Inside Fashion Week

The highs, lows and ridiculousness of it all. By Tracey Diehl

Even though I worked at Harper’s Bazaar for a few years in my youth, I’ve never been thin or rich enough to be truly fashionable. But I’ve always appreciated fashion as an art form, so I was amped to learn recently that I had won the Harper’s Bazaar Runway Sweepstakes. The prizes included tickets to a Fashion Week show.

My first thought: I’ve got to lose 20 pounds and 20 years. Then: What am I going to wear? I don’t own a single stitch of designer clothing. I decided to go with the fashion basics: black pants, a silky leopard print blouse (no one will see that the label reads “Old Navy”), and my only pair of heels – what I call my “wedding shoes” because I only wear them to weddings – and funerals. Otherwise, I’m in Skechers.

Who is this guy anyway?

First off, my husband Kevin and I arrive at the Catherine Malandrino show in Chelsea, and I’m relieved that it’s a sea of black. Good, I blend, I’m thinking. But I’m slightly disappointed when we realize it’s not actually a runway show, but more of a “still-life” setup, with models standing on pedestals in three long rows, as the crowd walks around them. How am I going to gawk at the celebrities in the front row? Just as I’ve given up hope of seeing any bold-faced names, Rufus Wainwright saunters right past me, looking cute in jeans, Chucks and a jaunty scarf. Later I spot actresses Jill Hennessy (“Crossing Jordan” and the new “Luck”) and Kelly Rutherford (“Melrose Place” and “Gossip Girl”). There was also a very scarily Botoxed lady who apparently hosts a TV show called “Lives of Style,” judging from the logo on her microphone. She is practically that cat lady Jocelyn Wildenstein.

Now that's what we call a murse.

Speaking of cat people, Malandrino’s theme was “La Feline,” so there was cat-eye makeup, lots of fur, vinyl bustiers, cutouts, and sheer fabrics for femme fatales (that leaves me out!). Because I’m short, and the models are so tall and on pedestals, my eyes were at crotch level. I tried not to look at their underpinnings, or the shaving bumps on their legs, but it was difficult not to at that close proximity. The models mostly stared straight ahead, but if you pointed a real camera at them, they’d “work it.” No “smizing” though—“La Feline” is very serious business indeed! Assistants scurried around offering the models sips of water from plastic cups, lest they’d faint under the hot spotlights.

The next day was our Harper’s Bazaar tour. An executive editor and marketing coordinator toured us briefly through the editorial departments and the famed fashion closet. None of it was really new to me, nor would it be to any fashion groupie who’s read – or even watched – “The Devil Wears Prada.” It was fun nonetheless and our guides were gracious, but we could feel their urgency to get back to their real work. Deadlines!

Check out these platforms.

We decided to head to Lincoln Center to scope out the scene at the epicenter of Fashion Week. No Bill Cunningham in sight, but luckily I’d brought my own – Kevin. He’s kinda like Bill – he has a bike, takes photos, and likes to wear humble workman’s jackets from I. Goldberg – only younger. And straighter. So he joined the fray of photographers shooting their “Seen on the Street” shots of attendees’ fashions. There was a woman with giant polka-dotted palazzo pants and humongous red platforms. A handsome black man in a mink jacket, diamond earrings, and an Hermes purse. And a natty guy who looked familiar and was obviously somebody, as a bunch of photogs chased him. I couldn’t quite place him. Was it Viktor? Rolf? Dunno.

As we left Lincoln Center to find lunch, an army of clackers offered us free copies of Women’s Wear Daily, The Daily Front Row and the LA Times Magazine. Did they think we were one of them? Awesome.

Tracey Diehl is a Philadelphia graphic designer, magazine aficionado and avowed fruit fly.