Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Fashion Show Etiquette: How Should You Act at a Fashion Show?

Jamie and the Jones final walk @ NFW12.
photo by Nashville Fashion Blog

The Saturday of Nashville Fashion Week, while attending the Tim Gunn event at the Mall at Green Hills, I ran into a friend and fellow NFW patron. We began discussing the week’s events, fashions, designers, models, venues, looks, and guests. As the conversation progressed, we rested on the topic of fashion show etiquette, and what we considered ‘appropriate behavior’ when attending such an event. It was interesting, I noted, that while we were all at the same Fashion Week events, the behaviors of attendees varied from night to night, designer to designer, and model to model. Some guests sat poised and collected, watching fashions glide down runways, perhaps eliciting a nod of approval, simple smile, or quick comment to a friend. Other guests watched the same runway fashions and texted on their phones, laughed boisterously with neighbors, or clapped loudly while cheering and whistling for NFW models.

This beautiful Versace-clad model caused quite a response at NFW12.
photo by Nashville Fashion Blog

Over my past four years living in Nashville, I’ve attended a multitude of fashion shows and events boasting a variety of themes, atmospheres, and target audiences. I’ve adorned myself in my classiest ensembles for elegant shows at the Symphony Center and NFW for designers like Isaac Mizrahi, Versace, Christian Siriano, and Marchesa. I’ve dressed down for DIY fashion events put on by high school students and parents. Flirty dresses have been worn for casual fashion shows for Blush Boutique, Naked Without Us, or RAW Artist local designers. Blogger Jade from Diva Fabulosa believes when attending a fashion show, one should always dress the part. She cites, “you may not be one of the models walking the runway, but it still shows good taste when you dress appropriately for a fashion show.” Every show may call for a particular look, but does it call for different etiquette?

A rare glimpse of me at the Art Institute of Tennessee-Nashville's 2009 fashion show.

Designer Joseph Domingo believes poor fashion show etiquette “threatens the class and respect of the industry” and must be addressed. And here we rest on the underlying question, What is proper etiquette at a fashion show? While I certainly have my opinions on the matter, I decided to do a little investigative research to discover what others believed the dos and don’ts of fashion show behavior are.

What is fashionably late?

A 2009 article from Glamour Magazine discusses fashion show etiquette, highlighting ways to look like a front-row regular. The first tip? Have your cell phone in-hand at all times because, “How else are you going to tap out urgent messages (e.g., “OMG: Whitney and Olivia both sitting front row at Thakoon. Hair=Amazing!”) to coworkers and friends?” Writer Sylvie Branch advises those hoping to look like an insider at fashion shows become surgically attached to their phones and to text everyone and anyone constantly. New York-based style expert, TV personality, and author Jene Lucaine also believes texting at fashion shows is not disruptive, as some of those texting are sending notes to bosses, editors, or sharing runway photos with friends. Lucaine says “designers LOVE getting instant attention for their shows” and believes bloggers (especially those front row with live updates) are an integral part of the fashion industry and should be on their electronics for the duration of the show. However, popular fashion runway blogger Laetitia of Mademoiselle Robot believes one should never, ever be on the phone or tweet during a fashion show. She states, “Show some respect to the designer and if you're at a show, watch it rather than brag about it on Twitter or say how amazing it is… sometimes 140 characters just don’t cut it.”

Niki and Paris Hilton texting during a 2009 fashion show.

Personally, I tuck the phone neatly away in my purse, after putting it on silent of course, at the start of any fashion show. I consider it highly disrespectful and rude to be on my phone, texting, tweeting, blogging, etc., during the few minutes a designer has worked hundreds of hours on creating. I want to show my enthusiasm and appreciation for their hard work by admiring every look, fabrication, stitch, and embellishment, and telling my friends about it later.

So when you’re front row at a fashion show or event and an incredible piece comes down the runway, what do you do? How do you react? Do you show support by clapping and eliciting excited yells? Or do you remain silent and reserve your enthusiasm for the final walk? What should you do?

A standing ovation for designer Gustavo Cadile presented by Gus Mayer for NFW11. 
Photo by Nashville Fashion Blog.

According to Glamour Magazine, when you are wowed by runway pieces and models, one must always keep their cool: “a simple golf clap- reserved for the end of the show- is the respectful amount of enthusiasm to show for the clothes.” Branch also suggests curbing your enthusiasm, showing “only mild approval at the most beautiful dress you’ve ever seen.” Eboyne Jackson, fashion editor of DAM Magazine, believes talking during shows should be kept to a hushed minimum. She states, “In most cases, people will side-glance each other to show their disdain or approval, and whisper to each other, but for the most part, talking [should be] kept at a bare minimum.” Jackson also cites that most guests are so engaged in the fashion show, they don’t want to be distracted by conversation or miss a single moment.

Anna Wintour postulates, while Sara Jessica Parker makes a quick comment at the Alexander Wang fashion show.

I can’t help but challenge Jackson’s last comment. What about those who are not absolutely engrossed in the shows? Some fashion show attendees may simply want something ‘new’ to do on a Friday night with girlfriends, or perhaps their significant other dragged them to the event (I’ve been guilty of doing that a few times myself). It is not reasonable to expect every fashion show patron to breathe this industry and fully commit every second to studying the new designs, silently critiquing looks, or taking notes. This is just absurd- some people just want to let loose, see some cool clothes, hang out with their friends, and have a good time. And hey, I’m not saying I’m an exception. I always hope to have fun at the fashion shows I attend. But should my level of commitment to the evening dictate the behavior I exhibit as the fashions are being shown? Perhaps. Perhaps not. It is an interesting examination of human behavior and social acceptability. I’m sure my academic side is getting the better of me right now, but I’m curious to know the opinions of others out there regarding this topic. I can’t help but to think that the star of the evening is the designers and models, and all I want to do is pay attention. Perhaps I have an antiquated viewpoint on proper fashion show etiquette. Or perhaps I just need to let loose and give that intricately designed garment the loud whistle it deserves. 



  1. I feel like I would absolutely hate hearing people talk during fashion shows. The texting wouldn't bother me as much because it's quiet and not distracting.

  2. When comments are hushed, I don't mind them. I'm usually the one muttering to myself things like, "soo pretty" and "I need that now," or whispering to my neighbor, "that model is fierce."

    I think the professor in me just finds texting inappropriate. But hey, that's just me.

    Thanks for the reply!

  3. I'd probably try and fall in line with whatever the rest of the crowd was doing. Since I'm not a fashion aficionado, I'd try and blend in, but a few well placed "golf claps" would be in order.
    Then again, I wouldn't mind a swimsuit fashion show and letting out a wolf whistle or two, but I would try and curb my baser nature. haha

  4. i am looking forward to a chance that i can watch a show

  5. I agree, I think being attached by velcro to your phone during a show is like calling your friend to chat during a concert. It is disrespectful and distasteful.
    After all the hard work that is put into a show, I think that the least attendees could do would be to respectfully (and quietly, might I add) pay attention. This is art, people!
    At one of the nights of this year's NFW, I was shocked out how the attendees treated the fashion show as if it was the background for a party, rather than the reason for the evening itself! Anyways, if manners don't come easy, just behave as you would want people watching your life's work to behave, simple as that.

  6. Thanks for your comment, To Catch A Thrift. I couldn't agree with you more!

  7. waiting for your more posts ! Love your blog !

  8. I have a friend modeling in an upcoming benefit show in LA. I have never been to a fashion show before and am wondering what proper etiquette is post show. i.e., if i have a friend in a play, i would bring her flowers. what do i do with fashion?