Behind the Scenes of a Fashion Show

Ever wonder what it's like behind the scenes of a fashion show? Here's a dresser's look at what happens behind the scenes.

Watching models strut down the runway, it’s easy to believe that fashion shows are glamorous and even party-like, but look behind the scenes of a fashion show and you see a different story.

In college, I did work-study in the costume shop, where I researched jackets, put together the MSDS book, organized costumes, and of course, dressed actors during shows. Fast forward a few years and I meet another actor, who works as a fashion show dresser on the side. Suddenly, I find myself in the shoe storage area of a Neiman Marcus helping models get dressed as anxious ladies-who-lunch swan around the sales floor.

Behind the Scenes of a Fashion Show

Every wonder what it's like behind the scenes of a fashion show? Here's a dresser's look at what happens behind the scenes.

From bridal shows to fundraisers to magazine parties, the job of a dresser is pretty much the same. Cut and hide tags. Tape the bottom of shoes. Steam pieces that are wrinkled. Help the models in and out of their looks, which is harder than you might think. Pack up everything at the end of the show, which always takes longer than you think it will. Not glamorous by any means but there are perks to being a fashion show dresser.

You get to touch the merchandise. Chanel bags. Christian Louboutin shoes. Vera Wang wedding gowns. It’s not unusual to be dealing with tens of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise, which is a real treat when your closet is more Gap than Net-A-Porter.

You learn styling tips. One of my favorite gems of wisdom is “One earring is a trend. No earrings is a mistake.” There’s, also, the classic “bracelets on the left and handbags on the right.”

Sometimes you get to talk to the designer. While designers are not at every show, I think it’s exciting when you get to see the creator with his or her creations. Many designers are very nice and are happy to see that their clothes are appreciated.

Of course, a dressers main purpose is to help models get changed, which is easier than it sounds. Usually, you only have a few minutes to get a model out of one look and into another, and when each look consists of multiple layers of clothing plus numerous accessories, things get tricky. Tons of jewelry looks great on the runway, but several necklaces and bracelets paired with a corseted gown is pretty much a dresser’s nightmare.

What a Typical Show is Like for a Dresser

Ever wonder what it's like behind the scenes of a fashion show? Here's a dresser's look at what happens behind the scenes.

  • Wear all black and arrive 1-2 hours before the show starts.
  • Prep your model’s rack and make sure all the pieces are accounted for and that the outfits are in the correct order. Also, familiarize yourself with how each piece is put on and taken off.
  • About 15-30 mins before the show the models put on their first look.
  • Show starts and you get the second look ready.
  • Model comes off the runway. You carefully and quickly remove pieces from the first look while helping model put on pieces for the second look.
  • Make sure your model is correctly wearing all the pieces then send the model back in line.
  • Start putting away first look and getting next look ready.
  • Repeat until end of show.
  • Make sure all pieces are accounted for and hung up properly.
  • Re-tag clothes. Re-box shoes. Bag jewelry and accessories. Put clothes in garment bags. Throw out trash.
  • Celebrate the fact you made it through another show. (Champagne not included.)

Dressing a fashion show can be an exciting opportunity for a fashionista who works well under pressure. Plus, it can be a fun way to glimpse VIP events. Who needs the illusion of glamour when you can peek behind the scenes…
Ever wonder what it's like behind the scenes of a fashion show? Here's a dresser's look at what happens behind the scenes.

P.S. I’m raising money for the USO and from now until 8/31/16, I will be donating 30% of retail sales from my Chloe and Isabel boutique to this wonderful organization. I hope you’ll shop with me this month and help support the USO!

P.P.S. Don’t miss this book swap from Chaotic Goddess Swaps. Plus, keep in mind the next Sweet Progress Box Swap will be happening this fall!

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29 comments

  1. I don’t think most people realize how frenetic it is backstage at a fashion show. It’s an interesting contrast to most calm presentations. I worked a few Ralph Lauren shows when I interned with the brand during college and it was quite the experience.

  2. I used to do some fashion styling for shows back when I lived in Arizona and that’s pretty much exactly how it goes, except we also had to do the occasional steaming of clothes. Fun post!

  3. I wonder if anything articles of clothing ever go missing! It is good they check that before they cap off the night. What a fun yet frenzied evening!!

    Carrie
    curlycraftymom.com

  4. Very cool post! To date I’ve never taken part in a modern fashion show, just a tiny number of very small, uber local level events in various places I’ve lived (or in one case, been on holiday to) of a vintage nature. Fun for sure, but no doubt light years more relaxed and easygoing usually that most modern spins. I’d really like to try my hand at such one day. New or old, I adore fashion and work well in high stress, fast paced environments, so I think (hope?) I could handle the pressure of any fashion show.

    ♥ Jessica

  5. Fashion shows are so exciting- I’ve gotten the chance to go back stage before at Kansas City Fashion Week and I always learn so much about what it takes to get a collection down the runway. 🙂

    -Ashley
    Le Stylo Rouge

  6. Thank you for sharing this:) Fashion shows are such a circus. I did makeup for one fashion show before, and it was insane. Seeing the perspective from a dresser is quite interesting:)

  7. This may come as a surprise, but maybe not, because I think we’re both around the same height: I was in a fashion show. It was many moons ago, when I was a young teenager, like I think 14, maybe 15. It was so much fun, crazy, but fun.
    XO

  8. Fascinating! I’ve always loved fashion and can only imagine the exciting pulse behind a show… I’ve never heard bracelets on the left, handbag on the right! Neat 🙂