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.