Every year, second semester rolls around and St Andrews fulfils all the stereotypes we hear about before arriving, with an inundation of balls and fashion shows. For some of us, that means filling our weekends with glitzy hairstyles, dresses/suits and glamorous nights out with our friends. For others, myself usually among them, it means that our studies and/or sleep is periodically punctuated with the loud revelry of people returning from those nights out.
I had never been to a fashion show before, so I was excited to attend FS and see what all the buzz was about. I’m not inherently interested in fashion, but I do like the idea of raising money for charity and the historic (well, relatively at least) trappings of a show that’s been going since the 90s.
I came to the wristband collection only a few minutes before noon, closing time, and the room was pretty packed. There was a pretty long queue of people who I can only assume also forgot to get their wristbands until the last minute, but it was moving pretty well and everyone seemed excited for the evening ahead. They also seemed happy with the contents of their bags, but I’m afraid I can’t comment on them much since my press pass sadly didn’t entitle me to a bag.
When Saturday evening came, I swiped some glitter onto my nails, slipped into my cutest black dress and sparkly heels, and headed across town to Lower College Lawn. Not long past 7:15, they opened the doors and let us file in. Before I could get into the actual stage area, however, I had to wait in line in the entrance to use the coat check. It was quite a slow queue, but no one seemed to mind much since there was still time until the show started.
Finally it was time to enter the main tent. And I have to say, it was breathtaking. I’ve been on Lower College Lawn many times, but I never realised what a huge space it was until I stepped into that tent, looking down at the stage and viewing areas (peppered with tables and covered in snacks and wine). I was pleasantly surprised to find that, even as more people filed into the event, it never became so crowded as to be uncomfortable. This even extended to the women’s restroom, which did have a queue (since none of us were keen to try the portapotties), but a relatively short one with a wait time of just ten or fifteen minutes.
Soon enough the lights went down, the music pumped up, and the first models began to strut down the runway. The energy in the room was exhilarating. I wriggled my way forward in the crowd until I was actually standing at the front of the VIP section, mere centimetres from the action. From this excellent vantage point, I was able to properly take in the show. And what a show it was. The impressive models walked back and forth, stopping periodically to display themselves in front of the crowd before whirling around to continue their march. In the first half of the show they kept up a bored expression, staring vacantly ahead of themselves; in the second half, though, their resolve weakened. The closer we got to the end, the more I saw them breaking character to smile or laugh or wave at their friends. Perhaps the most impressive interaction with the crowd I saw, though, was when one of the male models took a rose from the girl next to me without slowing down or even seeming to look in her direction.
Having never been to a fashion show, I was a bit taken aback at the level of nudity in the lingerie segment, especially when the male models were wearing trousers and regular shirts while the girls were strutting around in thongs and bras that left almost nothing to the imagination. Initially, I squirmed at the way these women had been asked to show themselves off in a way that the men were not. But as the models strutted around the stage, clearly confident and unashamed of their bodies, I looked around and realised that most of the cheers in the audience were coming from the other women who lined the stage and were yelling encouragement up at their friends, rather than catcalls from admiring men. These women were not being “made” to do anything, but rather they were proud of their bodies and were choosing to display them. I may still not be entirely comfortable with the way they did so, but I respect their choice and honestly envy their self-confidence.
Besides the extremely high ticket prices, the other way FS raises money for charity is by holding an auction halfway through the show. The auctioneer, a well-dressed girl with an insufficient microphone, tried her best to read out the descriptions of the items being sold while the noise from the crowd almost overpowered her. Luckily the descriptions of the items were also put up on the video screens, so people knew what was up for sale. They included a dinner for two at a restaurant in town and a few bottles of expensive alcohol, plus many different trips for varying numbers of people and nights to various locations. Whether it was the amount of alcohol that had already been consumed, or the fact that it was going to charity, the auction items all went for much higher than they were probably worth.
After the last section of the show had ended, the lights came back up and the show officially ended. Many people straggled out to buy pizza or chips from the vendors just outside the tent and then returned inside to twirl to the dance music now filling the venue, while others grabbed their coats and headed for afterparties elsewhere. I hung around for a while longer, watching the fun, but once it became clear that nothing else was happening I got my own coat and headed home to my bed and my Netflix. I am not exactly a wild party girl.
Looking back over the whole evening now, I can say that I am very glad I went. It was more than just an interesting peek into a glitzy side of St Andrews that I don’t see very often; I honestly had a lot of fun. I completely understand why St Andrews has such a tradition of fashion shows, because they are an exciting night out that stands out from the myriad balls we are more used to attending in this town. I don’t think that I will spend £75 to attend FS next year (and certainly not £90 for VIP), but it’s certainly an enjoyable, classy evening that I can recommend for a group of friends with some money to burn.
Photos courtesy of Harry Gunning Photography for Owl Eyes Magazine.