A perfect fit model

Amended 10/26/11: Please do not post a comment asking how to break into the fit modeling business, where to get fit modeling jobs or whether your measurements are ideal for this sort of work. These questions are answered in What is a fit model? followed by How to get a job being a fit model. Again, please do not comment asking about jobs etc on this entry or I will delete them. Likewise, if it seems obvious you skipped “what is a fit model” to post in the “how to get a fit modeling job” entry, that comment will also be deleted. Thank you for your cooperation.

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Today’s issue of WWD included an article called The Life of the Perfect Fit (sub req’d) which discussed Lisa Byrnes, fit model of Adriano Goldschmied’s new denim line Goldsign.

“She has to be right in terms of specifications,” Goldschmied said. “The most important thing is she understands what your design direction is. A fit model can be a kind of muse in some ways. Basically, she has to represent your ideal woman.”

Byrnes, a professional dancer who had moved to Los Angeles from Scottsdale, Ariz., six years earlier, resembles the love child of model Peggy Moffitt and rocker Pat Benatar with her dark, shaggy hair and lean frame. The minute the 5-foot, 10-inch Byrnes walked up to Goldschmied in his company’s loft studio outside of downtown Los Angeles, he knew she was going to meet his specifications.

Wow, 5′ 10″? That’s far from average. And this has got to be a misprint but the article claims that her inseam is 27″. I’m five inches shorter than she is but my inseam is 32″. Hmmm. Perhaps that incongruity would explain why it takes Goldschmied 10 or 15 fittings to get it right.

In case you wonder, wages are not akin to what fashion models earn, not that Byrnes is complaining. She earns $75 an hour, working 10-20 hours a week. Apparently, fit model hourly rates run between $100-$150 in LA and $250-$350 in NY. The key is exclusivity; the specs of your fit model are something you want to keep under wraps.

Ya-el Torbati, designer and founder of Deener, goes so far as to call her fit model “a secret weapon,” and she won’t reveal the woman’s identity. “I want to call her Jane Doe. I don’t want to share,” Torbati said. “Fit models are so central. You’re altering a pattern to fit her body.”

Because a fit model meets the specific needs for a particular company, there is no perfect size, said Natasha Duswalt, owner of Peak Models & Talent in Valencia, Calif., who casts fit models for 10 to 15 denim companies in Southern California. “There are no magic numbers,” she said. “There’s a magic number for that company.”

Perhaps this will explain why companies will continue to resist employing standardized sizing. Every line will be unique. Many designers share Goldschmied’s philosophy that a designer brand is choosing its customer rather than the contrary. “It’s not my target to fit everybody,” Goldschmied said. Nor should yours be; the attempt will only ensure it’ll fit no one. Sizing -like lines- should be specialized.

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20 comments

  1. Christy B. says:

    While I don’t feel that designers have to fit everyone, I’d like to know who they’re trying to fit. I’m pretty darn average but half the time when I try on clothes I like, they’re far from fitting.

  2. mamasmina says:

    That 27″ has to be a mis-print! A 5’10” woman with a 27″ inseam will be very out of proportion. 37″ sounds more like it. Well, if HE thinks her inseam is 27″ no wonder his stuff doesn’t fit many people!

  3. Andrea says:

    I want to chime in here, too. I just had a conversation with a designer friend about fit models-she never used one. I disagree with the theory that your fit should be as unique as your line. Many of the premium denim companies have to come from that angle because that market is so over saturated and rediculous; but from what I understand of people’s view of better and designer lines, is that the fit is always an issue-given that information, why shouldn’t choose our fit model to represent “everywoman.man’?

  4. Kathleen says:

    If clothing only fit the average (mean) then over half the people walking around out there would have nothing to wear, me being one of them. Even with existing sizing diversity, it’s hard enough to find clothes as it is.

    If “everyman/woman” is your customer, then great. Fit for them. However, very few DEs are producing for the average person. Rather, lines are very diverse, appealing to myriad lifestyles, ages and interests. According to this logic, ballerina tutus, prom gowns and western riding jackets should be sized the same. Were this the case, neither ballerinas, teenage girls, nor barrel racers would have clothes to fit them.

    Then, there’s the issue of disposable income. DE products are not priced for “average income” and the average person is overweight but the average person with higher disposable income, is more slender than that. “Average” = lower income; it’s not appropriate to make clothes fitting a lower income demography if your products aren’t sold at Wal-Mart. The “average” consumer is 5’3″ and weighs 139 lbs. The average consumer of bridge/designer apparel is taller and weighs less. See the myth of vanity sizing for a refresher on sizing.

    In the quest to fit everyone, no one will be happy. The sizing of lines should be designed to fit your profile customer.

  5. Mike C says:

    We just purchased Optitex 2D/3D to help us reduce our reliance on a fit model.

    Fitting/refitting/sampling/resampling was driving us nuts. Once the lab returns the technical specs on our fabric, we should be able to do the first few iterations of pattern development with the software and use the live fit model far more sparingly.

  6. Miracle says:

    Many of the premium denim companies have to come from that angle because that market is so over saturated and rediculous; but from what I understand of people’s view of better and designer lines, is that the fit is always an issue-given that information, why shouldn’t choose our fit model to represent “everywoman.man’?

    Because what people say they want is vastly different from what they buy. I have friends and colleagues in the premium denim market and there are always women who say if the lines would make jeans that fit them, they would buy them. And they probably would buy 1-2 pair, not the dozens that the target customer owns.

  7. How does I select a FIT model? Is it entirely up to me to select a target body type (height, measurements, etc.) and look for someone who fits those criteria? Is there a standard that mainstream manufacturing companies use to insure that their clothes will look okay on the greatest number of people?

  8. carolita says:

    I’m a fit model, doing mostly junior fittings as a size 6, and now and then size 4 as a “high-end” 4.

    Basically, fit models are chosen to represent a consumer. If a designer sells mainly to high-end customers like Barney’s, the fit model will be on the thinner side, less curvy, more likely to fit into the other expensive designer clothes sold in that store.

    If the customer buys at Target, Kmart, etc., the model will be chosen on the larger, more curvy side, a more “real” body.

    And then there’s all the inbetween’s. Some customers buy because they like things tight, others because they like things long. Because there are so many types of bodies out there, there are also a lot of different fit models out there, fitting as the same size.

    All you have to do is find your brand name. That should do you for a couple of years, until they change their fit to adjust to a new demographic (they may change to clothe an older woman in a few years, or go “up market” and go smaller instead.)

    I go through the same things as you all do! Not everything fits me either! ;-) When I find a brand I like, I stick with it like glue! But I remember to keep trying if I like the design but not the fit of some places, since fit models are the first thing to be changed if a line isn’t selling. Don’t give up!

  9. J C Sprowls says:

    Thanks, Carolita.

    That’s precisely the type of feedback we need to hear. Are there any others out there with fit model experience? Either as the model or the fitter?

  10. JLewis says:

    Does anyone have any ideas on how you would begin a career as a fit model. For women of various sizes from size 4 to 8 of a 5’3 height with big legs and glutes.

  11. dosfashionistas says:

    A few thoughts on developing your fit. A few years ago the company I worked for decided to start making petite sizes. I was on a committee of 3 to establish the fit of our garments.

    Our first step was to look up several size charts from various petite lines and see what they thought a petite size 8 should measure. Then we purchased garments (3 or 4 of the same type from different labels, as basic as possible)and measured them.

    Now there is a petite fit model in Dallas with a very good reputation (and she did fit closely with the measurements we were looking for), so we already knew we would be using her. Our next step was to try the clothes we had purchased on her and see what looked good, and what didn’t. With that information and a lot of discussion, we knew what perimeters we wanted. (How long for pants legs, what waist measurement etc. There was a great deal of discussion at this point.)

    Then we made up our own basic garments and again tried them on the model, and adjusted, and tried, until we had our fit established.

    Our customer base was generally the older woman, so we tried for a missy fit rather than a junior fit….and I was very pleased when one buyer complimented us with the observation that we had a true missy fit.

    I hope this description is helpful. Finding your fit is a combination of knowing your customer and a lot of trial and retrial. But if you can establish a fit, so that if a customer fits in one pant of yours they will fit in all of them, and if one shirt is a good fit, they all will be…then you will have customers who come into the store asking for your label.

  12. Michelle says:

    i was a fit model for the oldest jeans brand in the US. the way the designer in the article described it is not how it works for large scale production, though it’s probably close to reality for small DE or premium denim houses. true there is usually one main fit model for a particular category, ie, missy, jr, womens, etc. but there will always be multiple fittings with groups of 3 to 7 fit models who all measure within the tolerance limits for the garment size being fitted. this allows for designers to see how women with the same measurements, but different body mass distributions, fit into the same garment. also to see how someone with measurements at the +/- edge of tolerance fits the garment.

  13. Christina Cato says:

    I’ve worked with fit models at a very well known company. In the time that I worked for them we went through 4 different fit models. We were also working on an identity crisis with understanding out customer. Once it was determined who she was the fit model was replaced with someone that would better fit that ideal. It is not a general ideal or a an average. It is specific to the woman that buys this line of clothing. Through constant customer feedback the fit is refined and if needed the fit model is changed.

    The clothes certainly don’t fit everyone (I couldn’t wear them), but the customers that can wear them are extremely loyal. The fit is the “signature” of the industry. I think it’s very clever to keep that a secret and to keep it unique. It ensures that the loyal customers remain loyal.

  14. As a former fit model working for over 10 years fitting garments, and now owning the top fit model agency in the Los Angeles area, I can tell you things are changing.

    The truth is, each company finds the model that best suits their customer. Some of the national brands that we all buy like Target, Walmart, etc will fit a little more generous taking the whole country in to account. Some of the high end designer lines might fit a little smaller taking into account the ideal of their customer. Either way, a fit model is critical to the production of the companies garments. Many of my clients ask that the fit models they hire through Peak Models & Talent remain loyal to their brand. It is imperative that models use discretion when fitting with multiple lines, not to divulge any design or fit secrets of their other clients.

    With so much at stake for a company it is critical that they find an agency that has experience dealing with fit models, not to waste time. We have had so man clients come to us and thank us for sending the proper size range of models for their castings. Of course there is always the model that gains or looses weight, but we are all human. The human element is why fit models are so important to any manufacturer. There is no substitute for human feedback, at the end of the day, if you produce a garment and it has not been properly fit, you will be stuck with the goods, on the other hand if it fits, you have a reorder!

  15. Finding the proper fit for any clothing company is critical to the success of that brand.
    Many models seem to fit a range of sizes, a size 4 contemporary could also be a size 5 juniors.
    With the fit ranging from company to company, it is important to know what measurements a client is seeking as the label can vary depending on their definition of size vs. measurements.

    If you’re looking for a reputable and reliable source for fit models in the LA FIT MARKET, please visit my site.

  16. Shermane Fouche says:

    A quick reference is a great chapter in a book one of my students picked up, title;”Runway Runaway” by lorelei Shellist. She was a fit model for Geoffrey Beane in the 80’s. Old school Designer, and a true industry overview of how “old school” worked with fit models. On the personal side, I draped for a Jr’s company in Paris. We used the Stockman Mannequin, (Stockman is an Haute Couture mannequin) and it did not repreesent our target market. Our fitting model was then a darling girl with no bust and a bit more of a derriere, solid and muscular. We were CONSTANTLY remaking everything 2,3 and 4 times before it was sampled, then refitting the sample, CRAZY!

  17. Beverly Kingwood says:

    I was a Fit Model for Simplicity pattern company when they were located on Madison Avenue in New York. At that time I was a full time student at FIT studying fashion design. When I went for the interview they measured me and I was hired (size 10 was there standard size). I worked full time was stationed in the patternmaking department. It was a awesome experience. Whenever there was a new style produced for simplicity pattern co. I fitted the garment in and the designers and head patternmake would be there for the fitting. While in that position I was able to learn many things from the patternmakers who were really so talented. I had never modeled before or desired to model.

  18. TARLA says:

    It’s do true that there is a range of sizes and measurements that work from one client to the next. I know I’ve had castings where I was too small and then others where I was too big. So it all varies and there is not one specific formula other than that client’s target demo.

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