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Satire: Jane Austen At SmashBox, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

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Dear Cassandra,

It’s been almost a fortnight since I returned from visiting Miss Fong, who bid me to accompany her to view the latest fashions at a show sponsored by a Germanic family. As of late, I have been unwrapping parcels, given to us gratis to reciprocate our having been there. So-called "swag bags," I suppose, to connote the frill at the end of the draperies.

I find myself in possession of cosmetics suitable for someone in the theatre and a collection of “t-shirts,” which are unusual men’s undergarments printed with names of products. Sister dear, these are what “normal” men and women wear on the street. Daresay, where we live, I wonder if even the poor would want them.

photo by theo westenbergWe drove in a black horseless carriage across broad expanses of asphalt. I was surprised to find the I-5 and I-10 freeways have as much appeal as a soggy rutted road in the middle of winter. The journey lasted ninety minutes, during which time Miss Fong and I waited in line behind other carriages as at times we were proceeding at walking pace.

We arrived at a store called Trader Joe's and, after circling, found a spot in the car park. I begged leave to stop in at the store, (which I found preferable to Tesco). We bought Cadbury and scones as other travelers have said there is little food at the oddly named Smash Box Studios, a duchy owned by the grandsons of cosmetics duke, Max Factor.

Miss Fong and I then caught a public coach over to Smash Box Studios, where there was a long queue. There were many young women in mourning – never have I seen so much black. To my shock, a feather-haired gentleman was engaged in a mild flirtation with one of the widows. It was not until Miss Fong indicated that indeed in Los Angeles, wearing black needn’t mean they’re widows. As such, we spoke to one of the ladies at length. Sadly, I’ve concluded most of the women are spinsters.

We saw many collections. Though I can’t say these were the latest fashions from Le Beau Monde, there were a few gowns brought over on a trade ship from India that managed to captivate. There was no fullness in the back or sides, rather the gowns hung from the shoulders and were gathered below the bosom to be secured with jewel encrusted belt of gold and silver threads.

The colors were like a peacock, and indeed, it's what Mr. and Mrs. Falguni & Shane called their line – Peacock Couture. I wanted to know if this couple from India had ever run across Colonel Brandon, however, no sooner had I made it within speaking distance when we were whisked off to see a show by The Lady Muse.

Wigless footmen with ill-fitted pants were goose-stepping on stage, looking quite serious, wearing the type of brocade one might find on the most expensive of draperies. The lady has a great sense of humour, and I shall write to our brother Edward to order several for his staff.

Falguni&ShaneOver a few days, we were subjected to crashing music, more mourning outfits, ruffians, ragamuffins, and notables hopelessly trying to avoid notice. The models were thin and without adequate bosom to fill the decolletage of many of the fashions. 

Despite their rather wispy and waiflike appearance, Miss Fong assured me the models are indeed, paid. On the last day, we saw a tribe of women with very large lips with hair left to dry, wearing nothing but undergarments.

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is, to say without exaggeration, the most democratic of events. For all the improprieties, the people were open, and most eager to make an impression. Fortunately, I met the erudite sartorialist Sir Tim Gunn. While not partaking in the free DHL cookies, Sir Tim could be overheard telling everyone to "make it work." 

Pussycat DollsI will write again. I have a large number of cards and papers for free body treatments I received at the event. Despite proper judgment, I hope to go again. Though changed by this event, I remain your sister, -J.A.

Photo of a Modern-Day Jane Austen by Theo Westenberg; All Other Photos courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

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