'Get Your Leather On'

That Yeah Yeah Yeahs song, playing during a runway walk, isn't a bad description of Bellevue's "Fashion Week '09." A non-fashionista drops in at the Hyatt Regency.
From Fashion Week '09 in Bellevue

From Fashion Week '09 in Bellevue Sue Frause

Although I wouldn't be considered a fashionista, I've always been intrigued by fashion shows. Maybe because I participated in one while in junior high, where I modeled a cheesy white polyester two-piece suit with plastic gold buttons from the Mode O'Day in Arlington.

My first grown-up fashion shows were at the Seattle Sheraton, where the ladies who lunch sat around huge round tables quaffing wine as they watched the waif-like models present styles that most of us (a) could never wear, (b) could never afford, or (c) both. Several years ago I had my first French fashion fix in Paris, at one of the City of Light's department stores. It was held in a huge auditorium, and both the male and female versions were sporting summer and resort wear, looking oh-so-ready for their weekend getaways on the French Riviera. Ooh la la.

My latest fashion feast was Thursday at Fashion Week '09, which runs through Sunday in Bellevue. The venue was the new Olympic Tower of the Hyatt Regency Bellevue ("On Seattle's Eastside"), which opened on July 31 following a $185 million expansion. Attendees were mostly bathed in black, myself included, clutching their wine glasses and programs as they picked out a prime runway seat. The Jackson 5's "One More Chance" blared over the sound system and soon the house lights dimmed and the show unfolded. The eight segments ranged from all things dark and sparkly to biker and disco wear.

The crowd was appreciative, but didn't seem quite sure how to react to sullen, long-legged young women sporting sequined tights and shredded pantyhose. The collection was from the stores of Bellevue Square, Lincoln Square, and Bellevue Place, and was definitely not high fashion. Lots of denim, faux fur, black, leather, boots, sequins, and hooded sweaters and weekend-in-the-country wear. Not exactly cutting-edge, but affordable and available at such mainstream stores as Macy's, GUESS?, and Banana Republic.

Guys were represented — both on the runway and in the audience (including "Mr. Bellevue," Kemper Freeman, who sat directly across from me). My favorite was the male model sporting some sort of faux fur hat, a la Marge in the movie Fargo. He looked like a lost squirrel searching for a tree.

Music is a big part of fashion shows, and the menu ranged from "Get Your Leather On" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water." I wish they'd include the music credits along with the fashion descriptions on the program.

"I can't figure out what's what!" said the 40-something guy next to me, poring over his program. It was his first fashion show, and for the most part he was all smiles and laughs. The woman behind me, who told her hubby earlier to "turn down your hearing aid," seemed perplexed by the whole production. At one point she said to her friend, "It's a little bit better than a Boeing rollout."

Sue Frause is a Whidbey Island freelance writer and photographer. You can reach her at sue@suefrause.com.


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