It’s rare that I meet aspiring models who don’t have goals of being in a fashion show and doing their thing on the runway.
I can’t say I blame them–there’s something about being in the spotlight with all eyes on you as you strut down the catwalk. It’s a pure adrenaline rush.
I’ve written numerous topics about the runway walk on this blog but wanted to add this post to break down some of the important dos and don’ts that female and male models can learn from, especially if you’re just getting into the industry.
Remember: you don’t have to be in Fashion Week to use these tips to your advantage. Whether you’re doing a huge show or have the chance to model in a student fashion show or other type of event, the work atmosphere tends to be pretty similar so going in armed with the info below will help position you to be the type of model that clients will want to work with again and again.
DO: ARRIVE EARLY
My motto is, “Early is on time and on time is late.” Once you know the time and address of where you need to be, do whatever it takes to get there early. How early? Depends on how long it takes you to get yourself together. I personally prefer to get to my shows 30 minutes to 1 hour early. If your first instinct is, “Dang, that’s so early!” then you clearly don’t grasp why being that early is totally not a big deal for me.
I’d rather be that early so I can take my time finding parking, checking any last minute emails/texts so that I can put my phone away once I get inside, as well as mentally prep for the event. Going in cool, calm and collected will always make for a better modeling experience compared to being late or even on time but feeling rushed and panicked.
Another perk: being early usually means you get first dibs on getting hair and makeup done!
DON’T: ACT LIKE YOU RULE THE ROOST AND/OR HAVE A MELTDOWN
Want to learn how to NOT make friends? Walk into a show as if you’re the supermodel and everyone else is just furniture. You are one of many models because that’s how a fashion show works. It’s a team effort and if the production is organized properly, you should have already gone to your fitting in advance and been assigned the outfits you’re supposed to wear.
However, Murphy’s Law has a knack for creeping up and it’s not uncommon for models to not have their outfits show up at a show (for whatever reason) or even have one or more of their assigned clothes given to another model to wear (this happened to me before).
Things happen backstage that could affect your participation in the show. Do. Not. Make. A. Scene. It’s completely understandable that you would want to BUT saving face and keeping a cool head will make you look so much better in the eyes of the designer and the other models. Save your emotions for when you get home and by that, I don’t mean blast the people involved on social media. That’s just not a good look.
If something happens at the show, don’t let it affect your ability to do what you were hired to do. Work with whoever you need to in order to do damage control, figure out a solution and keep it moving.
DO: BRING YOUR OWN STUFF
Even if I know a full team is going to be there to take care of hair and makeup at a fashion show, I will still bring my “Model Bag,” that contains my own makeup, thermal styling spray, several types of bras and undies and 3-4 pairs of shoes (among other items).
I do this more as a backup plan and I don’t announce to the hair and makeup team that I’ve brought my own stuff. I’ve been to shows where there were more models than people there to get them ready and in worst case scenarios, I’ve done my own makeup and/or hair if I felt they weren’t going to get to me in time. The last thing I want is to be late getting into my clothes because I was stuck in the chair.
I also bring my makeup because I’ve had makeup artists not have the right color to match me (this doesn’t happen as often anymore, thankfully) but basically, I always recommend bringing stuff that belongs to you in case something isn’t onsite for you and you don’t have to worry about borrowing other people’s things.
DON’T: GO ROGUE
You know why fashion shows look so cool? It’s because the models do what they’re supposed to. Much of the choreography or instruction for where to hit certain marks on the runway are taught to the models the day of the show. When everyone looks uniform, it makes the overall show run smoothly.
If you break protocol and decide to do something different or stay to pose at the end of the runway too long because you’re soaking up the spotlight, you’ll throw off the pace for the other models, not to mention you’ll get backstage to some pretty angry people.
Enjoy the time you’re on the runway for the brief time you’re on it and respect the fact that that’s what your colleagues in the show are trying to do, too.
DO: MAINTAIN A CLEAN FACE & BODY
Unless told otherwise, models (male and female) should arrive to the show without makeup on and with their hair a little dirty (to make for easy styling) but without a ton of product in it. This will make the hair and makeup team’s job easier and keep them in a good mood.
Body-wise, do not wear heavily scented body lotion, perfume, deodorant, cologne or body spray. These scents can stain and/or linger on the fabric afterwards, which tends to be a huge pet peeve for designers. An industry insider tip for not sweating onto an outfit is to wear tissue under your arms to absorb the sweat while you’re waiting to go on the runway. Simply take them out and toss them when it’s your turn and it’ll minimize any chance of pit stains happening.
Also nix body oils and lotions containing body glitter. Again, it will get on the clothes and the designer will not be happy. You can wear lotion (who wants dry skin?) but make sure it’s either lightly scented or non-scented and not greasy.
DON’T: BE BASHFUL
I have yet to be in a fashion show where once you step off the runway, you don’t encounter a lot of fast-paced madness backstage. Oftentimes models only have seconds to get out of one outfit and into another. This means you don’t have the luxury of trying to be modest and cover yourself up.
Many seasoned runway models have no problem dropping their clothes and walking over to their next outfit with just a thong on and no bra. They don’t even bother to cover themselves because they’re going to be dressed in a matter of minutes anyway.
Male and female models are dressed separately for shows so if there’s any worries about someone of the opposite sex “seeing you,” you’ll be fine. It is a work environment and trust me, the people backstage have seen their fair share of half naked or nude female and male models changing so it’s not like they’re going to be hitting on you. That’s not what they are there for.
If you have issues with being in a state of undress in front of others or if you feel the need to take your outfit and find a corner to get dressed in, I’m sad to say the world of fashion may end up being a rude awakening for you. Again, it is a work environment and everyone is there to put on a good show so keep things in that perspective and you’ll do just fine.
DO: BE NICE TO YOUR DRESSERS
Dressers are amazing people whose purpose is to help models get in and out of the clothes they’re modeling. 99% of the time these are unpaid volunteers so they are doing it for the love of fashion and oftentimes for networking reasons and to get their foot in the modeling industry door.
Don’t be weird or act like the dresser helping you is a creeper. In the “real world,” it isn’t normal for people who are essentially strangers to assist you with putting on and taking off clothes. But fashion shows are a different type of reality and they are there to do a specific job that is actually beneficial because it makes your job as a model that much easier.
Many designs are difficult to put on yourself and having dressers help with zippers, lace-up corsets, tightening, fastening, pinning, smoothing and altering the clothes is a God send to models who just want to focus on looking good once they hit the runway.
I once did a runway show where I had to wear a skin tight leather body suit and not only was I not able to wear a bra or panties, I had to have body oil applied in order to slide into the garment. The woman who was in charge of applying the oil (not to my private parts of course), was super nice, chill and I didn’t hesitate or act weird because I knew why she was there and she was definitely helping me out. Just another day at the office.
Dressers are your friend. Be nice to them.
DON’T: MISTREAT THE CLOTHES
Eating, drinking and messing around while wearing a designer’s clothes are huge no-nos. Be aware of your movements when backstage and be mindful of keeping your outfit from getting stepped on, torn or snagged. If you need assistance doing something to avoid possibly ruining what you’re wearing, don’t hesitate to ask for help.
DO: NOT BE SCARED OF THE END OF THE RUNWAY
The only time photographers have a real shot at getting decent photos of models in a fashion show is when they come to the end of the runway and pose. Don’t be a blur when you get to the end and scurry away. Once you hit your mark, revel in the moment for a few seconds. 5-7 seconds is pretty ideal. It sounds fast but believe me, on stage it is the perfect amount of time for photographers to get good flicks.
That doesn’t mean you need to hold the same pose for 5-7 seconds and become a mannequin, however. If you’ve ever watched a fashion show, you’ll see the model stop at the end of the runway and hit one pose, then slightly shift to a different pose before they walk away. So that’s the amount of time you have to do at least 2 poses, which easily eats up those seconds. If you stay any longer, it will be noticeable and likely pretty awkward.
Unless your garment has a special feature that you need to showcase that might take a few extra seconds, don’t linger too long.
DON’T: BREAK IN NEW SHOES AT A RUNWAY SHOW
While this certainly applies to female models it can also go for male models, too. I can’t stress enough the importance of breaking in new shoes well in advance of any shows you plan on walking in. If you want to break your feet, wear brand new shoes in a fashion show. I guarantee you’ll have blisters galore.
Practicing your walk is vital so if you’re going to kill two birds with one stone, break in your new shoes while doing your practice walks at home. Want to make sure you’re doing right by your tootsies? Then you can check out the following link (for female models):
Breaking In Heels for Modeling: Why It’s So Important
DO: WATCH VIDEOS
One of the best ways to learn the world of runway is to watch shows. YouTube and other online sites have more reference videos than you can shake a stick at. You’ll see that no two shows are exactly the same. Each model has his/her own walk and style and the types of runway stages all differ.
If you’re trying to figure out your own sense of runway style, don’t be pressured to master everything you’ve seen in the videos. Things will vary from show to show in terms of what you’ll be wearing, where you’ll be walking, how many marks you’ll have to hit, etc. So take it one show at a time and you’ll learn to adjust accordingly, if needed.
DON’T: BUG THE DESIGNER
Chances are the designer is going to be stressed and running around like a chicken with its head cut off. That’s understandable–their brand and rep is on the line with each show and they want each event to go well. If you have questions or concerns for the designer, that’s okay but be observant and pick the right time to approach them. If there is someone else you know that can answer your questions, pull them aside instead, especially if you see that the designer is tied up.
They’ve got a lot on their plate and many models to keep track of so don’t they won’t have the time to pay a lot of attention to catering to your needs and wants. Don’t take it personally.
DO: YOUR BEST & HAVE FUN
No one is perfect on the runway in their first show. We all have to start somewhere so go into your first show with a lot of energy, enthusiasm and come away with knowing what you did well and what you want to improve on. Practice, practice, practice! The more you know your body and your walk, the more confident you’ll be in any show, no matter how big or small the production is.