XIX Women, 1 Cabbie, 150 Wigs & The Style Of A City

Where in the world would you guess this fashion week scene took place?

A Gilded Age hotel festooned with carvings and topped with rotundas.  Inside wedding cake molding swirls across domed ceilings doused in creme brulee.  Paned French doors open to intimate wrought-iron edged terraces perched above the rooftops. Strands of immense pearl necklace lights looped from the ceiling gleam softly as the sky dims. Silks and satins rustle, glasses clink, stilettos tap on marble floor.

Feels like Paris, non?

How about this next encounter?

Woman flounces across an intersection in an inky sheer chiffon butterfly-patterned pantsuit finished with tiered capelet back.  Cabbie leans out his window and yells, "Hey lady!  Nice dress!"

Sounds like New York, eh?

Meanwhile downtown:

Dark street.  Fluorescent lights.  Shelves of wigs.  A sign that reads: "Home of the Chemo Cap."

Now that doesn't sound like fashion week at all, does it?

All of these scenes happened this fall in Philadelphia during our emerging version of fashion week, The Philadelphia Collection.    And each turned a fashion cliche on its head.

At that first scene, a party honoring the XIX Most Fashionable Women In Philadelphia , the honorees seemed most interested in celebrating each other, introducing themselves to someone new, complimenting another guest's attire. The award honored community service and philanthropy as much as fashion and the conversation flowed accordingly. And then along came our mayor, who after a speech on the podium mingled into the crowd and whipped out his cell phone to snap some candid pics of these women himself. To my utter delight this was about as far from the stereotype of a snooty fashion crowd as you can get.

As with a woman, the style of a city can have many facets.  There's grit, there's glamour, there's posh parties and beers at dive bars.  It's fun to be invited to swanky soirees but as that cabbie on my street corner proves, appreciation of beauty and fashion doesn't require an RSVP. 

I haven't been to fashion week anywhere else so I can't say what that would be like. But from the tech guy who laughingly showed me his best catwalk poses as he set up a show to a young photographer snapping fashion for the first time

and filled with excitement about it, to a designer friend who showcased her own clients (of all shapes, sizes and ages) as runway models, to the owner of that wig store whose work with chemo patients gives beauty a whole new layer of meaning, to that cabbie and those XIX women -- in so many moments that week, my city of Philadelphia was not trying to be Paris or Milan or New York, but was wonderfully, quirkily and completely her own.

For the third year The Philadelphia Collection celebrated all aspects of Philly fashion with a jam-packed week of runway shows, trunk shows, pop-up shops, cinema screenings, parties and more.  

Also in its third year: Nicole Miller Philadelphia and Mary K. Dougherty / MKDA's XIX Most Fashionable Women in Philadelphia at XIX Restaurant at the Bellevue.  New in 2012 were sponsor Lagos jewelry and a raffle to support The Philadelphia Fashion Incubator.  Special thanks to Lagos' Community Relations Manager Janice Waitkus for including me in this special evening.  

Congratulations to the 2012 XIX Most Fashionable Women In Philadelphia:  Floss Barber, Mary Jo Barthmaier, Karen Bliss, Pat Ciarrocchi, Hope Cohen, Susan Francia, Barbara Gee, Karen Giberson, Lauren Hart, Kristen Laviolette, Danuta Mieloch, Natalie Nixon, Donna O'Brien, Emilly Risser, Kathy Romano, Dana Spain, Dr. Susan Taylor, Rosemary Turner and Sarah Van Aken; and to 2012 Visionaires Joan Pileggi and Joan Spain.  

Find out more about Melissa D'Agostino's unique runway show and Lois' wig shop in upcoming posts. 

TOP PHOTO via Hyatt at the Bellevue.  BOTTOM PHOTO courtesy Marjorie Amon Photography.  To see more party pics and who wore what, visit Al B For's blog and event album.

"Use the good china for breakfast."