During our first few days in Paris, before I even was acclimated to the 9 hour time difference, we were thrown into working behind the scenes at Paris Fashion Week. Our group of students worked as "dressers", dressing the models in haute couture gowns and garments, for 5 different shows: Galia Lahav, Georges Hobeika, Tony Ward, Alexandre Vauthier, and Zaid Nakad.
Dressing a model seems like a simple task, but it's actually not that easy! First, you must not put any garments over the head--after hours in hair and make-up, that's rule #1. Therefore, the [couture, handmade, crazy expensive with hundreds of hours of work] dresses have to be put on the ground and manipulated to create a "hole" so that the model can just step into them. Likely, they are wearing heels, so it's critical that they don't catch their Louboutins on the fragile fabric. Then, zip corsets, latch hook and eyes, button buttons, buckle belts, etc. etc., all in the smallest span of time imaginable. While everyone is sweaty and stressed out.
here is the Swarovski-encrusted garment I put on my model, though.) The picture, above, is inside the Grand Palais with a glimpse of the partial "Eiffel Tower" that Chanel used for their show. In some cases, designers don't permit photos behind the scenes until after the show, but in this case, I didn't take photos because it was outrageously hot in the Grand Palais and I was hungry and thirsty and on my feet for 5 hours. I wasn't happy enough to document the event!
Zaid Nakad was our last show and I had three garment changes for one model. It was all kinds of crazy. The backstage area was tiny and the gowns were enormous, so it was a true task to get all the garments on and off 30 models in a timely manner. The first gown for my model must have weighed 40 pounds between the crinoline and the beaded dress--I could barely lift it! Here I am trying to hold up the crinoline (which was about 20 lbs by itself!):
And next to the model wearing the black beaded gown with crinoline underneath:
Here's a photo of my model in her final look. She is tall, of course, but wearing 6" platform heels makes her look positively enormous next to me (at a mere 5'1").
In the course of putting the gowns back on hangers and into garment bags, I got to hold up the wedding dress (which pretty much stood on its own, with all the structure and horsehair underneath). It's just like trying it on, right?!
Finally, a few of the designers served champagne backstage after the show, so here's my friend Irina and I toasting being done with Paris Fashion Week!
At the start of the Week, I felt completely inept. I had never worked any role in any sort of fashion show ever and it was scary, considering how much money is on the line for these designers. But by the end, though, I felt like a complete pro and was a little disappointed that we were finished with that chapter of the adventure, especially considering I will never again have such an opportunity. But, I have good memories and even better stories forever....