Dispatches From A D.C. Fashion Show
Thursday night marked the second-ever District of Fashion Runway Show, held within the marble halls of the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Timed to coincide with New York Fashion Week, the D.C. event included several local designers in its lineup, as well as a series of well-coiffed local models. And—with support from the DowntownDC business improvement district in partnership with the D.C. Commission on Fashion Arts and Events and city arts/media initiative 202Creates—it may become a mainstay of the local fashion scene, with another show scheduled for September.
But let’s stick to the matter at hand, which is that, um hello, there was a real live fashion show in D.C. last night. Granted, my only reference point for runway shows comes from the big and little screen, namely Miranda Priestly, Tim Gunn and Kelly Kapoor, so I was a natural fit to cover this event.
Wednesday, February 6, 9:29 p.m.: I Google “what to wear to a fashion show” and select a Refinery 29 article, which suggests metallic pants or plaid jumpsuits, of which I have none. We’re gonna play it safe with all black.
9:37 p.m.: I dig out a quilted cigarette pant I’ve never worn and spend several minutes agonizing between a nearly backless (save for an external zipper) peplum tank and a black blouse with semi-sheer bell sleeves. It’ll have to be a game-time decision.
Thursday, February 7, 4:34 p.m. With CHAI’s “Fashionista” emanating from my bedroom, I desperately seek the perfect winged eye with my liquid liner pen.
5:24 p.m. I stand by my front door, impatiently awaiting a Lyft and wondering whether anyone will recognize my “high-fashion” accessories are from mom-favorite Stella and Dot.
6:07 p.m. The car pulls up to the venue, and there’s a small red carpet outside the double-door entrance. (Could someone please play the opening strings of “Vogue” while I step out of this compact car?) I amble through the doors as best as one can in 4-inch booties and start scoping out the place. James Brown’s “Payback” (a favorite of En Vogue) is blasting from the DJ booth. Guests are beginning to trickle in and every white bench lining the runway is topped with a neat row of small gift bags. I’m somewhat flummoxed that the “runway” is not an actual stage but merely a negative space created from surrounding furniture. Note: An impromptu runway show on a slow day at the office may only be a few rows of swivel chairs away.
6:09 p.m. Ooh there’s a model! No wait, it’s a statue. No wait, it is a model standing atop a raised platform and she just moved and I really want her purse.
6:19 p.m. I’ve wandered up to the mezzanine, past a slew of Robert Palmer-music-video-esque models posed as mannequins, and stop by a slow-motion video machine, where I’m invited to grab a stuffed alpaca and try my hand at cinematography. Attendants tell me, “It’s better if you’ve had a few drinks.” Well, it’s off to the open bar for me, then.
6:24 p.m. I order The Look, one of four specialty cocktails—the others being The 202, The Vibe and The Glow Up—and one sip through a striped paper straw tells me I may be regretting it in the morning. (And so we meet again, mezcal.)
6:27 p.m. In what will come as a surprise to absolutely no one, this is definitely selfie central (as well as metallics central—dang it, should have worn those pants). A man with a full fur coat saunters by, and a woman asks me if I know where the Rodarte exhibit is (I don’t). Wait, the Robert Palmer models are on the move! Must. Follow.
6:31 p.m. I’m downstairs again, (lost the models in my disgracefully long descent down the staircase in impossible shoes) where the main event starts in 44 minutes. So let’s discuss the fashion we’re seeing in this ever-expanding crowd. Florals are a definite theme, with a suave gentleman across the room sporting a floral blouse under a blazer and an “oh this old thing?” look on his face. A woman in cheetah pants under a kimono whisks by. And can we talk about the bedazzle quotient in here? Sequin blazers, blinding pants, rhinestone pumps, the list goes on.
6:45 p.m. I nibble on a few free snacks (including some delectable sweet potato concoctions from the Rasa table) and begin to remind myself of that horrid and broke freelance writer on Younger who attends media events just for the free food and nearly exposes Liza’s big secret! Ugh, must put this skewered shrimp down.
6:51 p.m. I’ve stumbled on the stairwell up to the Rodarte exhibit, which I really ought to check out before it closes. But ack! A sign tells me no drinks are allowed upstairs. Time to pound the mezcal.
6:59 p.m. Feeling as though I might float away after an entrancing stroll through the remarkably tranquil exhibit (somehow visiting all those disembodied dresses in silence served as a sort of meditation), I re-enter the glitter fest.
7:16 p.m. The show is about to begin and I take my spot in the press pool, wedged behind and beside other media folks like a faithful Metro passenger. Celebrity stylist Paul Wharton—the night’s host—breezes by, behind a series of handlers saying “excuse me” with the urgency of the Secret Service. His shirt is amazing and where’d he get those glasses? After a brief mic mishap, he does an introductory strut, saying, “I’m gonna show these kids how it’s done.”
7:23 p.m. First up is a collection from Amanda Casarez and let me just say these models are not playing. Want to work on your confidence? Practice walking the runway with a straight face in front of hundreds of gawking strangers and you’ll be at least halfway there. Also, apparently tattoos are de rigeur in model land right now.
7:28 p.m. Paul name-drops Whoopi Goldberg and some other celebs, and I wonder if he might possibly need an embedded reporter for a month or two, and did I remember to slip some business cards into my clutch?
7:47 p.m. Models from the Andrew Nowell collection are walking now, and one is wearing animal print and sequins. I’m telling you, these are the secrets to the 2019 fall/winter season. You’re welcome.
7:59 p.m. Paul gets sassy, telling the audience, “That’s when you clap, people” after thanking the designers of the first half. He announces a 30-minute break and everyone’s out of their seats. So here is what people at a fashion show do during intermission: 1) Take selfies on the runway 2) Take more selfies in front of the step-and-repeat. 3) Give out a lot of hugs. 4) Take more selfies.
8:15 p.m. I’m back on the mezzanine and consider making a slow-mo selfie video with the alpacas, but the line is lengthy and really, if you’ve seen one slow-motion video with a stuffed alpaca, you’ve seen them all.
8:29 p.m. Act II is about to get rolling, and I’ve gleaned an important lesson from the first go-round: Stake out your unobstructed spot and do not move. Ce-ment.
8:31 p.m. So who are these rhinestone-covered audience members, anyway? Influencers, yes. But where do they work, who do they know and how did they get on the list and win the highly coveted benches when everyone else is growing blisters in ridiculous footwear?
8:43 p.m. The post-show walk. What’s the best way to handle it if you’re a designer? Humbly appear from backstage and aw-shucks your way down the runway, or link arms with your best-dressed model? We’re witnessing some vastly different approaches.
8:44 p.m. It’s the Peruvian Collection’s turn and also the second time we’re seeing a woman in menswear on the runway. Not a new idea but totally fierce.
8:52 p.m. Egads! A glass just broke on the stairs behind me. Did someone have a few too many Glow Ups?
9:02 p.m. Berets are back in, according to Brittany Christina, especially in cream and sherbet.
9:09 p.m. The show winds down and the after-party is imminent. I head out, goody bag in tow, and drag my war-torn feet to a salad shop for a sad-couch dinner. (Should have sucked down more shrimp.) As I wait for my ride, I thumb through the bag and find a candle and socks, perfect for cozying up in the comfort of my mismatched jammies at home.