New York Fashion Week: One Unfashionable Amateur Experiences His First Show

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This hairy-legged man dressed up as a woman and sprawled out on a Mercedes Benz. The author was somewhat horrified.

The writer, wearing a Hanes undershirt and jeans he hasn’t washed for three weeks – both delicately sumptuous yet reminiscent of days gone by – braves Fashion Week.

I’m not into fashion. I mean, I wear my fair share of skinny ties and gingham shirts. (Those are in, right?) But New York Fashion Week, an annual event featuring America’s most celebrated clothing brands, is like entering a designer’s walk-in closet that is hosting both a carnival and a parade. It’s filled with people you didn’t even think existed, like the guy in all black leather with a 4-in. silver bar protruding through his septum. He was there. Another guy in a red dress, blonde wig and a cheap-looking beret that said “Hollywood” – he was there. And, of course, some of the skinniest and, frankly, scariest women you’ve ever seen were definitely there. Which is why I went to Fashion Week Wednesday night.

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Before the shows, the audience members mingled in the main lobby next to a bright-red Mercedes Benz, expensive purses in glass displays and a kiosk handing out the new Diet Pepsi skinny can. “Is there any regular Pepsi?” I asked. “Nope.” Definitely only diet.

As the Elie Tahari show was set to begin, those waiting to get in were corralled near the entryway – women in six-inch heels and shimmery silver tops, men in impeccable plaid, everyone seemingly on their phone. The seats began to fill up as the assistants removed the runway’s plastic tarp, marked up with tiny squares from all the high heels.

Then the lights dimmed, a music box melody set to dance music began and the models, with names like So Young, Dimphy and Kinee, came out one by one by color scheme – first in black, then white, brown, red. And really, they didn’t look like they were enjoying themselves. My god, they looked downright angry. If I saw a tall woman in heels walking toward me on the street like that, I’d run.

(More on TIME.com: Does anyone actually wear runway fashion?)

Not knowing anything about Elie Tahari (I may or may not have thought the designer was a woman), I was expecting outrageous designs that no one actually wears. Yes, there was a purse that looked like four balled-up Bichon Frises and a blazer that you apparently wear without a shirt underneath and a red tie that looked like it was from Colonel Sanders’ closet. But most of it, actually, was pretty interesting.

This is the part where most fashion writers critique the designers’ collection. Yeah, I can’t really do that. There was a lot of fur and capes and things that billowed. But I will say it wasn’t what I was expecting. And that’s a good thing.

As I left, I walked past the dude-lady again – this time he was sprawled out on the Mercedes Benz hood for anyone who wanted to take photos. I think, like a lot of attendees, that he was there for the carnival and not the parade.

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