Someone is sitting in my seat at the Shay Todd swimwear show. The tent is half empty, but even so, a freckled blond and her brunette pal have decided that my seat in the third row of Section D is exactly where they want to be. I check my seating-assignment card again. Yep. Its mine.
Youre sitting in my seat, I say.
Cant you go somewhere else? pouts the brunette. There are plenty of other places to sit.
I would like to sit in my seat, if thats okay.
The brunette gets huffy. We shouldnt even be this far back, she spits. I mean, we should be in the front row.
How about you girls move over one seat to your right? I offer. Then you dont have to go too far and I can still sit in my seat.
Okay, sulks the brunette.
For some reason, Im the one feeling guilty, wondering where I went wrong. Maybe if a tent is half empty, it actually is okay to sit in anyones seat. Maybe theres a list of rules I didnt know about, a secret bible of Fashion Week etiquette. As the lights go down and the show starts, I wonder about other gray areas like, if the seat next to you is empty, is it okay to take the unclaimed gift bag? Is it uncouth to check the bags contents while you are still at the show?
I call Fern Mallis, executive director of 7th on Sixth, the company that runs Fashion Week here and in New York. An authority on the subject, Mallis says L.A. fashionistas have some catching up to do when it comes to show etiquette.
Audiences in L.A. can be, how can I put it, a little less professional, she says. Im really glad you are writing this article. People need a few pointers.
First off, seat stealing is a major problem in L.A. If you are in a seat you are not assigned to and you are asked to move, you should do so, graciously, Mallis says.
Also, we need to chew less gum. It looks horrible, and sometimes people even stick it under their seats.
People in the front row should lean back in their seats, keep legs uncrossed, and stash gift bags neatly beneath chairs so things dont look too messy. Programs should be held neatly on laps, not flapping in the wind where they interfere with photographers. It is okay to open your gift bag before the end of a show, but it is not cool to take someone elses, even if it is unclaimed. Sometimes you see people leaving and they have two or three bags in their hands. Thats not nice and not polite.
What about staring at models boobs?
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The boob dilemma was laid bare, so to speak, at the Louis Verdad show the night before. A pair of breasts flounced out onto the runway, jiggling beneath an elegant and entirely see-through chiffon blouse. A healthy B-cup, nipples extremely erect, nice color to the areola hold on! I had to remind myself that this wasnt a strip show, and forced my gaze north toward the models nice hairdo.
Then I saw that fellow attendees, including Paris Hilton, Gina Gershon, Kimberley Stewart and Jack Osbourne, were checking out the boobs. Everyone was checking out the boobs. The hip-hop guys in the front row wore half-smiles, their expressions saying, Yeah... thas wassup. As the model wibble-wobbled back along the runway, the room erupted into applause for the first and only time. I was confused maybe its a boob not to check out the boobs?
I asked the designer Coco Kliks, who had a show on Monday, for her opinion. She said when a pair of breasts appears on the runway, the key is to act like youve seen boobs before. The reason designers put models in see-through items, she said, is not for, um, titillation, but to highlight delicate fabrics. In Paris, you have bare boobs on the runway the whole time and no one bats an eyelid. But here its a different story. At one of my shows there was this one blouse that was totally sheer lace, she said. It was nice, but it wasnt the standout piece. But people started clapping like crazy. And now I realize its because L.A. likes boobs.
For complete coverage of Fashion Week, check out the L.A. Weekly blog, The Style Council.