Dressing-room insanity in the world of high fashion



At first, there is calm.

Behind the scenes at this month's Fashion Week in New York, as designers, models, hairstylists, makeup artists, dressers, publicists and untold others prepare for a runway show, nerves are steady, tasks are methodically performed. The hum of an army of blow dryers provides soothing white noise.

And then ...

"Forty-five minutes of absolute, intense, unrelenting chaos," says Martha Peabody Walker, a dresser with the Stephanie J dressing crew -- which assists models into each of their two-to-five carefully-thought-out looks. "Screaming, running, laughing, crying."

Hair and makeup artists have only a precious few minutes to perfect each model's face and tresses. For many shows, says Jessica Barlow, director of fashion and media for Aveda, there may be only 10 to 14 hairstylists and even fewer makeup artists. That's for 20 to 35 models -- many of whom barely speak English.

"We actually had 70 models at [designer] Imitation of Christ," Barlow says. "Seventy models."

The models are young -- most are in their teens -- so their hair is healthy and lush. Their skin is clear and dewy. That is, unless they've sprinted from another fashion show, hair hard and sticky, faces melting.

Early morning shows provide the beauty artists fresher canvases. "Unless the models overslept because they were out too late partying," Barlow says.

And if a model slips on the runway, even just a little, the dresser is always blamed.

"We bear the brunt of the most abuse," Peabody Walker says. "From designers, stylists and models."

Cranky models. Demanding designers. Bright lights. Blinding flashes. Constant chatter. Pushy publicists. Hair extensions. Hot curling irons. Freezing air conditioners. Chest-thumping music. Camera crews. Power bars. Bottled water. Lip gloss. Eyeliner. Two-sided tape. Too many hook-and-eye closures.

Skinny arms. Long legs. Mascara-caked eyelashes.

Dresses, shoes, jackets, jewelry.

Thick skins.

Never enough time.




Evian bottled water spray or toning mist: A spritz refreshes the skin before make-up application.

Aveda's Pure Abundance Potion: A powder that turns into a liquid, roughing up the hair so that it appears fuller. "It takes a normal ponytail and makes it look edgy," says Aveda's Jessica Barlowe.

Lint roller: Used to remove lint, but also to stick inside shoes that are too big, or on the soles of shoes that need to stay clean and unmarked.

Handi Wipes for dabbing and quick clean-ups

Two-sided tape: "A girl's best friend is double-stick tape," says dresser Martha Peabody Walker. "You can fix your hem. You can glue your bra strap. It's better than a safety pin."

Amid backstage confusion, a photographer captures a model as she prepares for the Marc by Marc Jacobs fashion show at the New York State Armory (right) .

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