That One Time I Worked Backstage at New York Fashion Week

Want to work backstage at New York Fashion Week? Read on to hear how I found a gig at the event!

As I was finishing up my senior year of college in Chicago, I was juggling two internships, a double-major course load and a part-time job as a cater-waiter and event photographer. Needless to say, I was exhausted from 14-hour days and seriously needed a break from cold-weather drudgery.

So when my best friend asked me if I wanted to accompany her to New York City to work backstage at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, I didn’t think twice. I quickly booked a ticket, called my internship bosses to say I wouldn’t be coming in next week and stopped by J.Crew to buy black leggings. Done.

When I dutifully arrived at Lincoln Center at 2 p.m. for the Farah Angsana show, I had no idea what to expect. But it was outside Lincoln Center I got my first glimpse of the fashion week models- all tall, all young, and some so horrifically thin that I had to look away.

Backstage before the show was hectic- along with about 20 other volunteer dressers, we were quickly briefed on how to zip, unzip and steam the clothes and how to most efficiently dress the models. Then we were each assigned a look and were told to stand by our posts at all times.

I soon found out you really do strip couture off of half-naked teenage models during the show. Though I’m not super into fashion, I loved working backstage- it was fast-paced, exciting and completely different to anything I’d ever experienced before.

The show I helped with!

Work Backstage New York Fashion Week
 Me backstage after the fashion show was over

Because New York is one of my favorite cities, we stayed put for a few days after the fashion show in order to soak up as much of the Big Apple as possible. From checking out the impeccably curated Islamic Art Collection at the Met to drooling over arugula and ham thin-crust pizza at Numero 28, New York didn’t disappoint.

Also if you’re in New York I’d highly recommend Momofuku Milk Bar. Their menu is so much fun and a throwback to an American childhood: I loved their cereal milk soft serve ice cream, light pink b’day truffles, compost cookie and pretzel milk-shake. And yes, I tried all of that in one visit.

A few things to note about working backstage at a fashion show:

Most people find backstage jobs at fashion week through connections.My friend found the jobs because of a post seeking dressers one of her high school classmates put up on Facebook.

As far as I know, all volunteering opportunities are unpaid. If you want to work for one of the more sought-after designers, previous volunteer work at shows is important.

Backstage rules:

1. Follow the dress code. Wear all black and comfortable shoes (I wore black ballet flats – I absolutely love these ones).

Stay away from heavy make-up or jewelry. For girls make sure to have your hair up, and for guys make sure to be clean-shaven.

2. Don’t use your phone during the show. Have your phone on silent in your bag.

3. Don’t talk or stand in the way of the designer, as he or she will be very busy making final check-ins on how each look is styled before the fashion show.

4. Be professional, quiet and helpful– and most importantly, have fun!

Have you ever worked backstage at New York Fashion Week? Would you want to?

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

22 thoughts on “That One Time I Worked Backstage at New York Fashion Week”

  1. Wow, very jealous of your experience! I actually didn’t know they accepted volunteers, I thought you had to have amazing connections to be honest. I have to agree NYC is one of my favourite cities too! Great post :) x

  2. wow that’s so cool! I’ve been dying to get into fashion week. I’m really hoping to get there in September. I’m a makeup artist. I put my application in and it’s been viewed several times but no call or email yet. Please with me luck! My dream is to be working at fashion week. Any tips would be super helpful! :)

  3. Hi

    Do you know what a “front of house” volunteer does vs “backstage.” Does backstage always mean dresser? Thanks!

  4. Ashley Fleckenstein
    your article is really helpful, i am Fashion show organizer and was looking for new ideas, thats how i come across your article and it was really good.
    thanks for sharing.
    eaja.nabeel44 at gmail.com

  5. Hi I am interning this year and was wondering what type of shoes people were wearing and what shoes i should wear?

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