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An insider's guide to the tents at New York's Fashion Week

Tracy E. Hopkins is an accomplished writer, blogger and editor living in New York City. She has expertise covering travel, fashion, health and entertainment.

Feast or fashion

Fashion Week. The tents are a thrill, but it's not all glitz and glamour. Eight days of braving disorderly queues to proudly get a seat assignment or humbly accept standing room, or waiting in yet another line for free wine or a pair of Haviannas' flip-flops can wear down even the most resilient fashionista. Still, the highs outweigh the lows, so I'll be back next season. Here's my recap of Spring 2009 Fashion Week highlights - the good, the bad, and the swag.

Fashion Week ModeslYou've Got the Look

I saw several memorable shows in the tents, including collections by Rubin Singer (sophisticated and structured), Milly by Michelle Smith (bohemian and youthful), and Gottex (Brazilian beach glamour). Offsite shows, however, offer a welcome respite from the overcrowded tents. One of my favorite shows was Style 360's 30th anniversary Jordache show at the Metropolitan Pavilion. "America's Next Top Model" Cycle 6 winner Danielle Evans headlined and strutted the cat walk in a sexy blue body suit and hi-waist skinny jeans. From the front row, "Top Model" runway coach "Miss Jay" beamed like a proud, er… Mama. The rest of the show revealed, for better and for worse, the Jordache look hasn't changed much in three decades. Tees with the brand's horse head logo were playful. Acid wash, neon pink tube tops, and anything resembling Olivia Newton John's "Let's Get Physical" ensemble, however, should be left where they belong -- in the ‘80s.

The Good, the Bad

Pre-Fashion Week, I accepted an invitation to the Yummie Tummie lingerie presentation at the West Bank Cafe. I entered the cramped lower-level bar where the event took place only to witness body stocking and g-string-clad strippers twirling around poles to hip-hop beats, while sweaty male onlookers cheered and glared. Not my idea of a fun outing. I was outta there faster than you could say panty raid. On the contrary, "Project Runway" alum Malan Breton's early morning show at Bryant Park was a class act. The theme, "The 5 Elements Meet Glamour," was partly inspired by actress Julie Andrews in the cult classic "Star," and a copy of the movie was included in each guest's generous goodie bag. From his collection, I adore Breton's sleek black dresses and elegant wide legged trousers in lace and jewel tones.

Let's Swag

Anna Wintour

Besides the riveting shows, I love the freebies. The pickings were slimmer than previous seasons, but I struck swag gold at the Budget Fashionista fifth anniversary bash at the Housing Works thrift store in Chelsea. The Payless "I Love Shoes" canvas tote gift bag included a pair of comfy thong slippers, a copy of "How to Be a Budget Fashionista," travel size Febreze, and Dashing Diva nail polish. Even better was the gift certificate for Fashion Bug's "Right Fit" jeans. Using the Right Fit size chart, I'm a size 7 petite Red for moderately curvy women (yellow sizes are for straight frames and blue are for curvy women with full hips). To order your Right Fit jeans, go to www.fashionbug.com.

Location, Location, Location

A unique location adds flair to a Fashion Week show. Doucette Duvall showcased their whimsical "Red, White and Nude" show at Christie's gallery and auction house in Rockefeller Center. Models wearing vibrant, vintage-inspired frocks made from recycled fabric and trim stood in front of artwork along a path lined with green apples. In keeping with the presentation's Southern comfort feel, guests sipped champagne and noshed on mini burgers, grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese tarts, and small cones of fries. Other cool locations included Cho Cheng's elegant spring collection at the New York Public Library's Astor Hall, where attendees received a single white rose and a cream and green silk scarf, and Nuj Novakett's modern Spring/Summer 2009 presentation at a penthouse loft on W. 37th Street.

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