Fashion: dress sense

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The Independent Culture
Fashion Week: London's most glamorous event to be held in a tent. For five days, the tourist route between South Kensington Underground and the Natural History Museum becomes home to the strange and skinny. The dinosaurs have stepped out of the museum and there are sights that will make you stop and stare. Heels designed for dangling prettily off well-pedicured feet rather than for walking tip-tap their way back and forth, carrying their black-clad, finely-groomed owners from show to show. You don't need to have privileged access to the shows to enjoy London Fashion Week. The entertainment is open to all. It's called people-watching, an obscure form of ornithology. And the birds in question are well-plumed indeed.

For the fashion editors, the buyers, the photographers and the fashion PRs, each and every one permanently talking into a mobile, this is the start of the season. These people - and I must include myself - are all highly trained in the art of frock-watching. "That's nothing to boast about," you might say. But to sit from 9am till 9pm, staring at the catwalk for days on end is no mean feat.

Mere mortals get bored after five minutes. They prefer TV fashion, where each show is edited into a 30-second snatch of shiny lipstick, skimpy clothes and pounding music. The fashionistas have the stamina of marathon runners. We can memorise the shape of a skirt, the length of a hem and the cut of a jacket in seconds. And another one, and another. Sane people would go cross-eyed and pass out with giddiness. But not only can "fashion folk" - as we like to be called - endure excruciating pain from wearing the sorts of shoes that come with a government health warning, and "do summer" all year round (translates into English as wearing slip dresses regardless of the sub-zero temperatures), we also have an unnatural appetite for fashion.

We scoff at "anoraks" and computer geeks with their tunnel vision for computer programs and websites. How sad, we think. But we are exactly the same. We talk, breathe, live and wear fashion. It really floats our boats. We have even been known to develop an addiction to the Conde Nast website, and log on religiously every day. Frock freaks, each and every one of us.

So if you happen to be planning a trip to the Natural History Museum or the V&A in the next few days, take a tip from me. Save your voluntary donation and spend it instead on a few coffees and a sandwich at one of the local cafes. If you can get a table outside, so much the better. It's what we call "front row", two words that are almost as important in fashion vocabulary as "champagne", "fab" and "darling". From your ringside seat, you can see some real-life rare birds - black-winged glamour vultures. You won't have seen anything else quite like it. !

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