Coats and Totes from the Underground

Coats and Totes from the Underground
Confessions of a Coatcheck Boy
by Zachary Palmer

On February 4, I placed myself at an intersection of nightlife and fashion, working the Rachel Zoe for Halston afterparty at Don Hill’s. Here’s how the night went down. In some instances initials shall be employed, for discretion’s sake.

7:40 I arrive at the club, located on Greenwich Street at the corner of a less Chanel- and Longchamp Paris-filled section of Spring Street. Ready to work all night in a basement, I am bundled up with little fashion care. That said: distressed jeans, too-short pants (jeans?), Doc Martens and plaid/flannel are all listed in’s ‘BIG IN ‘08 12 trends to embrace now (before they’re ruined by everyone else).’ Far from the venue’s usual rock feel, the stage and main floor look like a living room decorated by an expatriated-to-Morocco Norman Rockwell.

7:45 In the basement, the side room that holds (or, held) the famous MisShapes white wall has been turned into a kitchen. I prepare the cloakroom, which is filled to overflowing with Pellegrino and champagne. Backpacks are tossed around the coat racks like sandbags.

8:13 The music starts. The DJs, mod and pompadoured, look imported. All night long they play a lot of British Invasion.

9:00 A mix of fashion industry personalities and men with trays of food fills through the main room. After mornings spent bundling features and days spent evaluating the boning of the collections while being, though bundled up, frozen to the bone, this is the Prom — with couture instead of corsage, and Botox instead of boutonnière. Having dodged the paint of PETA protesters, these people are out to paint the town red.

9:05 Shirley Temple in hand, I run downstairs to gain more experience in “loss prevention management.”

9:14 Cough, Condé Nast’s Fashion Rocks publication, cough — we have an intersection of fashion and rock ‘n’ roll. Dave Stern shows up; he was at the Great White reunion show last month at Don Hill’s.

9:25 A woman whose name she pronounces as “you are young”, reporting for PopWatch, checks her coat, gets cold and takes it back. She says she almost submitted to The L’s Short Fiction competition. I coddle her with understanding words about how it takes a lot of tweed to work up that kind of courage.

9:31 I often tell people, “Today the cloakroom, tomorrow the Vogue fashion closet.” Right now, one might be confused for the other: the cold cloakroom turns into an haute couture chamber. A woman checks a gray, cropped Diane von Furstenberg pea coat. I glow in as many colors as the DVF store at 874 Washington St.

9:34 Someone has read his email blast. Looking very Eazy-E meets E Street Band, he wears a blue and black plaid flannel.

9:43 I finally notice, and partake of, dana & david’s food. Tonight’s menu is: mini bistro cheddar burger with lettuce and tomato, American caviar on toast points with crème fraiche and snipped chives, crispy fries in paper cones with spicy homemade ketchup, locally smoked Atlantic salmon rosettes on black bread with dill butter, all beef pigs-in-a-blanket with spicy mustard, mini grilled cheese and tomato on truffled brioche. A line has formed for the cloakroom, like waiting in outer offices for a meeting with a magazine editor. Only there are more
magazine staffers here, and now I get to be the ball breaker.

9:50 S.B. and T.A. show up. T.A. is very happy about the tits and ass quality to her initials, as if she were named yesterday. Her top, a bit frilly and showing a fair amount of T, looks like filigree spray-painted on fabric.

10:04 “Look for the woman in the dress. If there is no woman, there is no dress,” said Coco Chanel.
S.P. comes downstairs with a
Chanel Bag.

10:20 J.J. and J.P., both cougars, check their coats. To ensure coat ownership, the cloakroom policy is to mark initials on the back of the part of the ticket that goes on the hanger. I will continue that here — few names, mostly initials.

10:29 Liz receives claim check 273, which goes to a bluish gray Marc Jacobs military jacket. Later, I tell her that I like her haircut. The coat is perfect for a winter tour of duty; the haircut is a LES-update of Anna Wintour’s classic bob.

10:30 I cruise the main room. Under the exposed pipes of the dance floor, cougar magazine editors with their couture piping hit on assistants who pull four-figures, dandies walk pipe-in-hand over carpets spotted with water dripped from pipes, sidepipe’ing male models pass piping hot hors d’oeuvres and bloggers race to cover the culture of haute couture. The party is a good mix of older, fashionable ladies and hipsters, all dancing. The DJs have the mixer’s treble way up, and the music is louder than usual. There are plenty of suits and plenty of T-shirts, thankfully, though, not paired together. Maybe Fashion Week has finally killed, not just dug up again, a trend.

10:37 I call out, “Watch your drinks!” just before champagne gets spilled on a puffy coat. No worries, there is an open bar upstairs. While the models are subsisting on lettuce, Aspirin and Diet Coke and editrixes are pairing architectural coats with skin-tight leggings, men are showing up in bulk.

10:40 K.F. checks a tan, patterned, three-quarter-length Burberry coat. Not the Burberry plaid, but my eyes go to the label. He is wearing glasses similar to RUN-DMC’s classic frames. K.F. returns without his glasses and, before showing me his claim ticket, I have matched his face and coat.

10:53 I run upstairs to see Christian Slater. He is in the VIP area, like a Theatre World Award recipient gone 20 years from the stage asking for the best table at Sardi’s. Other celebrity sightings include Helena Christensen, Top Chef’s Padma Lakshmi and Veronica Webb. Thank you, Fashion Inc. blogger Stephanie Prommer.

11:55 The owner of a lined zebra color/cheetah-dotted coat returns. Her name is Tracy Shone and she works for Condé Nast Traveler. We talk about our magazines, with some awkward, explanatory ELLE confusion in between.

12:15 The caterers start passing desserts: classic chocolate brownies, French meringue macaroons in assorted flavors: coffee, passion fruit, chocolate, strawberry, green tea.

12:20 I tell a woman that the structure/architecture of her skirt looks like Balenciaga (it moves freely, but has a definite underwire quality), it is like a boneless, amorphous disco ball. She says that it is from Target and tells me that, to great response, she has been wearing low-priced pieces all week. I think that she is the woman who told me that it is only The L that she reads to find out what to do.

12:25 I return a Valentino coat to a woman who, when teased, says that she bought it at a sample sale. I offer to be her assistant.

12:40 Two women pick up their coats and, it turns out, a brassiere. The woman with the bra’s sister is associated with Halston. I show her the Halston tie stashed in my bag. I earn an education on the difference in labels (lettering, borders) between Halston vintage and more recent pieces. Mine is a Randolph, I think.

1:28 The two remaining coats are retrieved. Their owners do not tip. Such is life. Goodnight.


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