My Two-Step Prep for Fall: A Crash Course in Poise

The seasonal cycle of fashion is whirling ever faster, like a dervish on crystal meth. Fall fashion merchandise has been pouring into the stores since early June, and fashion-crazed New Yorkers are snatching it up like hyperactive squirrels preparing for winter hibernation. Jil Sander tweeds, Gucci leathers, Fendi chubbies–the nests of the fashion-addicted are already stuffed with as-yet-unwearable fall-fashion provender.

Elle fashion directrice Marin Hopper is among the can’t-get-it-early-enough ultra-stylish loonies. “I had to have the Louis Vuitton black wool turtleneck with the bias slit,” she said. “I’m praying the moths won’t get to it before I can wear it [three months from now].” Ms. Hopper’s desperation has paid off; many of the key designer looks splattered all over the September magazines (they delivered early, too) are already sold out.

Are you being serviced–or exploited–by these insanely early deliveries? Do you really need to buy fall clothing now and put it in mothballs until the weather allows you to wear it?

After much exhaustive research, I can honestly tell you that there are only two things you need to acquire before Labor Day:

A Marc Jacobs handbag. Aging enfant -not-very- terrible and genius Marc has hit pay dirt with his new bag collection. These leather zipper bags have a nifty if-Members- Only-designed-a-handbag feel to them. They come in black, beige, red and burgundy–average price $850. When I spoke to Miss Hopper, she was about to fly into Barneys and cough up $450 for the mini bag. “Marc’s new bags are it for fall 2000. I’m terrified they will sell out before I get one–he used such great hardware.”

About that unusual hardware: Marc utilized what can only be described as cock rings to secure the shoulder straps to the body of the purse. I asked him about the significance of this iconic piece of 1970′s sex paraphernalia. “Significance?” replied Marc querulously. “As Sigmund Freud once said, ‘Sometimes a banana is just a banana, Anna.’”

The only other thing you must acquire before the season arrives is poise . The brittle, ladylike aesthetic that permeates the fall 2000 collections–think Faye Dunaway in Network –demands that you girls re-evaluate your body language, and quickly! Gone is the gamin! The ingenue is dead! Germaine Greer called it “C**t Power”–but c**t ownership doesn’t guarantee C**t Power. If your fashion sensibility was informed by early 90′s “waif” and “grunge,” then you may well be afflicted with the kind of apologetic body language which only a crash course in poise can eradicate. If you want C**t Power (C.P. for short)–and I’m assuming you do–you’d better comport yourself as if you deserve it. You must radiate a poised entitlement.

I contacted the Ophelia De Vore School of Charm, on the 31st floor of the Empire State Building, and spoke to the utterly charming James D. Carter about its curriculum. Mr. Carter, son of Charm School Empress Ophelia, is ready and willing to shape and mold the Friends generation into a more ladylike state. “Poise is the sense of where to place one’s feet and hands at the same time,” he said. “Our students learn walking, sitting and all aspects of etiquette. Above all, we teach women to have a constant awareness of their carriage and posture.”

Can the Ophelia De Vore method take a knock-kneed, doe-eyed ex-grunger and give her poise? Can he teach an old dog new tricks? According to Mr. Carter, “Poise is an acquired skill, and it’s never too late. We offer an eight-week program for $1,000, but we could compress this into a crash course and get you fixed up by Labor Day,” he said. “We can put the foundations into place and then it’s up to the individual to practice, practice, practice–and to associate exclusively with people with the same aspirations and desires.” Alumni include Dihann Carroll, Cicely Tyson and, less impressively, Sue Simmons of NBC.

Of course, you’re thinking you’d rather spend the $1,000 on the Marc Jacobs handbag. Then may I suggest you at least get yourself a copy of The Berkeley School Guide to Beauty, Charm and Poise , published by Milady in 1962. This hilarious tome has brilliant and ludicrous exercises that you and your girlfriends will find both amusing and ultimately life-enhancing.

Page 100 starts an all-important section called “Entering through an open doorway: When a poised woman comes into a room through an open doorway, she pauses … to allow others to become aware of her presence.” She does not rush “pell-mell, half-seated in the process, to become as obscure as possible.” She assumes the “Picture Pose … a beautiful asymmetrical position that will look intriguing” to the people in the room. “Its primary purpose is not glamour but courtesy. It allows others a moment to become aware of your presence” before you–head to toe in your newly acquired fall drag–enter and work the room with the aid of that hard-earned C.P.

Relax and sparkle!

The warm weather can certainly take the zest out of your daily exercise routine. Reinvigorate your workouts by listening to the soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange on your Walkman. The Moog-synthesized electronic excesses of Walter Carlos will definitely get your cellulite throbbing.

Never wear gym clothes to the gym; your workout attire should have a creative miscellany that adds humor to an often-overly-serious environment. At the NY911 Theme Store, you can purchase authentic NYPD and correctional facility T-shirts. My faves: “Witness Protection Program,” “Rikers Island Swim Team,” “NYPD Bomb Disposal.” These good-quality beefy T’s ($18) come in sizes S to XXL. Buy online through http://www.ny911.com or, better still, visit owner Noam Friedman at 263 Lafayette Street.

If you prefer firemen–I know I do–Noam’s parents run the New York Firefighter’s Friend store right next door, and they will happily sell you a “Keep Back 200 FT” T-shirt ($18). Purchase from their Web site at http://www.nyfirestore.com.

Are you on a bender? Boozing and shagging and staying up all night? Looking like an Elizabeth Taylor close-up in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? We all go though these debauched periods. It’s probably just a silent cry for help–no big deal. This town is full of good therapists, professional people who will happily listen to your drivel if you cross their palm with silver.

In the meantime, you might want to spend $25 on a Prescriptives Concealing Wand from the new Magic collection. This masterful item, according to the press release, “goes beyond the makeup artist and into the secrets of special effects artists, lighting specialists, masters of illusions … with light-dancing materials, prismatic textures and sensory mediums” (translation: It covers broken veins and dark circles).

One end of the wand dispenses concealer onto the offending area, while the other end blends the concealed area with the rest of your skin. This product works brilliantly–your therapist will think you are back on the straight and narrow. In the meantime, you can live a life of Dorian Gray-like, undetectable, poised dissipation.