge of the runway with Chianti bottles, candles, and packs of candy cigarettes. Miles Davis blares over the sound system, but my suspicion that this Kerouac-ian fantasy of MacDougal Street circa 1955 is lost on many of the viewers is confirmed when I ask the fresh-faced Web editor sporting a Chanel purse (real? fake?) next to me what she thinks it’s all about, and she replies uncertainly: “Um, we’re in a café where we can smoke?” The show begins with three bongo players in berets and striped shirts. In a development that would have delighted Neil Cassady, one errant boob pops out of a too-small shirt halfway down the runway.

9:48 p.m. Even before the Blonds show begins (crystal-encrusted bustiers; leather pants with spiked knee pads), I see something I’m interested in: a skinny guy in the front row wearing an abbreviated denim jacket with an elaborately beaded “CUNT” across the back. “My boyfriend made it for me,” he explains, “because I can be one sometimes.” (Two seconds later, the cunt is booted from the front row to the peanut gallery.)

February 5
1:10 p.m.
En route from Rodarte (Degas ballet frocks; itchy cobweb knits) to J Mendel (mismatched earmuffs; furry cummerbund belts), I ask a colleague about the Gucci party tomorrow night, the party of the year! The century! He tells me it’s to celebrate a new store opening, and something about Malawi—but no, he clarifies, the store isn’t in Malawi, and it’s a benefit and they sold tickets, but all the celebrities and fashion people who are invited (not me) didn’t pay a cent.

4:24 p.m. Bored waiting for Marc by Marc Jacobs to kick off (Day-Glo stripes; punky zippers), I check CNN on my BlackBerry and see that the Dow has dropped 370 points.

10:05 p.m. I take a break from watching Keith Olbermann announce election returns and walk down to the packed Prada party, where a film called Trembled Blossoms, featuring a cartoon gamine in an art nouveau dress, is being projected over the store’s zebrawood staircase. The hors d’oeuvres—hardly bigger than hanging chads—include, according to a waitperson as handsome as any model, “truffle foie gras on a raisin crisp.”

February 6
1:55 p.m.
On a crosstown bus after the VPL show (brassieres sewn into shirts), a photographer tells me he was appalled at the vast sums expended on some of the shows—Sass & Bide; Rock & Republic—earlier in the week. “What are they doing?” he says. “Don’t they know about the recession?”

February 7
5:25 p.m.
In the sepulchral light of the Calvin Klein show (double-faced wools; grown-up coats), I leaf through today’s Women’s Wear Daily: On page three, an article entitled “Armory Scandal: Marc Jacobs Intl. in Bribery Probe” (exciting! fun!) shares space with “Macy’s to Cut 2,5550 Jobs in Restructuring.”

February 8
6:22 p.m.
Here is what Harvey Weinstein, Helena Christianson, Spike Lee in an Obama T-shirt, and other denizens of the front row at the Sean Jean show (toreador silhouettes; spangled scarves) get to witness: a model in a fitted fur-collared jacket and a pair of sharp trousers trailing a piece of toilet paper stuck to a gleaming shoe all the way down the runway.

7:17 p.m. Why is Vogue’s Grace Coddington flying like a flame-haired bat out of hell down Lexington Avenue? Because crazy Marc Jacobs, who was roundly castigated for keeping his audience waiting over two hours during last fall’s Fashion Week, has, in a childish fuck-you gesture, begun his show (blue-white ghosts; maybe hats?) ridiculously early—earlier than any show has ever started since Coco Chanel sent mannequins down her staircase in 1922. When I arrive in the K-Jelly-sponsored Town Car (you don’t want to know), I can no longer reach my ignominious sixth-row seat and linger with the other “latecomers” (some of them famous!) near the photo pit. I can’t see a thing, leaving me to stare off into the darkness and wonder if anyone in the great buying public will use her $600 government stimulus rebate to purchase a single MJ boot or a half pair of his pants?

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