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New York Fashion Week: What Is It Really Like To Go To A Runway Show?

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When my stylish daughter Sarah called to say that she had an extra ticket to a fashion show during New York Fashion Week, she invited her father to go instead of me. I wasn't offended -- the two of them share a fashionable gene, while I am the one usually wearing less-than-fashionable jeans. My husband was going to be out of town, so by default I was invited to my first ever fashion show. Being me, it didn't occur to me that I would have to dress up somewhat, even to be in the audience, and it wasn't until 8:30 the night before that I thought about what I was going to wear. Going through my "nice" clothes, I realized that they had all been purchased in the '90s, when I was two sizes larger than I am now. Panic ensued, and I actually did a late-night dash to T.J. Maxx, arriving at the store ten minutes before they closed. As I am not a shopper at the best of times, trying to find an outfit for the fashion event of the year (in my eyes, at least) in a discount store as they are closing ... well, it just was not going to happen. Back home, I found a suit I purchased in a thrift shop and never wore, as it was too big. (If you are wondering why I bought it in the first place, that is an excellent question, and the answer is I have absolutely no idea). I hemmed the pants and since I can't really sew I used safety pins to turn up the sleeves. I wore it with my one really nice top, a turquoise Vivienne Tam number. (I have no problem confessing that it was the third time I have worn that top this week. And it is only Tuesday. I really like it).

Now that I had determined my outfit, I then started to worry about logistics. Where and when should I go? What do you do at a fashion show? Do you need tickets? Will they know I don't know anything? I texted Sarah innumerable times, and to her credit, she replied to all of my questions. She has my ticket. She will meet me at Lincoln Center. It doesn't matter what I wear. They won't know or care what I do. It wasn't until my tenth text that I thought to ask what show we would be seeing. I had never even heard of it.

About two blocks away I started noticing the clothes on the people around me -- and I never notice clothes. But these were noticeably nice, and the people wearing them were noticeably thinner and taller than "normal" people. I arrived at Lincoln Center an hour early, had lunch and watched the people go by. I was, by the way, the only one eating. And it was most definitely lunchtime. Various attractive people were taking pictures of other attractive people. Some people had large crowds around them. Maybe they were famous, maybe not. I couldn't tell. While I was waiting for my beautiful daughter, I saw at least 20 girls who looked like her. Same sunglasses. Same great haircut. Same sense of belonging. I got a bit panicky that I would never find her and started texting again. She found me and breezily walked me into the theater.

I had a ticket, but this was no regular theater. There were several checkpoints requiring magic words to get through. Thank goodness Sarah was there. She went to sit in the front row. I was in standing room. The room wasn't huge, and there were lots of us standees and tons of photographers. I had no idea there was a need for so many photographs of a fashion show.

While I was waiting, all I could think about was how much my feet were hurting from standing. The show started about 30 minutes late, with no big fanfare, just a girl in a sparkly dress walking by, followed by another, and another. The dresses were nice, but they looked quite similar and the girls all had the same vacant stare. Why do models have to have that blank expression? Would we not want to buy the clothes if they looked human? And they walk hip first so they seemed to be leaning backwards. My maternal instinct wanted to tell them to straighten up. Only one looked frighteningly thin. The others just seemed bland, especially when compared to the colorful, animated faces around me. I actually found it a bit monotonous. When all the girls came out at the end I was surprised to see that there were about 20 in the show. I would have guessed no more than five or six and had been marveling at how quickly they changed. The show ended after about 15 minutes with the designer making a quick, hurried wave to the audience.

Would I go again? Yes, absolutely, if only to sit outside and watch the crowd. I definitely preferred people watching to mannequin watching. The people outside the show were more interesting; their shoes alone were worth the trip. And strangely, at the subway station, for the first time ever, I saw New Yorkers, strangers, talking and laughing together. That was truly beautiful.