How to get a job being a fit model

Continuing from What is a fit model and before you worry about how to get a job being a fit model (or hiring one), you should figure out if you even want the job.

Working conditions: The work is not glamorous, it’s thankless hard work. Sure, the $75-$150 hourly rate you can expect from the largest employers looks good on paper but between the good and bad, you’ll earn every penny of it. You can expect to be treated as an inanimate object -not because people are horrible but because they are used to working on a form that doesn’t complain when pinned, prodded or pushed and they’re concentrating on the product, not you. Expect to be stuck with pins occasionally, expect fitters to be occasionally insensitive, expect for your feet to hurt. The client will (or should) expect you to wear the same pair of shoes and foundations from one fit session to the next. You’ll need to keep a work diary to track the use of specific items.

It is not unusual to have an audience while changing your clothes. Watching someone get in and out of a garment is vital information, as important as fitting to size itself. If disrobing in front of people makes you uncomfortable, ask for someone -a pattern maker is best- to assist you in the changing room even though you may not need help so the company can get the information they need. If you undress unobserved, no one will know if a zipper is a tiny bit too short or if it is too difficult to get your shoulders into a snugly fitted top.

They should ask you how it feels. This is a product review, they need to know everything that is wrong with the product because it is not a designer, merchandiser or pattern maker validation session. You’ll need to mention whether elastics, cuffs or waistbands feel snug even if they don’t bother you. Don’t make any remarks about styling elements, it’s not appropriate to volunteer whether you do or don’t like it or think it needs a smaller collar, shorter skirt etc. unless someone asks you. If someone should, be as ambiguous as possible. There are exceptions of course if you’ve developed a relationship and have proven your value as a muse. And as Barb mentions, hold still! Don’t preen and twirl while you face the mirror. We’re paying to look at you, not for you to look at you.

One last thing to discuss is health and safety. Call me weird but with communicable diseases being what they are, I would supply my own pins at every session and insist those are used. You might have to get with them to figure out what pins they prefer but I wouldn’t want to get stuck with pins that had been used on who knows who else before me. Speaking of, get a tetanus shot. I get one every ten years on my birthday.

Confidentiality: One’s fit model is often a valuable secret and you shouldn’t let it be known who you’re working for or you could be out of a job. A lot of manufacturers will assume you know this and may not think to have you sign a confidentiality agreement. Whether you’re asked to sign one or not, they will assume you will not disclose that you work for them nor pass along any internal anecdotes you may be privy to and of course, no style details or disclosures either.

Maintaining confidentiality makes it more challenging to get work so you’re in the same boat as pattern makers and sewing contractors. Exercise caution in how you publicly describe your work history. YOu can only describe previous and current employers in broad terms such as: “Missy fit model size 8, worked x years/months for long established mid-town contemporary sportswear line”. At your interview it is acceptable to say who you worked for but you should never market yourself this way. A reputable employer will not ask you anything about their competitors such as who does what job, who or how many people they have on staff or where they get work done etc. It would be very unprofessional for them to ask and even more so for you to answer. If you’re a chatterbox, they’ll assume you’ll be a chatterbox about them too.

How to get work as a fit model:
Most of the time, fit modeling is a part time job you do for a friend who has a clothing line. That’s the truth. How you structure the arrangement with your friend is not something I can tell you. For nearly all others, fit modeling is a part time job that gives you occasional spending money.

Some fit models find work by posting on craigslist, looking for ads (craigslist, WWD etc) or by signing on with an agency that provides these services to manufacturers. Some agencies are better than others. If I search on an agency site looking for a model of specific dimensions and the results return page after page of glamorous photos, I won’t have any confidence in the agency. Especially if the “fit models” double as fashion models (exceptions are special sizes like plus size and petites). I’d probably give up and hang out at the mall looking at people until I saw a body I liked and then try to approach the person in a tactful way that wouldn’t get me injured or arrested. Once, a guy nearly attacked me because I was trying to take pictures of his wife’s butt. Some people have no appreciation of professionalism at all. I’ve tried placing ads for fit models (yes, pattern makers often hire them) but it is often a horrible proposition. 99.999% either do not know what a fit model is, think they get to keep the clothes, think it means getting in the door to fashion modeling and that they can earn $250-$1,000 an hour -and often all four. Nearly all of them are unsuitable for fashion modeling too but that’s another story. I once hired a little girl to fit model children’s coats and her parents expected me to pay for her to get braces on her teeth.

Speaking of ads, you’ll commonly see help wanted ads for fit models but read carefully. Many are full time jobs -as receptionists; the fit modeling work is only a few hours a week. It’s better to expect to be paid what receptionists make, not what fit models do because that will be the majority of your work. You probably won’t think it’s fair but in their mind, that was one qualification for receptionist you had that someone else didn’t and they’ve done fairly by you by giving you a job. Who knows, maybe you can negotiate a wage increase for the hours spent fit modeling but then again, fit duties could provide a welcome respite to you by then.

Personally, I think there should be a law against anyone’s love interest being the fit model. Males in the chain (sales managers, VPs, designers etc) can be the worst about it. If a model has a 28″ bust and a 29″ waist, she is not a missy size 10 no matter how much you are crushing on her. I actually had to use a model like this -and keep a straight face doing it. We went from using a healthy B+/C- cup to a -AAA cup, her waist was bigger than her bust. It was the stupidest thing ever, we were having to recut every single style we’d been producing for 50 years. It was abject stupidity and just one reason they ended up closing down. I think a pattern maker’s opinions should have a lot of weight in a fit model decision. But I digress.

At the first meeting you should expect a verbal and physical interview. Your measurements will be taken and recorded. Do expect to have to try on a few clothing items. They will usually pick signature pieces of which performance and fit are well established. Expect to be photographed and don’t make the mistake of asserting you have any rights to their use (amateur hour). Photos are often used internally as a point of comparison to select the best candidate and then discarded. Then again, you want to avoid the possibility of your photos being used to direct fit changes to offshore contractors if they’re using an interview as a free fit session. If they do their patterns and product development in house, pictures are okay. However, if the meeting evolves into an actual fit session meaning someone is pinning and marking or taking fit related notes or soliciting wearability feedback, you need to have a tactful response planned because the interview is over and the work has begun.

You should bring a range of shoes with varying heel height. You will need a variety of bras and panties. Please! wear! a! bra! and! panties! Nobody cares if you think undergarments are a communist-chauvinist plot to dominate and degrade women. Start with comfortable shoes, not pretty ones. Hopefully all of your footwear will be easy on your feet and prevent your back from hurting after standing for hours at a time. Bring your inventory of shoes, bras and panties to every fit session unless you know they’re unnecessary. By the way, you should expect complete privacy while changing your undergarments.

Earnings: I regret to tell you that most fit models don’t make much. Very few professional fit models will be reading this so if you are, by default, you’re probably not in the same category (I sold a photo once but it doesn’t make me a professional photographer). Which is not to say you couldn’t get there. Point is, professionals can get $75 to $150 an hour. Everybody else, it’s catch as catch can. I’ve paid as little as $20 an hour for a squirmy kid who wouldn’t follow direction up to $35 to a clerk I found working in a bridal store. I live in a mid level cost city and I don’t need a lot of fit model services so I doubt I would pay more than $50 and I would have to love their body (we often don’t; we’re making do). And if I did find a fit model I loved, I would hire him or her more frequently or for longer periods but I wouldn’t want to pay a higher hourly rate. Obviously your mileage may vary.

In summary, a fit model is not a fashion model and the chances of breaking into fashion modeling from fit modeling are effectively ZERO. As to whether you can become a fit model, ask yourself this question: do your measurements represent the AVERAGE figure of a given manufacturer’s size spread? In other words, are you average? I’ll repeat that, are you average? If you are 5’8″ and 105 lbs, you are not average; you’re too tall and too thin to be a fit model. I told this to one girl last week and she calmly assured me that she believed “in her dreams” and knew she could “build a niche” for herself. If you have measurements that are appreciably atypical and find an inexperienced designer who makes the mistake of hiring you, I have three suggestions. Get your check before you leave, cash it immediately and don’t expect this to become a long term gig.

Related:
How to get a job being a fit model
What is a fit model?
Fit model’s blog
A perfect fit model

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18 comments

  1. Kerryn says:

    The best thing about moving to Portland is professional Fit Models! There is enough work here to have some very high-demand models. The advantages of someone who does this as a full time gig being their understanding of everything you described above.

    They know it’s not their place to comment on colour or styling, and they know the language of fitting… e.g. “the back rise feels short” not “these feel funny” it makes long fittings much more efficient. They also understand the value in keeping their measurements, fluctuating weight in a female model or a sudden urge to pump some iron at the gym for male models just won’t cut it. I can’t use you if you’re not consistent…..

    I’m unlucky enough to also have to fit Men’s and Women’s underwear and Children’s clothing. These are fit sessions I would rather not do. Professional underwear fit models get paid much more for a good reason.

  2. Rocio says:

    Kathleen,

    I had a lot of fun thinking of a company I once worked for where the “fit” would change according to how many breast implants the owner’s girlfriend went through.. And then the cycle would start again with every new girlfriend…

  3. Dana says:

    Couple additions. Expansion on the “photograph my butt” point above. Someone will be standing in your personal space, pinching and pulling at the clothes you are wearing, including at “sensitive” areas. Doesn’t work any other way. Also if you have long hair, put it up, pull it back, get it off your shoulders so we can see the neckline. And fit models are expected to maintain their weight and will be measured frequently.

  4. Kathleen says:

    These are all really good points. Hair and weight are biggies, meant to mention hair. Nothing worse than a see-sawing fit model. We’ve seen it all, fit models who get preggars, gain weight from anti-depressants, lose weight because they broke up with their boyfriends… it’s unfortunate that size is each job’s prerequisite but there is no other way.

    Some people say that fashion models are nothing but pieces of meat but I think it’s more true of fit models. At least in its most practical sense.

  5. dosfashionistas says:

    After all this I can just hear all these girls saying to themselves, “Why would I want to be a fit model?”

    If you do qualify to be a fit model, you will get to see new fashions before anyone else. And you will be very instrumental in determining how they fit, and how they look too. Not because you are going to tell the designer how to do it, but because she will be adjusting her designs according to how they look and fit on you. A good fit model is one of the most valuable assets a clothing company can have. If you love fashion, love clothes, this will give you a chance to be on the inside of the fashion world.

    Be sure up front what you will be paid. Some companies do expect the fit model to take one or two pieces of clothing for payment. This is unprofessional and cheapskate of them, since they are usually giving you something that was headed for deep discount rather than anything new. So insist on money, unless you really want the clothes.

  6. Penny says:

    Rocio, That is hilarious! I can just picture that scenario…

    So nowI feel bad that we are only paying our excellent fit model $30.00 an hr. I think he is due a raise.

  7. Barb Taylorr says:

    I loved Rocio’s story too!! It made me much less critical of some of the ridiculous model situations I have endured. Thanks for the perspective!

  8. Rocio says:

    On the other side of the spectrum, we have been working with a small group of professional fit models and have an arrangement where our accounts get a discounted rate (as long as we’re overseeing the fit sessions)

    These models are ALL in high demand, but because we have adapted to work together very well some of their clients have also hired us to oversee development

  9. cidell says:

    Post college there was a major mall retailer based out of the Baltimore area. I was between jobs and they were hiring a p/t fit model and receptionist. I knew there accessories buyer and interviewed and was offered the job. But, luckily, a job in my field also came through that week. I was actually flattered for that brief moment in which I had the ‘right’ measurements :)

  10. Mel says:

    None of it is glamorous and if you are not used to keeping your body one specific way, then it is really hard work.
    You mention the difference between being a FIT model and being a professional FIT model. It’s interesting your side of it. If I, a professional FIT model, were working in a professional environment, getting professional pay, I would not be dealing with the atrocities you speak of. Each location that I work that has been of higher caliber have treated me wonderfully, had changing rooms of some sort, and were very sensitive to how they poked and prodded me. Unlike the places I started out in working for very little or clothing only, where I changed in a single cold room full of people poked and prodded.

    Think about it. Money talks, if you’re paying little, you’re getting little. Models of potentially lower quality going into environments of lower quality. Professionalism begets professionalism. It works both ways.

  11. Tarla says:

    I agree with what you say about not revealing your clients which is what I do as a fit model out of respect for them.

    I notice though that a lot of other fit models in LA and across the country disclose their clients on their web sites and LinkedIn pages perhaps for bragging rights.

    I’m curious what clients’ opinions on here are about that…

  12. Liv Doria says:

    Its so funny reading all these comments…

    All I can add to or say is this.

    if you want to become a fit model, you need to earn people’s trust and maintain a very good reputation within the industry. this involves being super professional, Ie, hanging up the clothes, being prompt, reliable, super fast at changing.. and every honest in your opinions… Before you know it, people will pass your name around and you will be very known to the industry. If you want to last as a fit model.. As in make a career.. I’m afraid to say this, you have to make a lasting impression as someone that cares about their product, and wants to help make it the best it can be.. Wether it’s high end or wall mart. Otherwise you will be chewed up and spat out.
    When their product or label is selling well, usually they will be happy with you. Sometimes when the product is not selling they begin to question everything… Pattern makers, models and what not. Sometimes you get blamed for things not in your control.. But that is part of the job.

    It is a very fickle industry, and some people might not like your shape, personality and you have to have a thick skin, as over the 9 years I have had as working as a model, people will become very opinionated at your expense.. And will forget you are a human being!! But if you learn to take this as a pinch of salt, you won’t hear any of the comments.

    I actually fell into fit modelling accidentally… I didn’t have a career dream to be a fit model. I didn’t even know what one was!! About 9 or 10 years ago I needed a job, any job, as I moved to a new part of the city. my sister recommended the rag trade as that was her back ground. I went for one casting, for a very well known label.. it was the first time I have ever had any insight to anything regarding fashion, and they measured me up, and I heard from them 3 months later!!! Saying do u want the job!! I had forgotten I’d even applied!

    All I can say is I ended up staying in it because their was a demand… And I had what they needed to get their product Looking right. So I became well known, and have worked for pretty much every commercial label under the sun (in Australia) It’s been positive… Even the odd trip overseas to shanghai a few times, which was a great experience.

    I have found it really glamorous, As I have high standards as to who I work for. I think that is the key. Make your mark and make an impression. If you choose great brands, and people,like what your about you can make a great living, and I have met some of the best people ever. So for that it’s been nothing but win win!! I love doing the PR nights, and the parades and the show room stuff.. That for me was the best part… So if you do think this is for you, it is what you make it!!

    Good luck!!

  13. Liv Doria says:

    OH and btw, it helps to have a sense of humour!L! , I’ve had some super funny moments, like a designers pug dog pooping in my change room, or people fiddling with your crotch and not realising, or having a feel up of your bust (trying to work out if lining is working) and I’ve also had a gay dude try on the jeans after I’ve had them on and prance around in my stilettos shouting in his French accent “see they even don’t look right on me” not to mention being in a massive room full of people and given something a size to small, and the owner CEO big gun say “have u put on weight” and all the girls shriek.. Like its the worst thing that could ever happen in life.. I could write a book about all these fashion moments, that are so funny when you re tell them, I think it’s moments like this that make fit modelling a very interesting profession!!! So all I can say is be prepared!!

  14. Karol Brack says:

    I would like to know if there is a age maximum. Years ago I was a petite fit model for a well known designer. I was 31 yrs old at that time. I am now 55. Is that considered to old.

  15. M Beard says:

    I was a fit model for a well-known brand in San Diego, California for a year (two years ago). They loved me because I was able to stay the same size and worked two days a week. The hourly rate was great, but I agree, I worked very hard every hour I was there. And if, by chance the fitting lasted for more than 3 hours, I was exhausted! I have been thinking of getting back into it, as I could use the extra income. I know my measurements are still the same…wondering if anyone has any tips on how to get back into it or who to contact? Seems these jobs are so hard to find or locate. IF anyone has any tips it would be much appreciated. I would be looking from San Diego to southern L.A. area. Thanks!

  16. CC says:

    I’m interested in getting into fit modeling in Los Angeles, and I’m wondering if you have any tips for identifying good agencies. There seem to be a lot of them online, and it’s hard to tell which are legitimate, and then which of the legitimate ones tend to be most successful in getting work for their clients. I noticed most say that the photos you submit do not need to be professional, but will most of the competition have pro headshots, etc?

    Also, what would you say one could expect to be paid on a monthly or yearly basis as a fit model working in LA (who works through an agency rather than for only one designer)? I have a good sense of what the hourly rates might be, but not of how many hours professional fit models tend to work. I’m a writer, and having a part-time hourly job like this (instead of my current full-time salaried job) would open up much more time for me to write. But it would obviously be a pretty tough choice to leave my current job without having a good sense of what my income would be like.

    If it matters (for the type of work maybe?), I’m 5’8.5″ and my basic measurements are 36-27-36. I know this is different than the averages you mentioned in your other post, but they seem to closely match many of the model profiles I’ve seen on the LA fit agency websites.

    Many thanks to anyone who might be able to help!

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