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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.