History of Runway Modeling

Many people don't know the history of runway modeling, although modeling is one of the most popular professions. The exact origin of modeling is largely unknown, but we do have evidence that suggests how and where runway modeling began.

Humble Beginnings
The runway is a decidedly Parisian idea, forming in 19th-century France. During this time in France, couture salons in Paris hosted events to showcase certain fashions. These shows were considered "fashion parades." An illustrated book from 1885 called "Art et la Mode" depicts four women modeling fashions. In the beginning of runway modeling, only a small and select group of people were invited to the show. In fact, photographers weren't invited to fashion shows until the late 1940s. The lack of photography evidence is one of the reasons why we have little information about the origins of runway modeling.

American Introduction
Runway modeling came to America during the early part of the 20th century. American department stores began hosting their own runway shows, modeled after their French counterparts. These shows were targeted toward women. As runway modeling became more popular, department stores all over the country hosted their own fashion shows. These shows featured a narrative of a specific theme, such as Parisian or Asian. Early runway shows were known for their flamboyance and storyline.

Fashion Designers Take Control
Although runway shows began with retailers, fashion designers started producing their own shows in the early 1970s. For years, these shows were not only unorganized and sporadic, but they took place in unsafe environments, such as old lofts. Eventually, designers came together to create Fashion Week. Fashion Week occurs at various times of the year in the top fashion destinations in the world, including New York, Milan, Paris and London. During Fashion Week, major designers showcase their clothing to potential buyers, industry leaders and fashionistas.

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