I arrive to New York Fashion Week in a cab because I do not want to walk in heels to the subway, but also because I figure this is what a model would do. New York Fashion Week feels like the glamorized idea I had of New York before moving here: that of taking a cab to some fabulous event, getting stuck in traffic, telling your driver “actually, I’ll just get out here,” and then daintily darting across a cobblestone street in heels to Mr. Big, who is waiting at the top of some sort of staircase. As it happens, seven years in New York have rendered me a cynic, and I know that cabs are too expensive a habit, heels are simply impractical, and I would have married Aidan.
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But for my first NYFW, I decide to live in that idealized New York. As I get out of my cab and daintily dart across a cobblestone street in my Jeffrey Campbells, I wonder: is this what New York is like for hot people?
As I am wont to do, I quickly begin to feel like a fraud. It starts when I realize I have mistakenly shown up very early, and am going to have to kill two hours thinking about what a fraud I am. I leave the flurry of fashion folk— a sea of sheer black dresses, lime green pantsuits, and geometric head pieces that look like Tinker Toys— to the comfort of a five dollar Narraganset.
Everyone is “dressed to the nines,” which is a phrase I have never understood because nine is not a very big number. If we are using this very impractical scale, I would say I am dressed to the sevens. I am wearing a black mini skirt, a black crop top, and a white blazer. White. Suddenly I realize it is after Labor Day, and I am wearing the forbidden color. This is the only rule I know about fashion, and I have broken it—like a fraud. But by the end of the second Narraganset, I shake it off by reapplying my lipstick in the bathroom mirror and earnestly saying to myself out loud, “actually, you look hot tonight!”
I make my way to the line for Chromat and learn I am sitting in “A-1”— the front row. The floor is filled with people who seem to have all gone to high school together, and Whoopi Goldberg. The music is loud like the end of the world. The lighting is blue and different blue. We are packed tight in the seats, but I am afraid of touching the woman sitting next to me for fear that her outfit, which as far as I can tell is gold rope and a tan duvet cover, would simply unravel. I cross my legs to make space, and am warned that the photographers may tell me to uncross for them to have a clear shot. I do it only because I will take any excuse to not cross my legs.
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Admittedly, as a comedian and a cynic, I am expecting to find this all to be some big joke. And don’t get me wrong: to my left is a man with a belt and chain feathered crown who makes me want to give up comedy and move to a citrus farm on the central coast of California. But to my surprise, I am genuinely moved by the Chromat show.
The show, in Chromat’s words, “is inspired by wet t-shirts. We wanted to reclaim the experience of hiding under a giant T-shirt at a pool party (when ur too embarrassed to be seen in swim) and make it a garment to wear proudly.”
I think about myself as a little girl, wearing my dad’s t-shirt over a swimsuit at a soccer tournament pool party, feeling like a fraud. What I would have given for that girl to see Chromat’s cast of models with different bodies, skin tones, abilities, identities, and bangs, in swimwear that made them all look hot. A pink and red two-piece with a pleasant amount of underboob. A white crop top with “sample size” written across it. Mama Cax in a scooping black cover up with a neon green top. These women and their fashion pieces make me feel like maybe there is a space for me too, whether it is in a pool or at NYFW.
I am told that cheering does not happen in fashion shows, which in my mind makes them tonally identical to a Supreme Court session. But as Ericka Hart, a sex educator and activist I admire, walks the runway proudly zipping down her one-piece to reveal her double mastectomy scars to a cheering crowd, my cynical New York heart and I well up.