You read that correctly: Just one day!
…so I should really call it The Day I Did Some Modeling.
But what a day.
Representin’ the 1890s! But oops, spoilers.
Like most milestones, it actually started awhile before.
My friend Laura Meyer from Twilight Attire was working on a collection for Milwaukee Fashion Week 2015*.
She was creating a “Restro-spective”: A series of traditional Victorian and modern-day interpretations.
And she asked me to be one of her models.
I happen to love Victorian-era garb. I’ve also seen many scrumptious designs Laura has created over the years.
So my first thought was, “Oh my goodness yes please wow me really? Yes.”
My second thought came so close on the heels of the first that it was a stampede: What the hell did I know about being a model?
But then I thought, so what. There is no way I can pass up this opportunity.
“There is no way I can pass up this opportunity.”
What really made it click was the way Laura felt about it all:
“A word to my models: My runway show will be ‘incidentally inclusive,’ which is to say that we have some diversity of ethnic backgrounds, an age range from early twenties to forties, and a size range from 2/4 to 12-ish.
I say “incidentally” because (all due respect to the designers who throw in a size 10 model so they can say their line is “plus-size” friendly) quite honestly, none of you were chosen for your age, size or ethnicity.
I asked you to model for me because you’re awesome, and you all are my first choice… needing 10 models and 2 assistants, I asked 13 lovely ladies in my life to participate, and incredibly almost all of you said yes!
You *are* all beautiful, which helps, but I really asked you because of your spirit and your attitude, and I’ll happily admit that your personalities have influenced some of the designs I’m making.
So, really, this post is just to say “thank you” for agreeing to model for me, and I think we’re going to have a lot of fun!”
And it was fun.
It was also a lot of work, even before the show.
Laura is ace at turning head-to-toe measurements into clothes that actually fit who you are as much as where all of you is distributed.
I had shoe consultations and undergarment discussions.
I did research: What I did know from standing, walking, and posing? My Imposter Syndrome was running high!
But most importantly, I had to figure out how to walk without idiocy on stairs because oh my god it was going to be here:
Milwaukee Theatre rotunda
I also turned temporarily insane, trying to Eat & Exercise Even More Better in the intervening months. I apologize again to my husband and all my best friends.
Then the day itself came.
The call was for 1:30 PM at the Milwaukee Theatre. The show started at 7 PM.
Therefore I packed a boatload of provisions, including:
- Phone charger
- Backup phone charger
- Granola bars
- Sunflower butter and multi-grain crackers (yum)
- Backup book
- Trashy magazine
- Shoes for the show
- Shoes for the VIP afterparty
- Dress for the afterparty
When I arrived backstage, a disgruntled service elevator deposited me in this slightly sinister hallway of dressing rooms.
If this were a movie, suspenseful music would be playing
The harried stage manager consulted a sheet and ushered me into an empty room.
Room 242, soon to become a close, personal friend
So, naturally, I took the below picture in case I ever wanted to document the transformation some day (surprise!). Plus, I thought the lights were cool.
Pre-dressing dressing room (those light boxes!)
Slowly the room filled up with first-timers like myself and seasoned amateurs, clutching bags and bottles and with not enough chairs to go around.
And there we waited. For a couple hours.
Just like reality TV (except without the script)
As with any group of strangers, not all of us clicked, but most of us got to know each other a bit over those first couple hours. And that was cool.
Even just among us 10, we all had different backgrounds but similar senses of humor.
The seasoned amateurs were also very forthcoming about what to expect, which was: A lot of waiting.
We first-timers felt proud that we’d already divined that.
And then, wonder of wonders, a table of snacks appeared.
The snacks actually looked nothing like this. From pinterest.com.
We were supposed to have done the dress rehearsal at 1:30, but here it was getting on to 3 and nothing was happening. Then Someone Official poked her head in the doorway.
“I need two of you to get started on makeup.”
I was up like a shot.
What followed was more makeup than I’d ever had on in my entire cumulative lifetime. She even got under my nose! I instantly felt preternaturally alert but managed to refrain from sneezing.
Feeling heavily shellacked, I was half-unsure about such a different me…
…but I WAS sure that I was not going to smile for real until that lipstick stopped staining my front tooth every time I did (everyone assured me it would).
Makeup done; hair to come
Finally consoling myself with the fact that these layers and powderings and slickings were intended for lights, cameras, and action, I settled back down and recommenced what I’d been doing just before: Waiting.
As did everybody else.
Waiting is the hardest part
Might as well get (mostly) dressed
I knew that hair was next, and my outfit included a hat. I was not about to go through any more contortions than I needed to if there was any risk of messing up one or the other.
My outfit also included a corset that laced in the back, which meant I needed help getting it on, which meant I was phffft!-ed into it (that’s the sound of extremely-sudden corset-cinching) by one of Laura’s sisters.
“Laura does the best cinching!” she said gaily from behind my shoulder.
“You’redoingafinejobyourself,” I squeaked.
Around this time I had the brilliant idea of sitting on the floor instead of a chair. I don’t know how I didn’t crack in two. But my posture had never been so fine.
“I need two of you for hair!”
No pictures of this next bit due to the boneheaded fact that I didn’t bring my phone with me into the hairstyling room.
The hair stylist and I became instant pals. “I envy your color!” he said, which was entirely unexpected since I kind of just let things happen and plan to eventually go all Emmylou Harris.
But I’ll never forget how thoroughly my hair was backcombed and ratted up and just generally made GIANT.
This is the closest approximation I could find:
“We have to make sure that hat doesn’t fall off!” proclaimed the stylist. A noble cause! But I was worried my hair was going to fall OUT from these tender ministrations.
(It hasn’t yet. But I used up half a bottle of conditioner getting it all back to normal.)
And then he somehow folded and twisted and curled and pinned all of it back into a Victorian-looking coiffure.
Here’s the hat, seemingly balancing out of nowhere, but in reality skewered to my head. There’s still a bit of non-hat-damaging outfit yet to put on.
Incidentally, here’s a close-up of the super-cool veil:
The spotted veil
Dress rehearsal time!
Everybody spilled out of their rooms in various stages of dishevelment.
We wound our way through a starkly-lit, cement-and-cinder-block passage up to a grander, carpeted hallway, finally fetching up along a wide balcony overlooking the entire arena.
See those stairs? We used those stairs.
Best advice all day
The stage manager then told us the procedure that would make each collection seem like a continual flow:
Wait here. Start moving when the person before you is at spot X so it looks like you’re moving in tandem. Stop. Start moving when the person before you is coming off the stage. Pause at each of the four corners. Here’s where the press will be. Wait here after your turn. Start moving when the person who came after you leaves spot Y. Move up this far but no further. Wait.
As we were all reeling from the above directions, she then offered her sole bit of advice:
And back we went to our dressing rooms with nary a chance to practice for ourselves.
By this point I was thankful our group wasn’t going first, and more, that I wasn’t going first in it.
Well, might as well put the rest on
An hour and a half to go and I was getting antsy. Sure sign of a rank tyro! On went the rest of my outfit.
I am now complete!
But how on earth do I pose?
Should I smile? Should I appear delicately touched with gentle sorrow? Should I do the hand on hip thing? Should I be all coy with my hat?
“Be yourself,” said Laura.
How do I look?
Should I smile??
And a good day to you
This was it!
Our group was third in line. Anticipation was high. We filed out into that same cemented hallway and–
–were almost instantly told that there would be a delay because an unplanned act was going ahead of everyone else.
Back we went to the sitting room.
Back we went to the cement hallway, this time to stay.
Eventually we moved up to the carpeted portion, which was a little easier on our collective feet. There were seats at intervals, but I was afraid to sit down.
But here we were told something magical:
We were to forget the complicated routine and just do a normal walk-and-leave-the-stage before the next person started.
Just as our group came up, poised right there before our first person was about to move, we were told to forget about forgetting the complicated routine and instead remember it and actually do it. Eesh!
But fortunately I remembered one other thing.
I’ve done this before.
Not modeling, no, but being on stage in plays and musicals and music competitions. It’s been awhile, but I’ve done it.
And one thing I remembered was this: I don’t get stage fright.
I don’t know why; I just don’t.
And this was just another stage.
Taking the stage
Here we go!
Things I completely forgot about the instant my foot met the stage:
- Not making eye contact with the audience, the ushers, the press, or anyone else
- What I’d fixed on for posing, or smiling, or expressions in general
- My secret considerations about putting a little sashay into my walk
- Pretty much everything else I’d told myself just seconds before.
Instead, I just had fun! I flowed through the routine, hit all my points, and remembered to pause longer for the press even as I was staring them in the camera-eye.
And it was a dream to walk and hear the applause and see people smiling like I was actually making an impact. Like I actually fit in.
Here I’m looking at my husband
I really don’t know what I’m doing but I’m doing it
In a breathless array, here some of us are waiting on the stairs for our full complement to finish, before coming back out for the final walk all together.
A few of us waiting
And then just as suddenly, after all that preparation from months past to this evening, it was over.
We hustled back to our room, laughing in relief, and in an amazingly short time, had de-shellacked, de-corseted, de-shoed.
Here we all are!
Before the show: Restrospective with designer Laura in the middle (6th from the right. I’m 4th!)
Would I do it again?
–I met some really cool women whom I would probably have never met otherwise, and I still talk with them today. One’s a ballroom dance instructor. One is a scrumptious baker. Another studies sculpture.
–I got to participate in a world I had never considered entering.
–I learned how much work goes in to modeling.
–I experienced those hidden behind-the-scenes moments, from late-night messages about cancelled meetings and rearranged seams to witnessing the massive amount of organization that has to happen to make things appear, well, seamless.
–And Laura gave me the option to buy that marvelous outfit. How could I resist?
Oh, and the VIP afterparty was fun, too.
The end of it all
P.S. Here’s the song that was Laura’s soundtrack:
*Proceeds from Milwaukee Fashion Week benefit Pathfinders, a Milwaukee based non-profit organization that empowers and supports youth and young adults to get them going with a fresh start.