Images via Bobby Finger

Last month, Jezebel received an invitation for Ivory Couture Clothing’s fashion show. I didn’t know them, but—having never been to a fashion show before—I asked culture editor Julianne Escobedo Shepherd if I could attend. She said yes.

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I worried about my shirt—a years-old, blue-and-red J. Crew button-down that I liked more in early 2013 than I do in early 2017—and thought it would out me as a fashion show virgin immediately upon arriving. So when I entered the building and was told by some elevator passengers that I could “squeeze in,” I seized at the thought of being the least fashionable among them and politely waved them off. “I’ll wait for the next one,” I muttered, or maybe I just thought it. In any case, the doors shut, and I adjusted my hat.

The thing about these elevators, the ones found in most of those nondescript narrow building that make up the bulk of midtown Manhattan, is that they’re slow, creaky, and unpredictable. I watched one go from the Penthouse level (floor 12), and make several stops as it descended to the lobby. When it arrived, I stepped aside to allow the five or six passengers to get off. “We’re all going up,” one man said. Haha, whatever! These fucking things!

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I got on, as did the fur-draped woman who entered the lobby soon after I did. She knew one of the other passengers and the began chatting—a nice soundtrack for the slow creep up to 11. Hey! Hi! Oh my god! I’m exhausted! When did you go to sleep? 8:30, I was so freaking tired. This week! I know! I woke up at 1:00 AM because Skylar texted me! That girl never sleeps! Love her! Love her! Her mom is coming this weekend. Aw, that’s so cute! I know! How old is she? 16 I think? She’s amazing!

By the time the doors opened onto 11, I had no clue who Skylar actually was, but figured she was beloved enough to have been spoken about for several dozen more floors. I stepped off and was approached by several people in lanyards who looked like the fraternal twins of famousish cable personalities. There was Not Brad Goreski, who directed me to a table in the back, and Not Kelly Osbourne, who confirmed that I knew where to find the table. It was in the back. I think I said, “Theenks!” to both.

I was third in line at the table in the back, and noticed that both people ahead of me were given gift bags after checking in. I’m sure my eyes widened a little at the thought of rummaging through a gift bag filled with 90% crap, but oh, that remaining 10%! When called to the table I must have been wearing the cocky smile of a theater kid who fully expected to see their name on the cast sheet, but when she checked my name of the list without handing me a bag, it quickly turned to the scowl of that same kid finding out they were put in the chorus.

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I left the back and walked to the front, where the shape of a runway—by that I mean a skinny rectangle—could be seen in the negative space between rickety benches. This wasn’t the fanciest of venues (the space was a far cry from what movies like The Devil Wears Prada and Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead led me to believe it would be) but the high ceilings and flood of natural light gave it a certain legitimacy, as did the crowd of photographer’s at the far end. I approached Not Brad Goreski once more. “Can I sit anywhere?”

He lit up. “You can!” (Everyone working the show—the smiling ones with extra-long lanyards and well-protected iPads—was almost disarmingly friendly, like android retail employees programmed to genuinely love their jobs.)

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The bench I chose to sit on was in the back row across from the bathrooms, not because the front was full, but because this one was totally empty. The crowd was dressed well, but not to the point that I felt out of place. These were fashionable people, but something about their demeanor gave me the sense that we all shared some of the same insecurities—which in turn had the surprising effect of making me feel more secure. Concerned eyes quietly scanned the room. Restless hands smoothed out pant legs and grazed across phone screens. None of us looked comfortable, but maybe that was my own desperate interpretation of the scene. What matters was I felt fine.

Before long, the music that had been playing since I’d arrived—a familiar genre of remixes that felt tailormade for fashion shows and bad gay clubs—suddenly stopped, making way for some unexpected live entertainment in the form of a man dressed in a loose-fitting black t-shirt covered in safety pins. “An opener,” I thought, but he was more than that. Safety Pin Man was indeed part of the show—a dynamic human roadblock the models had to avoid and endure throughout their roundtrip journey. Part of the “act,” was that he would give the 11 models dramatic once-overs as the passed. They would respond with gestures I interpreted as either “Oh, this charming rascal!” or “Christ, him again?” It was strange, and made photographing from my particular seat rather difficult.

You see, the reason no one was on my bench when I arrived was because it may have been the worst seat in the house. I was in the middle of the catwalk (meaning I never had anything close to a dead-on look at the clothes), behind another row (whose phones obstructed my already shitty view), and in the same zone Safety Pin Man had decided to call his home. He never went to the back or the front, he just did his thing right in front of me.

What I did see of the clothes, however, was nice enough. The floral-heavy collection, designed by Bella Ivory, was mostly fine, save for a few structured blazers, pant suits, and a stunning pink lace gown that would look right on any of this year’s Best Actress nominees. Honestly, it all happened so fast—and with too much interruption from Safety Pin Man—for me to take in the fashions with more than a respectful shrug. I expected a formal epilogue of some sort at the end—perhaps a few words from the designer—but nope. That was it! My first fashion show was over.

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Immediately after Ms. Ivory walked back behind the curtains to celebrate with her models, those horrible remixes began playing once more, and several smart people across the catwalk bolted to the elevators. I grabbed my things and rushed to join them, hoping I’d make it into the first arriving car. The same woman I’d ridden up with—the one in Carol-like fur—hopped in just before the doors closed, and didn’t mention Skylar once on the way down.