(top): Ted Soqui,
(bottom): Mihael Powers

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. It’s mine.

“You’re sitting in my seat,” I say.

“Can’t you go somewhere else?” pouts the brunette. “There are plenty of other
places to sit.”

“I would like to sit in my seat, if that’s okay.”

The brunette gets huffy. “We shouldn’t 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 don’t
have to go too far and I can still sit in my seat.”

“Okay,” sulks the brunette.

For some reason, I’m the one feeling guilty, wondering where I went wrong. Maybe
if a tent is half empty, it actually is okay to sit in anyone’s seat. Maybe
there’s a list of rules I didn’t 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 bag’s contents while you are still at the

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. “I’m 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 don’t 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 else’s, even if it is unclaimed. “Sometimes
you see people leaving and they have two or three bags in their hands. That’s
not nice and not polite.”

What about staring at models’ boobs?

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
wasn’t a strip show, and forced my gaze north toward the model’s 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 it’s 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
you’ve 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 it’s 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 wasn’t
the standout piece. But people started clapping like crazy. And now I realize
it’s because L.A. likes boobs.”

For complete coverage of Fashion Week, check out the
L.A. Weekly blog,
The Style Council.

LA Weekly