By Angela Wu, 15, Walnut HS
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Is that a skirt? Yes, several skirts like this one were displayed to resemble a pressed flower.

I got swept up in the beautiful (expensive, yes, but beautiful) world of fashion in eighth grade. I don’t mean stores at the mall, but the glamorous world of Karl Lagerfeld, Daria Werbowy and other clothes that I can’t afford. I don’t know why I’m so fascinated by fashion—it’s not like I can buy much. I think it’s more the idea of it that caught me. It’s never ceasing, never boring and always beautiful.

I heard about Prada’s "Waist Down: Skirts by Miuccia Prada" exhibit on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills from fashion blogs when it reached New York in April after passing through Tokyo and Shanghai in 2004 and 2005.

Waist Down, which is open until August 27, is an exhibit of more than a hundred of Prada’s skirts from 1988 to today that retail from $4,000 to $30,000. Skirts have appeared often on Prada’s runway since the creation of its women’s ready-to-wear line in 1988. From A-line to micro-mini, gray to neon, skirts have always been an important part of Prada.

Though I did enjoy seeing the beautiful skirts and the changing trends (full and dark in 2001, colorful and really short in 2003, short and really colorful in 2005), I was most entertained by the creative ways they are displayed.

Some are fitted over lit mannequins like lampshades, highlighting slits and openings. Others disappear into matching curtains, are vacuum packed to look like pressed flowers, or are presented with magnifying lens for viewers to see tiny details. The few skirts left on hangers move back and forth over customized windshield wipers.

My favorite were light skirts that spun over modified ceiling fans, moving in the flowing way skirts do when girls try them on.

I didn’t feel intimidated entering the store because a smiling sales associate quickly approached me as I stood outside and gave me a commemorative pin and information brochure. Another reason was the architecture of the store itself—the Prada "Epicenter," as Prada stores are called, does not have a door. The store simply opens up to the street.

However, once I began to wander around the store, I noticed the numerous security guards standing in front of displays. It was awkward for me to read display descriptions or get a closer look at a skirt because the security guards were standing in front of the plaque or skirt. I thought this defeated the purpose of the exhibit, which was to be interactive and give a "full-fledged view," according to the brochure, of the skirt. I understand that the skirts are very expensive, but I felt the number of guards was excessive. After a few minutes in the store, I knew where Buckingham Palace, the Queens’ residence in London, gets its guards—Prada.

Though I was tempted to touch the swirling skirts, to wander around the store, to stay longer, the number of imposing, black-suited guards made me feel like I was somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be. With a few quick, uncomfortable glances at the rest of the skirts, I left, only to find that many of the other stores on Rodeo Drive are also swarming with security.

Still, a trip to the exhibit is worth it for those interested in both fashion and art, because it combines the two. The creative exhibition design by AMO, or the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, makes skirts into not just clothes but pieces of art.

It was interesting to see something so everyday displayed in ways that I’d never thought of. Although many of the displays weren’t on actual mannequins, some were exhibited in ways that gave a better idea of how the skirt would move on a human body. Other displays presented fashion as art, which may not have been its original purpose, but made it new, fresh and interesting.

The Waist Down exhibit is free and open until Aug. 27 at the Prada Epicenter on 343 N. Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.