Sashaying Through Fashion Week, Tongue Firmly in Cheek

Nov. 3. Dear Diary. Had no intention of attending New York fashion week at Chelsea Piers, except a couple of shows. Frankly, if you spent as much time as I did in New Jersey trying to get to Manhattan, there is no reason on God’s green earth ever to go so near the Hudson River again, but duty called.

According to Polly Glott, my friend the international fashion editor, I’ve become something of a thing among the designers. “Phyllis Stine,” she said over the telephone, “you might as well go to the shows because the designers will say you went, anyway.” We agree to meet this morning at 10 in the lobby of the Carlyle where I am once again ensconced in divorce purgatory now that I am returned from Paris. I want to report that I’ve been thinking lately. A lot. And reading. Or, reading and thinking. The order changes every day, but I’m doing it religiously, because contemplation and practicing a spiritual life are all the rage these days. Why, at a recent dinner for Chessy Rayner, and her marvelous new book, New York: Trends and Traditions , I overheard no less than three people of high social rank talk about God over dessert. It used to be, all people talked about was Gianni Agnelli.

Walked almost the entire seven blocks from the Carlyle to the Madison Avenue Bookshop the other day. You try walking-as I later attempted crossing the West Side Highway between fashion shows-in this season’s 5-inch Gucci heel. At the bookstore, a man who looked like a bowling pin made a big flap about buying The Portrait of Zélide for Jayne Wrightsman. As Mrs. Wrightsman is a big thing on the Upper East Side, I was curious. Zélide , written by Geoffrey Scott in 1924 and reprinted this year by Turtle Point Press, is a biography of the 18th-century thinker known formally as Madame De Charrière. At age 13, Zélide, as the Dutch beauty called herself, would wake at 6 A.M. to study mathematics. Possessed of “Voltairean wit”-Voltaire is that amusing restaurant in Paris-she devoted herself to “ideas.” She thought them “the breath of existence, and life presented itself to her not as a tradition but as a great experiment.” While at the bookshop, I noticed that Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls was also reprinted this year.

About the shows? Well, it’s all a matter of opinion, but one thing is true: They were all over town. The general look? Lovely and ladylike. In order of my appearances today: Carolina Herrera’s collection was pretty and youthful. Next up, Diane Von Furstenberg’s relaunch of her wrap dress. A reporter asked Barry Diller, “Having such a great friend as Diane in the fashion world, do you feel pressure to dress well? You seem well turned out.” The tycoon just laughed. Must say I felt a little pang of envy when I watched Blaine Trump mark off so many of the numbers on her program at the glamorous Badgley Mischka show. Where’s she going that I’m not? After the John Bartlett show at the Piers, Polly and I motored down to SoHo. The door to Helmut Lang’s new shop at 80 Greene Street was ajar, although the boutique hadn’t opened officially and was still under construction, but we walked right in and asked for Helmut. “The door is open?” asked the thoughtful Austrian designer, looking through me. “I have to close the door.”

Although I am trying not to confuse fashion with a higher power or philosophy, I worshipped the cashmeres at Marc Jacobs’ show. Supped on a decaf mocha Frappuccino from Starbucks. Most of my nourishment is through a straw these days. Saves the face.

Nov. 4. Election Day. Voted for my trust fund. Richard Tyler’s couture show? Gorgeous. What cut! Later today, Han Feng did it again.

Nov. 5. Woke up early to think. To wit: The “modern situation” can be summed up thusly: the servant problem. The British au pair? The travails of Joyce Wildenstein? The servant problem. If good help was easier to get, we’d all stay home and dress up more.

High noon. Nearly banned for not wearing Ralph Lauren to his show. Even though yellow isn’t my color, took a taxi to the Chelsea Piers but never found Polly. Meanwhile, taxi driver was a real thinker, and I quote: “To use live persons as mannequins is inhumane. The money is no longer sufficient enough reason. The C.I.A. gives them heroin. Why can’t they just have it where people mingle? It’s predatory. These fashion editors with their competitive spirits …” More evidence that everyone is thinking these days. Out of taxi, en route to Michael Kors’ fab show, got hit by errant hockey puck sprung free from the sports complex, but no big whoop. Later, minor headache caused by hockey puck relieved by some kind of fashion moment at Anna Sui show: a bona fide acid flashback, think of me what you will. Some said Sui’s show was about “Tibetan surfer girls.” For me, it was pure Monterey Pop, those bright sari fabrics. When I came to, I was sitting alone in the dark on a bench by the Hudson, mesmerized by the twinkling lights on the Forbes yacht, the Highlander . The steel handle of my Gucci bag in my mouth like an orthodontic retainer. Scampered to Ninth Avenue for a taxi, everyone so helpful. So kind. Cars pulled up. Drivers would offer me $50. Offers I declined, of course, but can you stand how nice New York has gotten? How generous?

Later, at Anna Wintour’s book party for Richard Gere, had a long talk with Courtney Love about, of all things, the acoustics at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I suggested a scream date in the American Wing next week.

Nov. 6. Loved the stretch Tibetan tiger skirt at Vivienne Tam this morning, and the pale blue and white pinstriped silk crepe dress with a row of tucking at Bill Blass. Tried to catch up with Jayne Wrightsman to discuss Zélide at Oscar de la Renta’s show at the New-York Historical Society, but couldn’t make the leap over dainty chairs and Betsy Gotbaum. At Isaac Mizrahi’s show on Wall Street, one of his best shows ever, Ellen DeGeneres talked about possibly optioning my diaries. I was like, excuse me, Ellen, but Demi’s already been in touch.

Nov. 7. Exquisite clothes at Calvin Klein. “They’re minimal,” Calvin told Polly, “but that doesn’t mean the clothes look like nothing.” Then Polly turned to me, and said: “What minimalism is about, Phyllis Stine, is you have to be more than what you wear.” Maybe a black dress with a big heart on its sleeve would suit me?

Donna Karan said the mood of her collection was “Greek relics and Martha Stewart.” Then, she said, she was thinking of “the bay,” but not the Hudson River, “mesmerized. The moving light.” Thinking, thinking everywhere lately. Except at Daryl K.’s super-cool show at the Pitt Street pool off East Houston Street. I had such tremendous fun I stopped thinking, but by the time I got uptown I was thinking again. But nothing too sustained. Like fashion, all thoughts are subject to change.