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Resisting the Serious at Heart Truth Red Dress

Laura Bush

Carolina Herrera, Michael Vollbracht (thanks, commenters!), and Laura Bush at the Heart Truth Red Dress show.Photo:

Our first two shows at this Fashion Week served up a larger helping of meat and cheese, respectively, than anything we saw in September. For the meat, we have to thank John Bartlett, whose preppy classic menswear made its way down the runway on the backs of some of the best-looking men we’ve ever seen. In our lives. Our mouths may have been hanging open, just a little bit, for the duration of the show. And our notes read something like, “Nice overcoat. Wow. Wow. Hot. Hot. Wow.” Why don’t we go to more menswear shows??

And as for the cheese … the Heart Truth Red Dress Collection, which featured celebrities modeling red dresses designed by a variety of big names in order to raise awareness about the danger of heart disease for women, was probably the schmalziest thing we’ve ever seen. Don’t get your panties in a wad: We think it’s a good cause, and Lord knows, if we had hearts, we’d be concerned about protecting them. Yay for charity. But it was definitely an atypical event: For one, we’ve never been to a fashion show that featured more earnest, visible thumbs-ups from the front row, and we’d certainly never seen the tents studded with Secret Service agents.

They were there to protect First Lady Laura Bush, who is an active spokesperson for the cause, and who cruised in to her front-row seat with a well-orchestrated stop at the photo pit and a relative minimum of fanfare. The closest thing we got was some elbows from the people jostling to the front of the teeming, chaotic line. Seriously, we’d been at Fashion Week for all of an hour and already we’d heard someone shouting, “WELL. WHO is the event producer?!?”

The oddities continued when the show began with a video explaining the dangers of heart disease for women. In it, Angela Bassett traded lines with Mrs. Bush, and while the latter maintained the usual quiet gravitas, Bassett’s primary direction seemed to have been, “Okay, take that line about death and make it SEXIER.” It came off as if her subtext was, “So since we’re all going to have heart attacks, you’d better take off your pants NOW and live it up, naked-style.” It was kind of unsettling, to be honest, and probably not all that great for the pulses of a few attendees.

Kelly Ripa

Kelly doesn’t have to wear that dress tonight.Photo:

To be totally frank, though, we thoroughly enjoyed the show. As strange and un–Fashion Week as it felt to see people who weren’t clad in Heatherette twirling madly down the runway, we couldn’t argue with the pageantry and the vibe. The crowd, studded more (we believe) with politicos and Washingtonians than celebrities, ate it up — especially the appearance of doctor, chemical engineer, former astronaut, and Peace Corps member Mae Jemison (she’s a bit of an underachiever, eh?); an endearingly self-conscious Rachael Ray who, wrapped in a flowing red Donna Karan gown, bashfully muttered, “Thank God” to herself as she finished her walk; a slightly uncomfortable but surprisingly muscular Katharine McPhee, who seemed stiffly scared that her Swarovski crystal cut-to-there minidress would eject one of her breasts; a typically sassy Kelly Ripa in a glittering Diane von Furstenberg cocktail dress and her beaming husband Mark Consuelos filming the entire thing with a handheld camera from his front-row seat; NBC anchor Natalie Morales, who accidentally flashed Laura Bush with her bare ass when she did an overexuberant twirl in her flouncy frock; and the pioneering man-trouncing lesbian tennis player Billie Jean King, who did a slow pass back and forth while waving and patting her chest.

So, fine: It was kind of like a really upscale church fashion show. But we’re not entirely made of stone. When Phylicia Rashad sashayed down the runway, resplendent in a caftan and wearing that signature Clair Huxtable expression that says, “Oh, Cliff, now I KNOW you’re not going to eat that sandwich,” our apparently about-to-explode hearts melted a bit. Even lady-loving photographer Nigel Barker from America’s Next Top Model, one of the few recognizable front-row faces, was grinning madly at her. What can we say? We can’t resist Clair. No one can. — The Fug Girls

Watch a slideshow of John Bartlett’s looks.
Watch video of the Heart Truth Red Dress collection.
Watch a slideshow of the Heart Truth Red Dress looks.

Resisting the Serious at Heart Truth Red Dress