MILAN - Going to fashion week in Milan for the first time can be a bewildering experience, with a round of catwalk shows and celebrity parties filled with potential pitfalls and social faux pas.

Preparations for buyers and press must start at least a month before with requests for invitations sent out to each of the dozens of labels taking part, as access to the shows by the biggest names is often severely limited. Once you have packed a suitcase or two of colour-matched outfits and armed yourself with a sheaf of card invites, here are some dos and don’ts to help would-be fashionistas navigate an event that is part glamour, part business:

Shades on the catwalk: Worn by Vogue US editor Anna Wintour, sunglasses are positively encouraged - the darker the better - but make sure you are able to make your way to your seat without stumbling in the darkness before the shows.

Standing out: Fashion accessories like fluorescent hats, feather fascinators or sparkly shoes can help you stand out from the crowd and maximise your chances of getting snapped by one of the sea of “street photographers” outside the show.

“Ciao darling”: Do be effusive and use a lot of superlatives when describing collections, parties or designers, but being ingratiating is a big no-no and wide-eyed enthusiasm must be accompanied by frequent moaning about being tired or how other fashion weeks were better.

Fashionably late: It is something of a fashion week truism, but do arrive at least 15 minutes after the scheduled start time for the catwalk. Real fashionistas are still greeting the front-row denizens as the show begins.

Networking: Fashion weeks are not all about glamorous socialising, there is a lot of deal-making happening on the sidelines. Have business cards at the ready and remember to respect appointments or promises to meet up later.

Connected: Social media have become a must for the modern-day fashionista and there is often a race to be the first to upload pictures from the show. Do put your phone down occasionally though to actually appreciate the designs.

Outfits: Wearing something show-stopping and genuinely fashionable is better than a lot of designer stuff. Outfits should be changed at least twice a day - some fashionistas have changing room vans following their limousines.

Posing: Many photographers both outside and inside the catwalk shows are there more to take pictures of the attendees than the models. Do pose in front of them, but only if you are sure at least one will take your picture!

Party animal: Make an effort to go to as many parties as possible, even if you are exhausted, as they are the key to networking. But never stay too long and never ever be the one loitering near waiters to hog the free food and drink.