Happy 50th Anniversary Betsey Johnson ║ A Glimpse Into Her SS16 NYFW Castings

Happy 50th Anniversary Betsey Johnson ║ A Glimpse Into Her SS16 NYFW Castings

imageBetsey Johnson has been a fashion designer for fifty years. At age 73 she still does cartwheels and splits at every one of her fashion shows. Talk about consistency.

Betsey hung out with Andy Warhol, used Edie Sedgwick as her fit model, went bankrupt, had a reality TV show, and is as full of spunk and as her groovy clothing collection which is still going strong.

You have to hold onto your fantasy.

★ Betsey Johnson ☆


I started modeling  a couple years ago to help support my playwriting. My focus is fit, showroom and commercial modeling, but for I still get casting notices from my booker for Fashion Week runway shows. Runway is not my forte, or in any way “my thing,” but last week when I got the casting notice for Betsey’s 50th Anniversary runway show, I knew I had to go.


Hair by Laurie Blumstein ║ Makeup by Tammi Marks McDonald

Hair by Laurie Blumstein ║ Makeup by Tammi Marks McDonald

I have a second day job and was going to have to rush to the casting during my 45 minute lunch break. This was not sufficient  time to take the train, walk four blocks to the building, take the elevator up to her studio, wait my turn to walk and get back to work. It became more and more apparent throughout the day that making it to this casting was not going to happen. I’m used to having to prioritize and that day was no different. I had to stay at the job that had already hired me and was definitely going to pay me. My chances of getting the Betsey Johnson show weren’t too high. I just wanted to meet the icon behind the clothes – awesome in their flashiness and total lack of practicality.

A Betsey Johnson garment is the kind that you always remember. My most fashionable friend in 8th grade, Francesca, wore a polka dotted BJ dress with a full tulle skirt to the semi-formal. One of my teachers from college still talks about the “spaghetti twirly skirt, royal blue, spaghetti strap, cotton knit BJ dress I bought in 1978. I wore it every summer for years. It was the best.”

A few days after missing the casting, I received an email from my booker announcing a second casting with the addendum: “they aare looking for personality!”

Hubristically, I decided this improved my chances. My runway walk is still weak but boy I got personality! This time the casting was on my day off. I was stoked for a second chance to meet such a big personality.

Upon entering the studio the first thing I noticed was the display of mulicolored skirts hanging from the ceiling. While switching from my Docs into heels I enjoyed positive reinforcement index cards laying on the table I was using to balance myself. Right by the door is a bookshelf with childhood classics like The Little Prince and Madeline. There was a bit of  a wait before my opportunity to strut my stuff for Betsey and her cohorts–all at least half her age. She was on the phone talking emphaticially about all the preparaton for her upcoming fashion show.

The positive-reinforcement index cards. Photo by Piper Werle.

The positive-reinforcement index cards.


The model walking before me sported a broad-rimmed black hat, a sheer black kimono with skulls on it and red heels. I looked at my black tank and nude colored heels and questioned my styling choices.

Once Betsey got off the phone, her assistant started blasting David Bowie, which got me out of my head. Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars got me through my first eight months in New York, when I was interning, selling merch on Broadway and still learning my way around.

Soon it was my turn. Halfway through my walk, Betsey, who was very friendly and not at all pretentious, threw her arms up and joyfully commanded me to “LET GOOOO!” I couldn’t believe it. It is so rare to feel like anyone in a position of power in the fashion industry is supportive, or on anyone’s side but they’re own.

betsey johnson castings

What happened after that? It turned into one of those things that become a blur afterwards.  I know that I twirled and stomped and tried to vogue. I know I have never had so much fun at a casting.

The “vogue” was more like a weird rapid arm motion, and it probably looked ridiculous but, guys, that permission to “LET GOOOO” will never leave me. I did not get the booking but, you know, runway really isn’t my thing. I got all I could ask for from the experience.

Consistency works. Kindness works. Fun works. Happy 50th Anniversary of doing your thang, Betsey Johnson!