It’s market again – that time after fashion week when the real work starts: buyers and their appointments, orders paid for in currencies from around the world, commerce. I walk towards my normal changing room for the week of showroom I have to look forward to. It’s not so much a room as it is a 3’ x 6’ storage closet they’ve moved boxes out of on our account. Three girls normally change here, weaving between each other’s naked bodies and a rolling rack filled with a never-ending barrage of clothing. The nice blonde is already there, sitting on a folding chair crammed underneath shelves filled with clear Rubbermaid storage boxes. Her head is down, reading a magazine, waiting for someone to not look at her and say, “Here. Try this on.”
I’ve been doing this sort of work since I moved to New York a year ago. I had done it before, some three years back, for a famous designer adored by old ladies who like a nice full skirt and a fur jacket or two. We paraded the entire collection in front of panel of department stores, sitting on the carpeted floor of a proper dressing room in between the time it took for people to make real decisions outside. I was working with an obnoxious Brazilian with impossibly thin everything and crooked white teeth. Her voice was deep and throaty, everything she said accompanied by the word, “Bay-beeeeee.”
I’m hanging up my coat when I am pulled aside by one of the head sales reps and told, “You’re actually supposed to be in here,” and walked down the hallway into an office. “We’re doing something different this season,” she tells me and I know that I have been demoted to doing denim and jersey, not the runway collection shown the day before. I sit down on a plastic chair and note the familiar name written on a sticker placed on the inside of my pair of size 41 shoes. Aline: blonde supermodel. Me: blonde not-so-super-model.
Last week I had to come in and try on thirty-five pairs of jeans that squeezed my hips and pushed whatever fat I had northward into an all-too-desirable muffin top. They do this every season, throwing you in the tiniest pieces they have, just to make sure you haven’t put on five pounds so they can hire you again – a model’s litmus test.
“What size are you?” they asked, scrunching their faces while they asked me to turn around. I felt myself sweating the sweat of someone who believed they were about to be fired for eating too many almonds that week. “Let’s try these in on another size…” one said, handing me a larger pair. I went home feeling like a fat chick, wanting to slit my wrists and call it a day. Now, I’d be wearing these for days on end.
Often, modeling is like going over to your skinny, boneless, fourteen-year-old’s house and being forced to wear her clothing for a week because the airline you’ve just flown on for the holidays has lost your bags. You fit, but not really. Things pull over and around your body but don’t zip up. Pants stretch offensively in places that they would not if they were just a smidge bigger. You feel uncomfortable, guilty, and horrifically ugly, not remembering that you’re a decade older than this person who hasn’t gone through puberty yet. Except I get paid to do this, and if you don’t fit, you don’t get paid.
After trying on skinny jeans made out of raw denim, I went home and had a mini-nervous breakdown in my mirror, looking around my apartment and hating that it and that everything I owned depended on the static size of my hip measurements. It brought on a crushing wave of anxiety, thinking how long I could keep it all up. I watched my face twist in the mirror, feeling spoiled and stupid, wishing that I could just pack up my bags and move back to LA, get a real job that commanded real respect and responsibilities, eat meatballs and live in some shitty apartment in Korea Town.