The overload of hot-ticket events during Fashion Week can exhaust even the most devoted sartorial stalwarts, who must jockey between front-row seats and after-hours fêtes. Yet for fashion wannabes, a week of downing Cosmopolitans and sizing up seatmates' clothes sounds like the ultimate glamour game. For those who long to wedge themselves between Anna Wintour and Elizabeth Hurley in a Bryant Park tent, here are a few tips for catching glimpses of the glitterati.
- You've already missed Stella McCartney's dinner party at Seren, Serena Bass's hot new Chelsea Hotel hangout, for McCartney's new Chloé boutique, but now you can actually get into the subterranean lounge to nibble on Ecuadoran seviche. Fashion's aristocracy gathers again at Fred's restaurant in Barneys (September 15) for a private bash honoring one of fashion's queen bees, Polly Mellen. Nearly 250 of her closest friends, including Bill Blass and Richard Avedon, will toast the Allure creative director for her contribution to fashion, though a Barneys spokesperson notes that "we are forbidden to use the r word -- as in retirement or retrospective." And if you're forbidden entry, instead sip a martini at the bar in the Royalton's lobby (44 West 44th Street), which the fashion flock commandeers as the official pit stop between tent shows.
- For more celebrity hobnobbing, cab down to the Visionaire Gallery on Mercer Street (September 14), where photographer Mario Testino unveils snapshots from his new book, Front Row -- Backstage (Little, Brown; October). Or visit the Mary Boone Gallery (745 West 57th Street) for a peek at "Haute Bricolage," the new show from enfant terrible Tom Sachs (you don't need the Hermès vomit-bag invite to get in). Rub shoulders with fashion's night owls at Visionaire magazine's celebration for the launch of V, its bi-monthly fashion spin-off (September 14) -- though, unless you hold one of the invites bearing the party's secret address, you'll probably end up with only blisters after trudging through SoHo's streets in your Jimmy Choos.
- If you do manage to slide into a show, the gift bags -- or "seat candy," as sticky-fingered junior magazine staffers say -- may be disappointingly light. Still, Cynthia Rowley will bestow on her guests Stila cosmetics bags containing items from the line at her show at the New Yorker hotel (September 14). And at Rebecca Danenberg's sorceress-themed show in Bryant Park (September 15), guests will battle for muscle tees emblazoned with a silver sword. At her show at the Altman Building (September 15), Nicole Farhi will serve each guest one cheese biscuit from Nicole's, the designer's new eatery. Escape the throngs outside and repair to the beautiful-people boîte Fressen (421 West 13th Street) to tally up your booty over rib-eye steak and baby greens.
- Donatella Versace returns to the Roseland Ballroom on September 12 for another rock-and-roll fashion show, with Les Digitales Rhythms performing while Spike Lee, Bruce Springsteen, and Natasha Richardson provide high-wattage entertainment in the front row. If the Versus spectacle proves too overwhelming, try to squeeze into RubinChapelle's tiny West 25th Street atelier the following night. The forward-thinking design pair is forgoing a catwalk to show a film short featuring models in artful poses throughout New York; the score promises the East Village indie band Blond Redhead and old-school rap beats. And if you're not feeling intrepid enough to brave the fashion wilds, just hole up in your apartment with The Designer Collection: The Best Music From the International Runways CD ($14.99; available at Saks Fifth Avenue).