For our first installment of "Dear Fancy Fashion Person," we've called on Darrell Hartman, freelance writer and party reporter for Style.com, to give us the lowdown on what goes on at all those parties we're never invited to. How drunk do people get? Can you flirt your way in? And how much does Madonna charge for a photo op? Darrell fills you in below...
So, what really goes on inside all these parties? Pretty much the same thing that's going on outside: people are getting their photo taken. Nearly every fashion party you hear about is thrown in order to get press for someone or something. So there are lots of photographers (and reporters, like me), trying to get snaps and quotes. It may not look it, but it's just as organized as a red carpet lineup: any press covering a party is approved by organizers beforehand, and (usually) arrives early. And if the publicists don't recognize someone taking notes or photos, chances are that person will get kicked out. The professional nature of these things is one reason it's harder to talk, wait, or flirt your way past the velvet rope the way you can, say, at a Chelsea night club.
Some people show up just to have their photo taken. The website of photo agency Patrick McMullan doubles as a captioned archive of who's out
and about in
Well-known celebrities are a different matter. They don't
always want to be there, and the big ones would often rather not have their
photo taken. Once, while I was interviewing Elizabeth Banks on a carpet, Miley
Cyrus breezed through without posing; the roar from slighted photographers (the
credentialed ones hate being called paparazzi) was so loud it almost knocked us
both over. The other night, I was at a
dinner at the Oak Room where a photographer from Interview asked Madonna
if he could take her photo; she asked him for a dollar, tore it in half, and
put one piece in her purse.
Interesting stuff does happen from time to time. At that
same party, Valentino spilled a glass of red wine all over Anne Hathaway's
dress. Generally, though, everyone is on their best behavior. The famous people are on guard against
gawkers and media, everyone else is excited to be in a room with famous people,
and although an open bar is de rigueur, no one gets drunk—that's what
after-parties (in an apartment or hotel room, or discreet clubs like The
Beatrice Inn and The Rose Bar) are for. The gimmicky cocktails that sponsors push
on you don't always speed your trip to oblivion, either.
Another thing: the women at the fancy parties don't own the
clothes they wear. They borrow sample dresses from a designer. It makes
perfect sense, really: it's free, you're only going to use it once anyway, and
it's unlikely anyone else will be wearing the same one. If—horror of horrors—someone is, you can
usually trust her not to come up to her twin and point it out, as one
woman did to a mortified socialite at the Frick Ball.
I'm lucky enough to be 1) male and 2) press, so the fashion bar is set very low for me. (Still, black tie means black tie, and flared jeans just look stupid.) The people at these parties probably take them more seriously than they should, which is why it's always refreshing to have non-fashion guests in the mix. I once asked Charlie Kaufman who he was wearing, and he had no idea. His best guess: "JCPenney?"
So, what questions do you have for our panel of fancies? We've got a string of editors, photographers, models, and designers that work everywhere from Forever21 to Balenciaga. Put your questions in the comments field below, and we'll do our best to dig up an answer!