What is a fit model?

This is the first of two entries. I intended to post it as one but it got too long. Part two on how to get work as a fit model or how to hire one will be posted tomorrow.

Preamble: In 2006, I posted an entry about a well known cartoonist for the New Yorker who worked as an occasional fit model. Since then, the entry continues to collect comments from people who have been interested in becoming fit models and wanted to know how to go about it only, few of them who post comments appear to know what a fit model is. Most aspire to making a lateral move into fashion modeling from fit modeling -you know, like they teach you in school that you can become a designer by being a pattern maker first ~shudder~. This is the painful truth: the chances of breaking into fashion modeling from fit modeling are effectively ZERO. Many -new designers and prospective models alike- do not understand what a fit model is. Strangely enough, the post I’d written about the perfect fit model a month prior doesn’t get many comments. Too bad, it provided some useful hints.

Today I will provide some background for people who want to become fit models and those who seek to hire them. The first step in getting started as a fit model is to know what one is and the function they are expected to perform. How can you expect to do a job if you don’t know what the job is? A fit model:

  • is NOT a fashion model.
  • is not fashionably thin, quite the opposite.
  • does not need to be attractive.
  • is not used in fashion photos.
  • represents the average customer of a given manufacturer, namely the middle size of the size spread or size run.

Because there are many kinds of manufacturers and the size ranges they sell, many kinds of products and many kinds of people, there is an endless variety of fit models who may be needed making it difficult to define one. The size of a fit model depends on the size spread or size run of varying manufacturers. For example, if manufacturers offer these sizes, the given size fit model should be:

  • Sizes: 0-12, the fit size is 6
  • Sizes: 4-14, the fit size is 8
  • Sizes: 6-16, the fit size is 10
  • Sizes: XS-XL, the fit size is M

If the manufacturer produces an even number of sizes, the fit size is usually the smaller of the two middle sizes. This explains why with sizes 4-14 (4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14), sizes 8 and 10 are in the center but the size 8 is selected as the average or median size.

Region: The size range is not the total answer either. The region of the country in which you work also matters a great deal. In NY, a size 8 is the most common fit size. Most everywhere else, the standard fit size is a 10.

Cost: The cost of the line also matters. More expensive product lines use a smaller sized fit model because wealthier people are thinner and vice versa. For example, the traditional fit model size in Dallas is a 10. However, if the line is a bridge or expensive contemporary line, it would not unheard of if the fit model were a size smaller (8) than typical for the area.

Height range/Women:

  • Petites: Average height for women in the US is a little under 5’4″. Petites are defined as 5’4″ and under. Most petite manufacturers fit at the upper end of the range and will want a fit model who is 5’3″ to 5’4″. This means that although you may wear petite sized clothes, 5 foot is too short. Sorry.
  • Average: It is difficult to define a height range because a target consumer can vary so widely. For middle range lines, the average height is at least 5’6″ or even 5’7″. If the line is more expensive, a taller fit model is used because wealthier people are taller on average. These lines will seek a model who is 5’7″ to 5’9″. The lowest cost lines in the average range often do not use fit models at all because their product development processes and costs are pared to match their pricing.
  • Talls: Being specialty lines, the height requirement can vary a great deal. Some target taller than average women (5’7″-5’10″+/-) and others target very tall women (5’10”-6’2″). It is impossible to say. Being smaller niche lines, the designer is often her own fit model. Within specialty lines, it is more typical for the manufacturer to occasionally want a range of various models who will represent the various sizes in the size spread to get an idea of how well their styles fit across the range of sizes they offer. These jobs are rarely long term, more of a one-time thing.

Height range/Men:

  • Shorts: The caveats about niche lines mentioned under tall women applies here too. I’m not familiar with lines that dress shorter men, my brother in law says buying clothes is terrible. He is a perfectly proportioned 5’6″.
  • Average: Average height for men in the US is 5’9″ but most manufacturers cut their sizes for a man who is at least 5’10 or 5’11”. Again, “average” is misleading because pricier or specialty lines need and use taller models. Specialty lines such as fitness apparel (cycling, climbing etc) are unique in that the models may be taller but also fitter. By contrast, only rarely is fitness (a specific range within the BMI index) important in women’s apparel. It is not unusual for other specialty lines like western wear to use a taller model, say six foot.
  • Big and Talls: This category is misleading because tall doesn’t necessarily mean big. Talls are usually 5’11” to 6’4″ with the average fit model 6’2″. A big and tall fit model will be the same with girth proportions being more important than height.

Weight range/ Women:

  • Petites: petite and short are not synonyms! Petites have a smaller frame size and shorts are an average frame size who happen to be shorter. A true petite should weigh about 2 to 3 pounds for every inch over five foot, plus 100 lbs. Meaning, a 5’4″ true petite fit model should weigh about 108-115 lbs. If the line is for “petites” who are larger framed but happen to be short, you should weigh about 3 to 5 pounds for every inch over five foot, plus 100 lbs. Meaning, a 5’4″ short (petite) fit model should weigh about 115-120 lbs.
  • Average: average doesn’t mean much but you should weigh about 5 to 7 pounds for every inch over five foot plus 100 lbs. A 5’6″ average model should weigh 128 to 135 lbs.
  • Plus size fit models should weigh about 7 to 9 lbs for every inch over five foot plus 100 lbs. A 5’8″ plus size fit model should weigh 155 to 170 lbs. It is not unusual for plus size models to be taller than fit models of average frame sized lines. Since dimensions can vary so much more in plus sizes, most manufacturers are seeking models whose dimensions are proportionate. Meaning, that the differences between bust, waist and hip, don’t vary more than 8 inches plus or minus with the waist being the smaller measurement.

Weight range/Men:

  • Lines most likely to use a male fit model will use a medium or size 42. A male model should weigh 7 to 9 pounds for every inch over 5 foot plus 100 lbs. A man who is 5’11” should weigh about 177-195 lbs. Again, one’s mileage varies depending on the product line. If the intended consumer is very active (climber, distance runner, triathlete etc), the manufacturer will be interested in a man who weighs 6 or 7 pounds per inch over five foot plus 100 pounds.

Proportions and Dimensions: Chest, waist and hip
Many women think that having a cute figure (larger than average bust but slender etc) makes them a shoe-in but nothing can be farther from the truth. The best way to know if your key measurements are within range for fit modeling is to look at sizing charts of various clothing lines. The closer you match the dimensions of their middle size, the better a match you are. Generally, you can’t get a job fit modeling if you wear a cup size larger than C and even that is dicey. Of course caveats abound. A clothing line designed for fuller busted women will want the larger cup size. Being specialty lines, only the designer can say who their model or customer is.

Tomorrow I will post the rest. It will include information on working conditions, pay, how to find a fit model and how to get a job fit modeling.

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20 comments

  1. Marie-Christine says:

    Fashion modeling is unfortunately the female equivalent of football – a career that requires no real education, no real intellectual capacity, which is usually engaged in before one is in any sort of mature state, and in which a very visible (but very tiny) minority can make a huge amount of money. So it’s not surprising that your page would get google hits from similar keywords, and subsequent drive-by comments from people who if they were seriously engaged in looking for a job would not be getting their information from the web. Eh. You could probably close the comments on that entry and save yourself some trouble?

  2. Bente says:

    What about children’s wear? Every year we have to find a new fit model as the kids grow away from the size we need to fit. Thats probably why many brands make repeat of styles from collection to collection with small changes.

  3. Barb Taylorr says:

    In addition to having the ideal measurements for our line, I look for the following in a fit model:
    1. Ability to change into & out of clothes quickly, & asks what we want them to do with the garments afterward. Do not assume we want to pay your hourly rate for you to meticulously rebutton and hang them back up perfectly. It is good to ask. They will probably prefer you to hand them back to someone to re-hang and sort.
    2. Does not preen in front of the mirror twisting & turning and giving design comments. Unless your opinion is asked, limit your comments to comfort of the garment & restricted mobility.
    3. Stamina! If you have a long fitting it is important that posture does not sag after the 1st hour. Speak up when you need abreak (or pre-arrange it) but if you cannot stand still for extended periods of time this is probably not a good career choice. Fit modeling can be physically demanding!
    4. Maintains measuerements month after month, year after year.

  4. dosfashionistas says:

    In addition to Barb’s comments I would like to offer:
    5. Is aware of where she differs from average. All fit models do, but most of them try to deny it. Their careers depend on their bodies being average, so they ignore/deny that they have a spot where they are not average. And all of them do, somewhere. Broad shoulders, smaller bust, fullness in the high hip; something that the patternmaker needs to see and NOT fit to. If the model can be up front about it, the patternmaker’s life is much easier.

  5. Thanks, Kathleen! This article was SO helpful. I am at this stage in my line development and have to hire a fit model in my tiny little town. I now have a solid criteria to use so I can really get what I am after. Thank you thank you!

  6. lorraine says:

    I work for a well known catalogue company. We love the parents who bring their little darlings to fit model screenings all dressed up, some even with makeup because they are convinced they are going to go from fit model to the pages of our catalogue. Not.

  7. Josephine Lutz says:

    Re: Weight range for plus women. I would like to correct this. I have been a plus size fit model for decades and have worked for many catalogue companies and national chain department stores… A plus size fit model on average wears a size 16-18 or 18-20 and weighs an average of 210 to 230 pounds. She is 5’6 to 5’8 and if she is smart, has no desire to do fashion modeling, since she can work monday through friday from 8-5 at a rate most could only dream of.

  8. Grace says:

    I’m interested in getting into petite fit modeling.

    I am 5’4.
    110lbs.
    34b/24/34.

    I’m in the right range that you listed. Where can I inquire about this?

  9. Kathleen says:

    Where can I inquire about this?

    Hi Grace. At close in the post I wrote that “tomorrow” (at that time), I would post another entry with some of that information. If you’re new to blogs, navigation can be a bit confusing. Later entries by day are listed to the right, just above the title of the day you’re viewing. In other words, the link to this post is at the top of the entry, off to the right (how to get a job being a fit model).

    Comments themselves are also useful to find related information. In addition to advice from visitors (which could well be better than mine), links to related posts also appear as comments. For example, a link to that post also appears as a comment, falling third above yours.

  10. Martine says:

    So glad to see that Fit modeling is starting to get more attention as a new and emerging part of the fashion industry! It is one of the lesser known niches in such a highly competitive field.

  11. Danielle says:

    As a note, a cup sizes means nothing without an underband size. A C cup is a different size on a 30″, 32″, 34″, etc. Do you have a better size comparison for your article than just C cup?

  12. Kathleen says:

    As a note, a cup sizes means nothing without an underband size

    I’d venture to guess that over 90% of the readership knows that. As much as I would like, I can’t write every topic starting with the ABCs because it would annoy most of my readers. I’m not saying the ABCs aren’t necessary only that there are many sites that do an excellent job of it and my general theme is to avoid repeating content that’s been covered by others. I prefer to write about what no one else has.

    Do you have a better size comparison for your article than just C cup?

    No I can’t make a better size comparison. As I mentioned in this post specifically but also elsewhere on the blog ad nauseum, individual manufacturers determine what they want, I could, technically, insert cups AA-XX and cover them all. More directly, in this post I stated:

    Because there are many kinds of manufacturers and the size ranges they sell, many kinds of products and many kinds of people, there is an endless variety of fit models who may be needed making it difficult to define one. The size of a fit model depends on the size spread or size run of varying manufacturers.

  13. Willie Wilson says:

    I think you are wrong about your heights and weights for fit models. I have been a plus size fit model for the past 13 years and am 5’7 and if I get under 220, I get warned to put some weight back on. 5’8 is too tall! I have worked for 4 clients for 7 years and a few others for 10 years. Also, you are wrong about fit models wanting to move into fashion. Fit models make good money and have regular weekly hours and don’t work nights or weekends and have stability in their income. This is not true with fashion modeling….. I am just sayin’…..

  14. Tarla says:

    Thanks for helping the general public get a better understanding of fit modeling…people always assume I am a fitness model as they have never heard of fit models or fitting models.

    Just one note regarding a C cup being “dicey.” I would agree that is probably the case on the conservative East coast from what I have heard, but it definitely isn’t in Los Angeles. A lot of the castings I attend ask for 36″ busts and tend to be more than happy with C cups. I’d say it’s a function of being near Hollywood and in the plastic surgery capital of the country, if not, world. It’s also important to note breast implants are the norm here too which again is probably the reason C cups are accepted for fit models. And a lot of the brands manufactured here are thrown in swag bags at award shows/events and worn by celebrities who usually have more voluptuous top halves.

    This is just some of what I’ve observed in the several years I’ve worked as a professional fit model nationally.

  15. Liv Doria says:

    Hello all..

    I don’t know how I stumbled across this forum, so much talk about fit models… And it’s interesting to read all the comments as I myself am a fit model… I have worked in the fashion field as a fit model for 9 years, and I have in that time (I won’t call it a career as its more like fun dress ups) lucky enough to work for all the best labels and brands, and I have been super lucky at work always falling into my lap, and even , more lucky to stay the same size/measurements.. Don’t ask how… I sometimes question it myself! I have met amazing friends, all my friends are fashion designers and I have found it rewarding at some times, although their are some people you will meet, a very small minority, that won’t like what you have to say… Or just won’t like your shape.. And that’s ok, because different brands require different things.. And when one door closes, another soon opens. If you are going to make money in this field, you need to make sure that you set your rules so it works for YOU, remember they need you… As its not that easy to find the perfect measurements, because the perfect person does not exist! And also their will always be that one person that consistently treats you like a mannequin that feels they can say anything about your body in a room full of people. You have to be thick skinned for this job. And to the person that says sadly models arnt educated and it’s like football. That’s rubbish… I have met a lot of models, photographic and fit models who are very professional and intelligent , so stop judging people. Fit modelling is a niche market, so if you can make money from that why not? I have been lucky to come across people that value my experience and love hearing my feed back and including me in a fitting, and they are the people I desire to work for. I only recomend it to that strong type of person that can handle looking in the mirror day in day out, and not take opinions of other people personally… It will all effect you otherwise… And it’s not worth it in the end!!
    Cheers

  16. Willie Wilson says:

    Hi. I just wanted to say this. I have met a lot of fit models in the life of my career. Many of them are underpaid. I just want to say that, if you are not an employee of the company, receiving benefits,,,,, then you are a private contractor. Whether you work through an agency or not, you are in business for your self and will pay $2000.00 Self employment tax and regular income tax. You have to watch your weight, smell good, be clean, have new undergarments all the time, usually be a member of a gym, to stay in shape and be able to stand without moving for 3-4 hours at a crack and in some cased see a chiropractor regularly. It is a brutal job if it is your income. NO FIT MODEL SHOULD BE PAID LESS THAN $75.00 an hour. And this amount is if you live and work in an area where it is not a fashion hub. NY fit models make at least $150 an hour if they are beginners. I know NY models that make up to $300.00 per hour. I know Milwaukee models who make $100.00 per hour which is low. West coast fit models make at least $150.00 if they are new. You are the boss. Does your plumber, when working on your toilet ask you if he can charge you more? No! It is decided before he starts the job, when you sign his contract. You write your own contract and they agree and sign or not. I put many basics in my contract. These will vary depending on your local. If there are more than 10 companies you could work at, or there may only be 4 or 5. Which ever it is, I have a 3 hour minimum at most of my accounts because I drive quite a way to get there and because of that on those days, I wouldn’t be able to work anywhere else due to distance and time. They also pay my drive time. I also require 24 hours notice of a booking or a cancellation. If I get cancelled at the 23 hour mark, well, they have to pay my minimum booking of 3 hours, but I won’t charge them for drive time. That way if I can’t rebook elsewhere, I still have income. My price is 1 1/2 times my rate for sleepwear and 2X my hourly rate for intimates or swim. This is standard through out the industry. I have one client that my contract states that if I work more that 2 hours, I get a bathroom break (Learned that one the hard way). Another job, I get a fan in my dressing area. Another, a lunch break if I go over 3 hours. All of this is stuff you want in your contract. There are many companies with penny pinchers out there that hire brand new fit models for a lousy $35.00 an hour as an exempt employee and bring them in, with less than 24 hours notice, for 2 or 3 pieces and then send them home after 40 minutes. They don’t even make enough to park their cars. This is despicable and low. You make yourself available a couple of days a week for Maybe we’ll use you???? You watch your weight, work out, work on short notice with no breaks? This is bad. They are taking advantage of these innocently ignorant new fit models. Well, I have said enough. Good luck and think like a plumber or the carpenter when you are looking into working for someone.

  17. Emily says:

    Hi!
    I am a 15 year old girl from Michigan and I’ve lately been interested in fit or petite size modeling. I recently applied for a modeling job for a cheerleading companys magazine called Varsity to try and get some experience. I am 5′ 4″ and 130 pounds. I wear a size 34D but have an athletic built body and a waist measurement of 27.5. I was wondering what type of modeling would be fit for me most or if it doesn’t particularly go in any category! Thank you

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