The catwalk serves a functional and symbolic purpose in everything from New York Fashion Week to local runway shows. This long, thin stage allows models to demonstrate the movement of designers' clothes while also serving as a societal symbol of glitz, glamor, and chic couture. Discover what a catwalk is and why it is useful for fashion shows.
What Is a Catwalk?
A catwalk, also known as a runway, is a type of footbridge that is long, slim, and bridge-like. The catwalk is the focal point of many contemporary fashion shows, where models display their outfits.
If you look up "catwalk" in a British or American English dictionary, you'll see that it can also refer to similar structures outside of the world of fashion. It could also refer to a narrow bridge between buildings and railroad cars.
A Brief Overview of Catwalk Modeling
Rather than glitzy fashion shows, catwalk modeling began in midcentury department stores. Local fashion models walked down narrow runways to show shoppers how clothes looked on moving bodies. Catwalks became a staple of high-profile fashion shows in the 1960s. Catwalk modeling had become the de facto choice for major fashion designers to debut their new styles and clothes to the world by the 1980s and 1990s.
Other Terms for Catwalk
The term "catwalk" refers to the long gangways used by models in both American and British English, as well as Dutch and Norwegian. Check out this list of alternative words in various languages:
Laufsteg: While the term "laufsteg" may be unfamiliar to you, it is the German term for these narrow walkways. Expect to hear this term instead of catwalk or runway if you attend a fashion show in Berlin.
Pasarela: In Spanish, this word can also mean gangplank or runway. Because the three languages have similar Latin origins, pasarela sounds a lot like "passarela" (in Portuguese) and "passerella" (in Italian).
Podium: In English, a "podium" is a stand or lectern where people give speeches. The word takes on the English definition of catwalk in French. In a broader sense, the French term "podium" refers to stages in general. In French, another common synonym for catwalk is passerelle.
How Catwalks Are Used for Modeling
These narrow paths are now staples of the fashion and modeling industries. These are just a few of the reasons why designers insist on modeling their clothes on catwalks:
To introduce new clothing: Designers use catwalk modeling to showcase their new styles. They can help set trends and start new fashions on the runway by collaborating with models.
To show clothes in motion: When you see something on a rack or in an advertisement, you have no idea how it will look when you walk in it. As models walk down these narrow platforms, audience members can see how the clothes move. Catwalk modeling provides consumers with more information in this regard.
To highlight points of focus: If you look at examples of catwalk shows online, you'll notice that these bridges allow crowds to focus on specific aspects of clothing at specific times. Models pause and pose at various points along the runway, allowing viewers to view each ensemble from every possible angle.