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The Bridal Couture show is one of my favorite parts of fashion week. The tents go from slick and high fashion to romantic and ethereal in what amounts to a few hours, really, and fashionistas are treated to a morning of all things whimsical. What so few people know, however, is that it often takes blood, sweat, tears, and a fierce dedication to Charleston Fashion Week to make it happen.

Heather Barrie and her team begin working on the transformation the moment the last guests leaves the tent, often toiling into the wee hours of the morning. The hair and makeup team left the tent around 10PM on Friday night and went straight to bed, because they were expected back at the tents (and bright eyed) no later than 5AM. “I think we’d all fall asleep with combs in our hands if we didn’t have to work standing up,” one stylist confessed, Red Bull in hand.

The day is grueling - though rewarding - for the models as well. While most of the girls chose to stay in Charleston for the duration of CFW, some of the ladies in the Bridal Couture Show were commuting every day. “I live two hours away,” one model explained. “I ate dinner, got home at 11, showered, went to bed, and then woke up at 3AM to drive back to Charleston.” You wouldn’t have known it by looking at her, however, and as nearly every model backstage will tell you, it’s all worth it for the rush of getting up on the catwalk.

All the hard work certainly paid off on Saturday morning. As guests crowded into the front of the house, models were lining up backstage in some of the most beautiful wedding gowns available. Stunning hairpieces rested atop soft, touchable coifs and intricate beading sparkled in the late morning sunshine. Dresses ranged from short and contemporary to full, traditional gowns, and Rachel Gordon and Mychael Knight’s ladies rocked dresses that were downright sexy. The show stopper, though, was Gordon’s eco-friendly live moss finale dress!

The shows flew by in a flurry of activity, with girls racing around backstage with their skirts hoisted high or simply stripping down behind a sheet wherever they happened to come off the runway. Last minute tailoring and styling happened literally up until the second the models set foot on the runway ramp, and everyone ended the day on an adrenaline high as one gentleman proposed to his fiance on the runway.

It was another demanding but incredible day of bridal fashion, possibly the best in Charleston Fashion Week history. Everyone gave each other a round of applause before heading off for a catnap before returning for the final evening of CFW 2012.

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