Fashion Undressed: From the Runway, with Reason

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alison santighian for wardrobe oxygen

As a child, I was one of those (misguided) girls with a smidgen of artistic talent who sketched teal gown after teal gown (it was the 80s, after all). I dreamed of attending fashion school and presenting at runway shows in New York. But then I wanted to be a marine biologist, a biology teacher, a history teacher, a German teacher, and then ended up in the current day job, nowhere near fashion.

Then it all changed with bad pageant wear. There were batons, an off key opera, a stilted sonata, too. The Miss Virginia pageant was on a local cable channel, and a woman I followed on Twitter, known only to me as a pair of red soled black shoes in her profile pic, was snarking it up.

I tuned in, snarked along, and the rest is history.

Fast forward through childbirth, new jobs, new businesses, a lot of writing, opportunities made and grabbed, and I ended up right back in fashion, thanks to that snarky woman on Twitter whom I now call colleague and friend. Through social media we connected, realized our shared love of fashion, design, and the well-written word, and then of more “mundane” things like motherhood and reality TV. She was an editor for Glass magazine, and brought me on as a contributing writer, covering New York, London, Milan, and Paris runway shows.

And she asked me to come with her to NYFW to report from the tents. New York Fashion Week, my lifelong dream.

As the email correspondence between my editor and the designers’ PR reps hit my inbox, the whole thing got more surreal and more real simultaneously. I was a mess. Quickly, I had to learn the app used for RSVPs, invite etiquette, and all sorts of other logistics. All while juggling significant day job deadlines, activities for my kids (whom I call “the Beans”), and, oh yeah, had to still complete writing reviews from previous runway presentations.

It wasn’t until the night before the trip that I could even think about packing. How to pack for the most stylish event I’d ever attended, and in below freezing temps? I had no idea where to start. What I did know was that I wasn’t in the least bit worried about standing out. I wasn’t vying to be photographed by the tents (we’ve all seen the pictures of the “celebrities” and, now the bloggers, posing). I wanted, above all else, to simply look like I was meant to be there, even though I felt like a big ol’ pretender. In a bit of an existential fashion insider crisis, though, I realized on Friday night, that not only do I belong, but I have something to contribute to the fashion conversation. And just as my writing is what got me the gig at Glass, my writing is what earned me a spot next to the runways where I would soon almost literally feel the fashion fly past my face. That realization calmed me, and made it easier to pack. I put in four ensembles that make me feel good and strong and powerful, and off I went.

When I arrived in NYC by train, the train pulls into Penn Station through dark tunnels. I couldn’t see New York. I didn’t know where I was. Out of the platform, then up to the street I came. It’s bright, alive, and the world was zipping around.

Into a cab I went…off to experience my lifelong dream and get deeper into my passion for writing about fashion.

Look. Fashion with a capital “F” might not be your thing. You might look at those same runways I practically drooled over and think “Pshaw! That’s a crazy dress. Not only does she not look like me – at all – but there’s no way on this green earth that I’d put that on my body.” What I’ve learned over the years I’ve been reading and writing about fashion is that there’s a fascinating business of art and design behind it all. Sure, there’s drama about who’s taking over which fashion house, or hullabaloo about the gaffe someone made on the runway, but for most of us, that’s not the interesting bit. What’s interesting, and even useful, to the average woman buying clothes is where a textile began or why all the stores are carrying that infernal color that suits no one or their mother.

There are reasons, I promise you, and I hope to shed a little light on mysterious halls of Fashion in my time here at Wardrobe Oxygen.

Alison SantighianBy day, Alison Santighian is a contractor for the federal government, using her super powers to serve our country, but by night (after bedtime for her “Beans” now 7 and almost 5), she pines after the “it” factor. Alison and “H” (better known as #besthusbandever) don’t believe badass has an expiration date, so they hit concerts, shows, restaurants, and openings across the globe. Alison also writes for Glass Magazine, adding a business woman's eye to fashion week reviews and style features. Follow her on Twitter.


A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. Sounds like an interesting trip. It’s kind of fun to look at what gets shown on the runways and how that eventually trickles down to what a gal can actually afford at the mall. Glad to see you weren’t all black, which was what I assumed you’d pack for your working days.

    1. It was fascinating, Ginger, and I agree about seeing what does/doesn’t trickle down to the regular consumer, like us. For example, the blanket scarf and lumberjack shirts that are everywhere in this cold weather? Check out the Tommy Hilfiger collection (it was my “biggest” show, and where I got closest to brushes with real Fashion-y celebrity):

      And yup, I also had a black Helmut Lang rouched dress in my bag (bought on a gift card! and easy, one-stop-shopping), and the black tights, but I was only there two days – and these were the most comfortable. There’s an awful lot of black in the front row, if they’re there to see the fashion, but if they’re there to be seen? OH, boy, is *that* interesting.

    1. Check out my reply to Amanda, Phyllis – and yes – it was ridiculously exciting. I felt like such a geek for being so excited. But I love the machinations of it all, and the business behind it fascinates me, so…

    1. Thanks, Amanda! They were pretty simple (black involved, of course). I traveled in the first outfit (coated cotton moto jeans + a grey Hanes sweatshirt + navy patent Oxfords), and I rewore it – because I was comfortable and confident in it – that’s what it came down to for me. I was lucky enough to find some vintage pieces to mix in right before I left (2nd pic, a Pucci for Lord & Taylor – translation: not as expensive, but still the awesome print + a Vivienne Westwood high waisted pencil skirt I’d scored at a warehouse sale for probably a 1/4 of its regular cost) . I wore a traditional Romanian boiled wool coat (cuff in the 3rd pic, from the train station). I was sure no one would’ve seen before (my grandmother-in-law smuggled it out of communist Romania in the 70s). And black tights with black booties. Because it was horrendously cold. If you’re on IG and search the tag #DCtakesNY, you’ll find my pics from the trip, including a few of the shows and some celebrities (I had a few “moments.”)

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