It is now just over two weeks until the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival (LMFF) takes over this town. Countless extra visitors will trek into the city for the fiesta and we’ll all spend about $55 million in the enjoyable process. The official runway shows book out rapidly yet, as the event line-up seems ever expanding, we are overwhelmingly spoilt for choice as to alternatives. So we’ve decided to save the fashion-inclined some precious time. In no particular order, this is Broadsheet Melbourne’s edit of the top ten things to do during the festival off the runway.

The Spirit of the Black Dress
Runs throughout the festival. Georges on Collins, 195 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
Ten emerging designers are chosen to re-envision the iconic black dress. The pieces will then feature in a glorious photographic exhibition styled by Spook mag’s Jordan Moore. The entrants will be selected by judges including LMFF director Karen Webster, fashion editor Janice Breen Burns and designer Joe Saba.

Patsyfox Drawing Salon and “On the Street… Patsyfox”
March 10–21. Guilford Lane Gallery, 20 Guilford Lane, Melbourne
Break out your Derwent pencils. Melbourne Illustrator Angie Rehe, aka Patsyfox, is offering fashion illustration classes for beginners and you lucky souls who already posses a little talent. If you don’t dare test your skills perhaps you would prefer to simply act the voyeur? Patsyfox presents an exhibition of stylish past illustrations during the “On the Street… Patsyfox” exhibition.

Fat is Complex
March 16–20. Old Melbourne Gaol precinct, 377 Russell Street, Melbourne
I don’t know what’s stranger: the fact that hearing Fat will build a yurt for LMFF secretly delights me, or that I was already fully aware of what a yurt actually is? The Fat team will showcase and sell Montreal label complexgeometries from this temporary space. FYI, a yurt is a traditional Mongolian tent-style dwelling. So Melbourne meets Montreal meets Mongolia. Why not?

Penthouse Mouse
March 6–19. Old Naval and Military Club, 27 Little Collins Street, Melbourne The visionary team at Moth Design will transform a city space into Penthouse Mouse, an epicentre of fashion, art, events and a little spending. Seventeen labels are involved this year, from Does Not Equal and Melanie Bower to Leonard Street and Alexi Freeman. Drop into the Penthouse and stumble upon a live photo shoot, a party or a runway show on any given day.

Style Celebration
March 17. Federation Square, Corner Flinders & Swanston Streets, Melbourne
LMFF director Karen Webster cites the Style Celebration as the event she is most looking forward to at the festival. Everyday Melburnians will determine its success. We have all been invited to flock to Fed Square to show off our personal style in standout outfits and submit to judgment. Don’t let your city down, people.

Portable Fashion Festival
March 15–21. Online or in your pocket, everywhere
Even if you’ve tripped over in sky-high heels and broken an ankle you can still enjoy the festival this year. The Portable Film Festival turns their attentions to LMFF and will present a week-long line-up of fashion films. The Portable Fashion Festival can be found on your iPod, 3G phone, PSP or – for the new-fangled technophobes – simply online.

Insert Coin Here
March 1–31. Around Melbourne
Don’t you just love it when people bring slightly crazy ideas into reality? Explore the arcades around town and find a couple of special vending machines dispensing not gumballs or flimsy plastic toys but fashion tidbits. Over 50 designers and artists, including jewellers Estelle Deve and Dani M and crafty fashion designer Emily Mücke, have created 510 random fashion objects to be purchased. All you have to do is ‘Insert Coin Here’.

The Japanese Couture Designers
March 8–20. Madam Virtue & Co., 5 Crossley Street, Melbourne
Dean Hewitt of the wonderful Madam Virtue & Co. boutique will showcase a range of pieces from Japan’s leading fashion lights. Labels such as Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garcons and Kenzo will highlight the slick, inventive style typical of couture from the land of the rising sun.

Fashion Dinner with Yeojin Bae
March 11. Comme, 7 Alfred Place, Melbourne
We love our food just as much as our fashion, even though indulging in one can inhibit our ability to enjoy the other. As the Melbourne Food and Wine festival merges with LMFF time it is apt that Comme puts on a three-course feast while designer Yeojin Bae chats about her fashionable life. Delicious!

Open Studio: Materialbyproduct
March 21. Materialbyproduct studio, 337 Gore Street, Fitzroy
For the first time, LMFF is running a series of Open Studios where we can catch a glimpse of designers and their creative process. A variety of my favourite names (above.,Kuwaii, Captains of Industry) are relinquishing their privacy for a day but it is Materialbyproduct and their intricate construction that I wouldn’t want to miss. It’s not all glamorous ‘behind the seams’ as they say yet it will still be fascinating.