In Which Our Bones Protrude In All the Right Places
Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 4:03PM

Our series on New York continues today with Molly Young on fashion week. Enjoy the rest of the series here and in the days to come.

Model Explosion 2008

by Molly Young

There's a Russian proverb that goes: "Don't blame the mirror if your face is crooked."

For brief periods in fall and spring, however, it is acceptable for us to blame the mirror. During the periods designated as Fashion Week in February and September, Manhattan fills up with models and industry types in town for the shows. The proportion of good-looking pedestrians rockets skyward. Everyone looks symmetrical. It is OK to feel a droop in self-esteem.

Like monarch butterflies and zucchini blossoms, models have a brief but explosive season. At some hours you can't go a block in Lower Manhattan without seeing a model marching industriously toward her next go-see, hair in a ponytail and portfolio in hand. Some of the models are so young they travel with their mothers.

Agyness Deyn always looks like she was just hit with a snowball

Seeing a model with her mother is always cause for relief, since I imagine the moms offset some of the unpleasant effects of an industry based entirely on appearance. Are there any other professions so closely bound to a person's looks? Perhaps a few: body doubles, jockeys, celebrity impersonators and the men hired at Christmas to dress up as Santa Claus.

Once you get used to the sight, there are pleasures to be had in model-spotting. Most important is the demystifying experience of seeing one in real life. Models, it turns out, seldom look the way they do in photographs. That is the whole point, of course, and the reason why "beautiful" and "photogenic" aren't synonyms.

The eerie-eyed Jessica Stam

Another thing is that most models are striking but not attractive. Attractive, I mean, in the literal sense of drawing people close: theirs is the kind of beauty you want to appreciate but not engage with. The model physiology of broad shoulders and narrow limbs is just not one that emanates warmth. Many of them have tiny heads.

In other words, do not be threatened by the biannual model influx. Enjoy it as a spectator. Once you've acclimated yourself to model standards, you'll begin to see how amazing they look. Not amazing in the way of normal women, but amazing like phosphorescent bacteria or ice floes. Nothing intimidating about that.

Molly Young is the contributing editor to This Recording. She tumbls here and frolics here.

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