Street style at fashion week 2013
Street style at fashion week. Photo: Giuseppe Santamaria
Whenever I think about fashion week I am prompted to reflect on the long-time nanny of the famous, eccentric and aristocratic Mitford family. Not one for dispensing words of fatuous comfort she once told author Nancy Mitford's famed beauty of a sister Diana on her wedding day "don't worry darling, nobody is going to be looking at you." Which of course seems an awfully unfair thing to say on the one day that everybody is looking at you. But it's really very useful.
I think of this when I wake up on the first morning of fashion week with precisely three cauliflower-like cold sores on my lip. They are impressively ugly. 'Nobody's going to be looking at you,' I thought to myself sagely. It came to me again when I had the misfortune of having to get a maxi-cab, solo, to the first show, something always vaguely embarrassing at the best of times. Perhaps it is getting older, or perhaps because fashion week gives me a feeling of being handed a ticket to the greatest show on earth, but despite the endless opportunities to do so, fashion week does not make me feel bad about myself.
It really should, mind. There is the close vicinity to the models who stomp sullenly and beautifully up the catwalk, their legs like gazelles, their ability to not have to wear a bra. Perhaps more potentially damaging are the hordes of bloggers who have been saved from being ordinary and become the real stars of the show, each day their outfits more dazzling, their handbags worth at least a month of my salary, their every move snap, snap, snapped. Or the terrifyingly chic editors who know how to have a capsule wardrobe, who would never buy a pair of gold lame sweatpants because they were cheap, who have never emitted the strange odour of questionable polyester mingled with lady sweat. There are the thigh-skimming, body-clinging clothes that I could not in a million years pull off, no matter how much chutzpah I could summon and the fact that everybody seems to know each other and be off to party somewhere that I've never even heard of.
But fashion week is also sublime, ridiculous and amusing. How could you not feel joy at the gentlemen in bow ties and birkins, or the girl channelling Regina George? Or the volunteers who have given up their uni break to stand on their feet for hours just for a taste of fashion? There are tribes at fashion week too, and not just the glamour cliques that most of us will never be part of, but the weird ones, the fringe ones, the ones who found a way to express themselves through clothes. There's something so uplifting about people dressing up in their very best - be it senior citizens on the way to a square dance or fashion folk on a mission to be seen.
Plus, it's so easy to be a jerk at fashion week that you can't let it ruin your jibe. Are you really bothered by the stony faced look up and down by someone that you could almost guarantee would be a dullard at a dinner party? And isn't it funny that the coveted goodie bags include high glamour items like hydra-lite and men's multi-vitamins? Is it not amusing to see a fully grown woman slamming her purse down because she had to move seats "this is a f*cking joke," she says and oh boy I am having a good time.
Anyway, fashion week is a good opportunity to fake it until you make it. You can artfully instagram and write captions to blurry catwalk pics like "no words" or "this is the ultimate", you can say things like "neoprene" and "juxtapose" and "I thought it was good but not his best work", you can talk in an important and busy (and loud) manner on your phone. A sideways head tilt and a thoughtful expression when watching the shows can make you feel like you are really contributing and in the moment. Feeling like an expert does wonders for your general self-worth.
But mostly, fashion week is like being a visitor at a sort of exotic zoo. It doesn't quite feel real, and as you watch the frocked up fillies air-kiss and glide on by, it's almost as if you're not really there. Nearly everyone is either thin and beautiful, thin and a bit beautiful or thin and not beautiful but it doesn't matter because they are thin. And that's okay. Nobody is looking at you, because they're too busy looking at themselves. And realising that is one important lesson in the gaining of self-esteem. Well that and truly feeling good about yourself in leather leggings.