Preparing for Modelling Lolita

The fashion shows are an exciting part of lolita fashion events. Being able to see the future releases up close and in person, on a live model (who may even be close to your body shape) is incredible. And if you’re lucky enough to get the chance to be one of those models, I’m sure you will have an incredible time backstage. Although my own experience is limited, so far I only modelled once at DMC last year, I have been lucky to be chosen to model at Myths of Our Own in Dublin in less than 20 days (!!!), so based on the little hindsight I have, I would like to share some ideas on how to prepare for modelling lolita.

Haenuli models at Wicked and Whimsy, London, August 2016.
Photo by Emily Faulder Photography (now Emily Valentine).
To be clear, I won’t be talking about preparing your modelling application. I’m not sure if I could help you beyond selecting good photos (as in good quality, as well as ones you feel are flattering, where you feel you look great), being honest about your info and reading the instructions carefully – everything else is down to luck and designer’s tastes. If you do want more on that, Luna Rain’s advice post is still very relevant and Vanilla Bear also added some bits to remember at the end of this post. Here I will only focus on how I’m preparing myself for the modelling itself.

Take Care of Yourself

This is something you should be doing anyway, which is why it’s at the top of the list. You will normally get at least a few weeks’ notice if you’ve been selected to model – that’s a lot of time to work on your natural beauty. Drink lots of water (helps minimise any bloating), eat well-balanced meals (vitamins and minerals for better skin/hair/whatever as well as overall health), sleep plenty (no-one wants a tired-looking model), exercise if you want to/can (no need to hit the gym, but even taking the stairs instead of the lift can help) – all of this helps on a day to day basis. Depending on how much time you have between being notified and the event, it may not be the best time to experiment with your skincare regime. By all means, give your face lots of TLC – even though you’ll probably be wearing makeup, good skin on the day makes you feel more confident from within.  However, if you’ve only found out a week prior to the event, stick to products that you know won’t break you out, irritate your skin or give you an allergic reaction. If you’re feeling fancy, you could even treat yourself to a manicure (something neutral so that it goes with whatever style you’ll model) – if not, just make sure your nails are even, smooth (don’t want it to snag a chiffon dress) and clean.

When you feel beautiful in your own skin, you will do much better modelling.

Practice and Time Changing

Truth is, you’ll be taking time out of attending the event to model. In some instances, you may even be asked to model more than one outfit. Regardless of the situation, it’s important that you’re able to change quickly and outside of the comfort of your own room, since you won’t know until the day where the backstage will be. While it’s preferable that your event outfit is simpler and with fewer layers, since this will speed up the changing, you’re not forced to make that compromise if you don’t want to. However, I do encourage you to get into your full outfit at home and change into something similar to what you’ll model using only the floor and no mirrors. Time yourself as you do it too – it will give you an idea of how much time you’ll need on the day. If you’re modelling for two brands in two very different styles, time that changeover too. Of course, all this depends on whether you know everything about what you will model, but you could do a hypothetical scenario just for the sake of practice. You don’t want to be the girl that everyone’s waiting for who’s delaying the entire show.

How quickly can you change from one look into another?
Wicked and Whimsy, London, August 2016.
Photo by Catberry Photography.

Strut, Pose, Weeerq!

Modelling in a lolita fashion show is not for the faint-hearted, you have to be comfortable being in front of a large audience and appear confident. Notice how I didn’t say “be confident” – you can fake that by practicing. This can be divided further into two aspects: walking and posing.

Make sure you can walk in the shoes you selected (if you’re given shoes, ask for heel height and practice walking in something similar) and practice walking slowly. My personal pet peeve is models who are so nervous that they walk fast and the audience can’t fully appreciate the dress. I appreciate that it’s difficult: your heart is pounding with adrenaline, everyone’s looking at you, you’re trying to remember a dozen different instructions – there may even be music that might distract you and you’ll naturally try to match your speed to the rhythm. Do all that’s in your power to resist, stay calm and walk a little slower than you normally would. If you struggle, try taking smaller steps. Anything that means you’re on the runway for longer.

A confident walk that's not too fast - that's what you're
aiming for.
Dream Masquerade Carnival, London, August 2017.
Photo by Emily Valentine Photography.
This is a meaty part. Posing whilst on the runway is a little different from posing for your outfit shot in front of the camera. For one, as a model you’re there to show off the garment, not yourself. Secondly, rather than posing for just one viewer (the camera), you’re posing for a roomful of people, all of whom will see you from a slightly different angle. As always, the best thing to do is to practice in front of the mirror. This will allow you to see and adjust your poses until you’re happy with how they look. Remember to show off the clothes: lift your skirt a little to show off the print, stretch your arms to expose bell sleeves, lightly touch your headpiece if that’s also a feature etc. Generally, as long as you avoid poses that hide the print or features of the dress and stay graceful, you have free reign. You should be told the main piece you’ll model enough in advance to be able to figure out and memorise at least three different poses for it. Depending on the size of the space where the fashion show will take place, you will probably stop at least two to three times to pose, so have a different one prepared for each stop. Take the style of the piece into consideration – cutesy poses like the peace sign will work great for Sweet lolita, but not for gloomy Goths. I like to “get into character”: how does this style and outfit make me feel, what kind of person would wear this style of lolita, how would they walk, stand, act in this style – and take it from there. If you’re still unsure, then ask the designer or fellow models for some tips. It will be an exercise for your short-term memory and having someone show or guide you may help you feel more at ease. And remember to hold those poses! Just like with walking, you may feel the urge to move on, but you’re there to show off the clothes – let people see them. It will seem like you’re standing there forever, but you’d rather pose a little too long and allow everyone (including the official photographer) to see and photograph you than to disappear too quickly. Just stop, focus on your pose and your breathing, and when you think that you’re ready to move on, take another deep breath and then go.

You wouldn't know from this photo alone that the
model had troubles with her headpiece staying on.
She made it work for the style and sold this piece!
Dream Masquerade Carnival, London, August 2017.
Photo by Emily Valentine Photography.

Pack an Essentials Kit

Whilst your main job is to walk out in the clothes you’ve been given, it’s always good to come prepared. Things just happen backstage that may need improvised fixes and it will be much appreciated if you can take care of them yourself. At the very least aim to bring some spare safety pins and bobby pins, which will work in most of the probable backstage scenarios. If you’re able to, bringing a mini sewing kit and some backup options (e.g. in case you rip a hole in your tights) could go a long way. Like I said, don’t expect the changing room to have enough mirrors for each model, so having your own for makeup touch-ups is very smart. Although it’s best to avoid eating and drinking in your modelling clothes, depending on the time of day the fashion show will take place in, you may need some refreshments. Bring some water, preferably in one of those no-spill sports bottles, and a small clean snack (something non-greasy that won’t stain – think a plain biscuit or carrot sticks without any dips), because food and drink will likely not be provided. And if you can’t bring any of those extras, at least bring in some skills and help anyone who may need it. Offers of straightening crooked parts, making corset lacing tight and even or doing up the waist ties never go unappreciated and it will take some pressure off the designers/any helpers around.

Everyone loves that person who's able to help with waist ties!
Wicked and Whimsy, London, August 2016.
Photo by Emily Faulder Photography (now Emily Valentine).


Remember to Ask

Finally, if there’s anything you’re unsure of, don’t be afraid to ask. From the designer to the event organisers and your fellow models, there will be plenty of people able to help you. Remember that you’re realising someone else’s vision, so not only is it ok to check if this blouse/hairstyle/makeup/whatever will be ok – it’s encouraged. Some designers will give you more instructions than others check all that you received. Remember that if your question has to go to the designer who isn’t attending, it may take longer to get an answer, so stay patient. Up until you go out on the runway, you can ask questions to make sure that you’re doing the designer’s vision justice and that you’re doing it right.

That’s everything that I can think of. Other than finding out your technique for calming any nerves, listening closely to instructions doing the practice run and remembering the order in which you will go on stage (at least remember who’s before and after you). And remember to have fun while you’re at it!

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