Many years ago, before the cutest among you were born, I coveted a dress at Bergdorf Goodman by Isabel Toledo. As I recall, it cost $88, but at the time, like Rose in Gypsy, I didn’t have 88 cents. So I did what any other American would do: I opened a Bergdorf’s credit card. Since the price of the dress far exceeded my weekly income, I soon defaulted, a situation brought painfully home to me when I had my hair cut at BG (hey, why not?) and, attempting to pay, was summoned to the store’s credit department, where they scissored the card right before my eyes.
This ancient history comes to mind as I slither into my gold chair, credit long restored, at the Rainbow Room luncheon sponsored by FIT’s Couture Council honoring Toledo, the first of what seems like hundreds of Fashion Week parties. I have a wonderful time at this event—Joey Arias, a friend of Toledo’s from Fiorucci days, channels Billie Holiday in half-drag! Reuben Toledo designs place mats you can take home!—even though I am as hot as a boiled lobster because, like a fifth grader on the first day of school, I insist on wearing my new Roland Mouret coat, bought at 75 percent off expressly for this occasion.
After staring at Manhattan laid out in all its pristine splendor 65 stores below, I turn to greet Dr. Lisa Aerin, a dermatologist and couture client who is just the kind of Richie Rich I always hated until I actually met such a person. I adore Dr. Lisa, especially when she tells me that her Berry gets daily e-mail alerts telling her how the dollar is doing against the euro. (Even couture clients, it turns out, are watching their wallets.) And good news: Our economy is not the only one that’s sinking! Europe is tanking too, and the exchange rate, though still dismal, is actually improving.
Buoyed by the impending demise of the Old World, I make my way to Hermès for the opening of a Josef Albers exhibit, and soon find myself in deep conversation with a gaggle of fashion types, all of whom are fishing around to see if I’ve been invited to any of the more fabulous parties of the week. Calvin Klein on the High Line? Tyra at the Harper’s Bazaar soiree? Do I think Kate Moss will be at the Interview party at the Standard Hotel? I shrug. I’m not sure Kate’s in town, I manage weakly, though in fact unless Moss was mainlining in my bathroom, how would I know?
Still sweltering and refusing to relinquish that coat, I subway down to Christie Street, to the Paper magazine dinner at the Box. (It’s not like I’m invited to nothing. Just not all that much.) I love the Box, which looks like a down-at-the-heels turn-of-the-century bordello even though it was built from scratch only a year or so ago. At my table, a tiny girl in a spongy Balenciaga molded dress says she forgot to put on underpants and had to make an emergency stop at Baby Gap. I want to hear more, but there’s a floor show by the Citizens Band, a group of louche lefties who present a Weimar-ish cabaret, beginning with a sarcastic paean to gasoline in ersatz-Brecht tones. Digging into my peach cobbler, I notice that the table is sprinkled with pennies. I assume this is meant as a saucy critique of capitalism. But no, it turns out that the party is sponsored by Cole Haan, which is relaunching the penny loafer.
After the show, Citizens Band member Sarah Sophie Flicker, resplendent in a spangled, flesh-colored leotard and a glittery kitty-cat hat, exhorts me to join her in Florida to knock on doors and register voters. But Sarah, I moan, what would we wear? They’ll slam the door right in our faces! “Vogue T-shirts and jeans and little scarves!” she says. Then someone from the podium announces that the after-party is at Socialista (after-party? Wasn’t this a party?), the irony of which I am too exhausted to unpeel—and besides, I have to rush home to hear a certain dog in lipstick give a speech.
The next day, I skip the Andre Serrano dinner in honor of his photos of excrement because, frankly, having written the cover story for the Voice about this show, I am literally sick of the subject. (Besides, what would be on the menu: shit on a shingle? Shiitake mushrooms?) Instead, I go up to Barneys to celebrate its launch of a menswear collection named for a fictional character called Benjamin Bixby, an event hosted by Charlize Theron and Andre 3000. Charlize is nowhere in sight, and because I am a moron, I mix up Andre 3000 from Outkast with Andre J, the guy with a beard who wears dresses, was on the cover of French Vogue, and used to work at Pat Fields.
Barney’s Bixby character apparently lived in the glowing days of the Great Depression, since, in a feat of prescience—on the very day of this fete, the Dow is down over 300 points—the lines includes boat-neck pullovers emblazoned with 1935 ($350, made in China) and foppish hounds-tooth knicker suits (that’ll be a big seller).
Onward! It’s time to hoof it to “Art Fashion” at Christie’s, where an archive of old clothes collected by the duo behind the Resurrection vintage stores is on display. The sound of champagne glasses smashing in such close proximity to irreplaceable Courrèges coats and Poco Rabbanne metal dresses makes me quail with nerves, but the Christie’s people seem unperturbed. I only wish the crowd, mostly clad in boring little black dresses and towering heels, had spruced up more in the spirit of these wacky ensembles. And where is Agyness Deyn—misspelled as “Agnyess Dean” on the elaborate invite? Actually, maybe she’s here, since I am notoriously unable to distinguish one pixieish blond from the next. (I suffer from prosopagnosia, a/k/a face blindness—not a joke—but more on this subject some other time.)
Appetizers not quelling my appetite, I buy a bag of pretzels and hop on the train for the short ride down to FIT for the opening of “Gothic: Dark Glamour.” Despite the cult of darkness suffusing the atmosphere, the guests, unlike those dolts at Christie’s, have dressed for the event in lugubrious taffeta dresses, tight-laced corsets, and top hats, and are having a ball. And what do you know—here, amid the Victorian mourning suits and ghoulish Galliano gowns and chain-mail purses decorated with bats, is the real Andre J, in a glistening black and gold frock to match his glistening beard. “Life is good to me!” he says, injecting a bit of much-needed optimism in the cynicism and torpor that inevitably attends Fashion Week. “I’m still excited!”