MODA Blog

Behind the Scenes: Modeling at the MODA Fashion Show

Behind the Scenes: Modeling at the MODA Fashion Show

While Kendall and Gigi were strutting their stuff in New York, Paris, and London for Fashion Week, 75 or so UChicago students were walking back and forth across Hutch Commons to Beyonce, trying to remember "chin up" "shoulders down" "swing your arms"(you'd be amazed at how many people tense up and forget to do that). Selected to be models for the MODA Winter Fashion Show, we were practicing how to walk and pose on a runway - most of us for the first time. Newsflash - it only looks like a no big deal stroll. In reality, it's carefully calculated and rehearsed. After three weeks of perfecting how to hold a pose for the cameras, handling the stairs without falling, and walking slowly-but-with-energy (harder than it sounds, especially when there's upbeat get-pumped music playing!), the day of the show finally rolls around.

2 pm: I trudge to Logan with a tote bag nearly full to bursting, feeling guilty for being a bit late. Warned of all the down time we'd have, I pack snacks, a book, chargers, extra makeup just in case, a change of clothes for afterwards, and of course my heels. We will be getting our hair and makeup done on campus before heading to the venue by bus.

We each wait for our turn, armed with a piece of paper from our designer with instructions for our look. Mine? Brown lipstick, gold eyeshadow and lots and lots of bronzer paired with my naturally wavy hair parted in the center - something I'd never go for in real life (I haven't parted my hair in the center in possibly years) but plays off the golden tones of my outfit. The "glam room" feels like the backstage of a real show - organized chaos with lots of people. A dozen professional makeup artists (and here I was thinking it would be a handful of student volunteers!) are hard at work, buffing, contouring and painting faces, while half a dozen hairdressers are fluffing and spritzing hair so that the whole room smells like hairspray. As I sit in my chair, eye closed and face upturned, while my makeup artist swirls a brush around my cheeks, I feel like a bona-fide runway model.

3:45pm: I've never worn so much makeup in my life. And I am not averse to a full face of it for a big party, I did my own prom makeup! I feel like a metallic goddess, I'm glowing so much. The bus with the first batch of models leaves late and we finally arrive at Morgan MFG around 4:30. Before we get shepherded upstairs, I get a glimpse of the main room. The runway is shorter than I expected, flanked by gleaming lucite chairs. In a few hours, I will be up there, with almost 1,000 people watching me. No big deal. Totally calm. Jokes, I'm starting to freak out now.

We head upstairs in full hair and makeup, still in our street clothes, and wait. And wait. And then wait some more. Some models plug in their laptops and catch up on work, while others take the time (and amazing floor to ceiling mirrors) to practice walking and posing. UChicago Maya is also upstairs practicing their performance, and we watch entranced, wishing we could dance even half as well as them. I'm almost annoyed that I'll be backstage when they perform. If only I could have Hermione's time-turner to both watch the show and walk in it...

UChicago Maya

UChicago Maya

5:30pm: While my designer has only a few last minute alterations to make, some designers are sitting in a corner, sewing away furiously. Several girls need to be stitched into their outfits because there wasn't enough time to put in zippers. I wander around, munching on a granola bar, saying hi to some of my friends who are volunteering.

6pm: Things are getting really crazy as volunteers finish setting up chairs and gift bags. Photographers arrive and arrange themselves at the end of the runway, while the catering sets up in the kitchen backstage. We start lining up to practice walking on the runway itself. As I stand behind the white draping cordoning off backstage, my knees start to shake and my palms get sweaty. The runway seems to stretch for an eternity, and the bright lights of the photographers at the end is blinding. As I walk, I try and remember everything I've been taught, but I'm just glad when I walk down the stairs at the end without tripping on my face. Not 100% sure how the girls with animal heads did it, but I am super impressed.

8pm: The rest of the models have arrived and we are gathered backstage in hair and outfits as the guests trickle in. We all have a serious case of the jitters - it's finally dawned on us that this is really happening and really soon. The DJ starts playing music and we can hear the noise of the crowd as the room fills up. Backstage, stylists are busy doing touchups and several designers are making (very) last minute adjustments. While most are just nervously snipping loose threads and straightening seams, I watch one designer stitch the bodice and skirt of a gown together on to her model. Volunteer servers rush in and out carrying trays of food and I watch, nervously expecting there to be an accident and someone's outfit be covered in gazpacho. Thankfully nothing of the sort happens. As we anxiously check our phones - the Maya performance opening the show starts at 9 - we also take selfies, fix our makeup and dance to the music.

9pm: Places everybody! We get into the correct order for the show and try not to fidget too much in our heels. After standing around for over an hour in stilettos, some girls have decided to sit on the floor as we wait. Thankfully my designer has me wearing heeled boots so I pace and nibble on a Pop Tart, taking care not to smudge my lipstick, but my adrenaline is pumping and I'm not very hungry anyway. I'd really like some water, but we haven't been let out since the guests arrived and there's no bathroom backstage, so better not. As the Maya show ends in loud applause, we all look at each other, half-giddy with excitement, half-terrified. Soon enough, the line creeps forward. The show has begun!

Boys can play dress up too

Boys can play dress up too

~9:30pm: I'm standing right behind the runway, only a few models in front of me. Hair stylists poke and prod and apply one last liberal douse of hairspray. Then, the magic words. "You're up". I roll my shoulders back, fix my top one last time, and head up the stairs. There. Are. So. Many. People. A thousand people is a lot of people and a lot of eyes watching you. I try not to focus on the audience and instead fix my gaze above the flashing lights of the photographers, stationed all around like paparazzi. I basically float down the runway. I'm surprised I even remembered how to breathe. I reach the end, completly forgetting the little choreo I had come up, and go with a classic hand-on-hip pose, hoping that my expression is more "confident smize" than "angry glare". "I'd really like to get a nice profile picture out of this" may or may not have passed through my head. As I head down the stairs and behind the curtain to the backstage area, I feel a weight come off my chest and I can't stop smiling. I just walked in my first runway show, say whaaa?!?!? We get back in line again for the "wave" where we all walk down the runway with our designers, ditching the fierce model stares for big smiles.

The wave!

The wave!

10pm: I change out of my runway clothes and into my after party outfit and head into the crowd, hoping to find my friends for a group picture. It's a zoo. We have not organized this well at all; I have no idea where anybody is. Luckily I bump into them right away and promptly get drowned in hugs and congratulations. Having given up on getting everyone together for a photo at the Photo Booth, we grab our things (thankfully avoiding the coat check!) and grab an Uber. I'm exhausted and would really love a nap right now. Who knew modeling was such hard work? I don't know how Kendall and Gigi do it - they really must be superwomen.

With my designer (me on the far right!)

With my designer (me on the far right!)

Only slightly terrifying and fantastically thrilling, walking in the MODA Winter Fashion Show was one of the highlights of winter quarter. My only question now is, how long until next year's show??

All images via MODA at the University of Chicago

What did you think of the MODA show? Let us know in the comments below!

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