Even though the term "fashionably late" didn't originate at New York Fashion Week, it easily could have: The unbelievable amount of coordination and labor required to mount a show can cause numerous delays and top models can be hustling between three or four different venues in a single day.
One place you can't be late, though, is on the runway itself: Once the music starts and the looks start coming down the catwalk, the next model better make her entrance on time. There are almost always more looks than models—in an 11-minute show a girl might have to wear two or three entirely differently looks.
So how do they get in and out of those ridiculously complicated outfits so quickly?
Barbara Berman, who's worked as a dresser for more than 24 years, says that if everything is well-planned, a show should go off like clockwork. But dressers always have to plan for the unexpected—from popped seams and broken necklaces to missing models and acts of God. "Fashion Week typically has the worst possible weather, so my stress is usually connected to things I can't control," Berman says with a sigh.
The timeline for a dresser typically begins three weeks before the shows, when the designers lock down their specific date and time. Then, someone like Berman assembles a team with the deftness required for the individual needs of a show. They'll also begin researching the looks and models to gain familiarity with the job. On the day of the presentations, she says, "All our hard work and planning on behalf of the designer [comes] to fruition."
Armed with an arsenal of black safety pins, lint rollers, double-sided tape, bite lights and white cotton gloves, a dresser can get a model in and out of a look in seconds.
"You... have to be really quick and focused. [Changing has to happen in] probably 15 seconds. You'll have two or three dressers sometimes," one veteran tells Fashionista. To help facilitate this sartorial sprint, the looks backstage are all organized on racks by the order they'll be presented. Pinned on is a one-sheeter with the model's name, a picture of them in the outfit, and a list of accessories that will accompany the look. All of this planning and commitment ensures that while the audience gazes upon one stunning ensemble on the runway, the next is ready to go at a pace timed with the rest of the show.
For the invitees a show might just run a few minutes, but for the dressers the total time from start to finish is closer to three hours.
There's no rest for the weary dresser, though. Berman, who teaches fashion show production at FIT, admits, "With a 'kiss, kiss' and a 'bye, bye,' we move on to our next booking and start the process again."