I still remember my first fashion show. It was February of 2006, twelve years ago (!!!). I was 24 years old and about a month into my brand new job working for Procter & Gamble in New York: wide eyed and terrified and completely overwhelmed by the city. I was working as an Assistant Brand Manager on a portfolio of fragrance brands for P&G, one of them being Anna Sui. I just about screamed when my boss told me that we were going to her show. I tried to channel Anna Sui as best I could by wearing a black ditsy floral print dress ($20 at Forever21; it was a time where my salary was so low that putting an unnecessary $20 on my credit card meant rethinking what I bought at the grocery store that week) and black Anna Sui nail polish which I had stolen from the sample closet at work – it was right when black nail polish was becoming cool again. There was no time for a blowout or to get my hair done but that thought didn’t even cross my mind. At that point in my life I’d never even had a blowout and probably would have laughed at the frivolity of getting your hair styled without having had it cut or colored first.
Off we went. I would have been SO lost without my boss – it was one of the most intimidating things ever! The shows were held at the tents in Bryant Park back then, so we could walk over relatively quickly from our office at 3rd and 53rd. (I was wearing sensible heels as that is all I owned back then.) I still remember being shuffled in, taking my seat in the fourth row (my boss telling me how amazing it was that we had seats, gesturing over to the crowds of people in standing room). I remember sitting down and seeing the little perfume bottles on the chairs and beaming with pride as that was our product. And nothing compared to the feeling I got when the lights came on and the music started. The music! The models! Anna was famous for having all the big supermodels and putting on such a theatrical show. It didn’t disappoint, it was one of the most amazing things I’d ever experienced. I remember emailing my parents and friends back in Boston the next day. No one could believe I’d gone to an actual fashion week runway show!
Over the course of the next four years, I went to more shows – all for the fragrance brands I worked on.. Lacoste, Hugo Boss, Anna Sui, and so on and so forth. I eventually got to bring my own assistant and see the wonder in her eyes as the lights went on and the models marched down the runway. I never felt jaded or annoyed by fashion week; it was a huge privilege to attend.
In 2010 I started this blog. It would be a while before I was invited to a fashion show on my own, but I do remember my first one and I think it was maybe in 2012 or 2013 – Rebecca Minkoff. I was working at BaubleBar at the time and got permission to duck out and see the show. I remember that so vividly too. All of the bloggers were seated together in the far right corner of the room. The blogging industry was smaller back then – Instagram was just ramping up, and there were maybe 20-30 of us and we all knew each other. It was so much fun and it felt like a big sorority reunion seeing all of my favorite bloggers from across the country in one corner of the room. And there it was – that same magical feeling when the music went on and the models walked out. Rebecca Minkoff was particularly thrilling to me; as it was the first time I’d ever been to a show where if I saw something I really loved I could (most likely) buy it the next season.
Somewhere along the lines, after a few seasons, it stopped being fun for me. There are bloggers whose fashion week content I live for. They do it so well and you can tell they are genuinely excited to be there. Damsel in Dior comes to mind as I absolutely LOVE her content and find that her fashion week vlogs manage to be both aspirational and hilarious; making me feel like I am right there with her. I am not one of those bloggers. For me, I felt like fashion week was actually hurting my blog content as I felt like I was going through the motions to do what I thought I was supposed to do… running from show to show, feeling stressed out and insecure, being dressed (occasionally) by brands in clothes that rarely fit or flattered my body, and finding myself feeling really tired and run down from ALL THAT SCHMOOZING.
Embarrassing things would happen. Brands would reach out to dress me for a show, have me come into their showroom to select a piece to wear and nothing would fit. Literally, nothing. I am 5’8 and wear a size 6 the majority of the time. A small person by regular world standards; a large person in fashion standards. I don’t think the fashion world really knows what to do with us “in between” people… not a zero or two, but not plus sized. This happened constantly and always felt incredibly embarrassing (I’m thankful that things are starting to change and brands are becoming more inclusive – things are a LOT different today; for example one of my favorite brands recently dressed me for their presentation and they just asked me for my size and style preferences and sent over a dress. There was no awkward back and forth or the ever-embarrassing and slightly condescending, “Oh I’m so sorry, are you sure you can’t squeeze into a two? That’s the biggest we have but don’t worry… it’s a “big” two!” And then trying things on to oblige the person and inevitably almost ripping the garment.)
And then there was the comparison game I would play with the other bloggers. How did they all just look SO GOOD, all the time? (This is something I still wonder about, for the record. Fellow bloggers/fashion girls, teach me your ways: do you keep full bags of makeup and curling irons in your Gucci bags as you trot across town, looking effortless and amazing?) These tiny girls with their perfect hair, perfect makeup, perfectly coordinated accessories and outfit changes throughout the day… and on top of that they never look like they are trying… all effortless and cool. I’d look at them and then back at myself and just feel wretched. For the record: I just can’t do effortless. If I don’t try, I look like a slob, if I do try, I look like I tried. There is just no in-between!
Every season I would say to myself that it was the last one I would go to, that I wouldn’t do it to myself again. And every season I would put myself through it again.
People complain about fashion week; about the industry and about bloggers ruining things and making it a circus. And maybe some of that stuff is true but at the end of the day the problem was me. I was forcing myself to do something I just didn’t enjoy. I don’t like crowds, I don’t like hob-nobbing with strangers, I don’t even really like champagne! And I hate comparing myself to others and feeling inadequate, too fat, not stylish enough, or whatever feeling those events made me feel. (Note: I do not think I’m fat or unstylish; this is not a call for reassurance… I’m simply expressing how these events make me feel. Feelings are temporary. All in all, of course there’s stuff I’d change but I think I look pretty good and I like how I dress.)
So here’s the message for you. If something makes you feel bad, you shouldn’t do it. Plain and simple. And to do it (and complain about it!) is just totally crazy and stupid. The way I see it, there are so many younger bloggers who would die to go to a fashion show. Attending is a huge privilege, even if it’s a privilege I don’t particularly want. If I RSVP “no,” someone else gets to go (hoping that they will have that same amazing wide-eyed experience I had all of those years ago)!
I will always love fashion. I scour the trends on Pinterest and Vogue and Bazaar; I live for the street style photos, and like I mentioned before I love seeing other more fashion-y bloggers’ content. But fashion week isn’t really relevant to my blog. My own style is pretty basic and I don’t see anything wrong with that. I like my cozy sweaters and comfortable ankle boots and hope that when I do an outfit post maybe it inspires you to try something new or mix up things you already have, but calling myself a “fashion blogger” seems hilarious at this point in time. My mission here at The Stripe is for you to feel good about yourselves, and leave you feeling inspired to try something new. And when I write about things, I want them to be things that will bring you joy. Books, bath soaks, cozy sweaters, jeans that make your butt look amazing… stuff that will inspire you but never ever make you feel less than. Sure, fashion is definitely a part of this blog but it’s more about finding a new color or fun accessory that will help you feel more put together. I’m absolutely not a “cool girl,” and I think that’s why you come here – to read the musings and ramblings of a regular person/human guinea pig who just really likes all this stuff. If going to fashion week helped make my blog better, I’d suck it up and go, in the name of work and doing a better job, but over time I have realized that there is little value that attending shows brings to my blog or social channels… and unless that changes, I don’t plan on changing my stance!
This year I went to one thing, for a favorite brand that I mentioned above. I went in, and said hello to my PR contacts, I took photos for Instagram and had a seltzer… and then after twenty minutes or so I wandered over to Soho House to drink wine, eat meatballs, and laugh with one of my best guy friends who complimented my (basic, inappropriate for fashion week but perfect for real life) outfit. My kind of night. 😉
photography by Trent Bailey.