Fashion Model

The Job and What's Involved

Fashion models appear in new items of clothing at fashion shows or in photographs for advertisements, catalogues, newspapers, magazines and posters. They play an important part in promoting new fashions to customers, fashion buyers and the media.

Live (fashion house) models:

  • Model for designers creating new garments and/or accessories.
  • Show finished items to buyers from shops and wholesalers, fashion journalists and individual customers.
  • Sometimes answer questions from observers, eg about the fabric, drape or a special feature.
  • May model fashion house clothes and accessories at shows.
  • Often perform additional tasks, e.g. greeting visitors, answering the telephone.

Live (fashion show) models:

  • Model clothes at catwalk fashion shows, sometimes performing basic movements and dance routines.
  • May also show clothes at fashion exhibitions.
  • Sometimes show/demonstrate non-fashion items at exhibitions, product launches/shows, eg cars, furniture.

Photographic models usually attend auditions to compete for jobs, unless they work regularly for specific photographers or companies. They:

  • Pose for photographers working for newspaper, magazine, calendar or book publishers, mail order catalogues and advertising companies.
  • Follow photographers' direction on positions, poses and facial expressions.
  • Sometimes work in TV/film advertsing and presentational roles.

Some models specialise, modelling a particular good feature such as their hands, hairstyles or legs. Larger-size models and those who do not have standard measurements may have more opportunities for photographic than catwalk modelling, especially in catalogues or women's magazine features.

There are often height and weight criteria and it is necessary for a model to keep his/her figure and face in good shape and condition.

Working hours are very flexible, often irregular, and likely to include early starts and late finishes, and may include weekends. Working days are sometimes very long.

Live models work mainly indoors, in showrooms, stores and fashion show venues. Photographic models work in all locations. These could be indoors in photographic studios or outdoors on location in all weather conditions.

Work is often physically demanding, including long periods of standing for clothes fittings, walking, other catwalk movements and holding poses for lengthy periods in photographic shots.

There can be lots of travel to different venues and locations, sometimes overseas, involving periods away from home. Models often have to pay their own expenses to attend casting auditions, with no job guarantee at the end.

The usual starting salary may be between £10,000 and £15,000 according to the type and amount of work.

Models working for fashion houses may earn regular salaries. Most models are self-employed and are paid set or negotiated fees per assignment. These can vary considerably according to experience and the assignment, e.g. between £50 and £1,000 per job. Payment can take some time, so models need ongoing funds to attend castings and auditions. Most models get work through an agent, who takes around 20 per cent of earnings as commission.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Some fashion models work for fashion houses, but only a few are employed on a full-time basis. Most models are self-employed and obtain work through model agencies. These are mainly concentrated in London. Being on the books of a reputable model agency does not guarantee steady work. For many the work is irregular, and at times there is no work at all. For this reason many models need additional jobs to make a full-time living.

Although work opportunities are increasing, modelling is a highly competitive career, with many applicants for each job. Attending casting auditions can involve long and boring periods of waiting and the upset of rejection.

Although some individual websites offer modelling work, it is advisable to obtain work through a recognised agency. An agency is not allowed to ask an applicant for money up front, in return for a promise of help in finding work. The Association of Model Agents (AMA) supplies a list of member agencies and advice on how to approach them, on receipt of a stamped addressed envelope.

Education and Training

There are no set entry requirements. It is necessary to have an excellent appearance and personality, a body in good shape and condition, clear, healthy skin, good teeth, hair and hands.

Initial entry is usually by presenting a comprehensive, professional-looking portfolio of photographs and experience to date, to model agencies for consideration.

AMA recommends female models should be at least 1.72m (5ft 8ins) tall, with 86-61-86cm (34/24/34in) bust/waist/hip measurements. Male models should be 1.83m (6ft) tall, with 97cm to 1.2m (38-40in) chest and 76-82cms (30-32in) waist.

They also set recommendations for models working in the 'plus' larger-size range.

Modelling courses are available at some agencies and independently-run modelling schools, mainly in and around London. Course length, content and fees can be obtained directly from them individually.

Some agencies specialise in finding work for child models. Any person under school leaving age working in modelling, or any entertainment capacity, must be licensed by their local authority under the Children & Young Persons Act.

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Most training is on the job. When they join a model agency, new models usually receive guidance on appearance, skin care and hairstyles. Training can also cover learning basic walks, turns and poses from experienced models, diet, fashion co-ordination and photographic modelling techniques.

Some independent modelling schools run short courses on these subjects. Information differs according to each, but courses can be very expensive.

Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A fashion model should:

  • Have good, natural fashion sense.
  • Be poised and graceful.
  • Be well-groomed and of up-to-date appearance.
  • Be confident with an individual, cheerful personality.
  • Be punctual, patient and self-disciplined.
  • Have stamina and physical fitness for the work.
  • Be resilient and philosophical in coping with criticism and rejection.
  • Have strength to refuse work or activities against personal beliefs.
  • Have the business skills necessary for self-employment.

Your Long Term Prospects

Models employed by fashion houses may have an opportunity for promotion to a senior model/supervisory position.

The success of self-employed models depends on building a strong reputation within the profession, to ensure regular, well-paid work. Modelling careers are usually over by the age of 30. There are certainly fewer work opportunities after this age.

Some models move into working for a model agency or related areas, e.g. fashion journalism, marketing or sales.

Get Further Information

Alba Model Information, PO Box 588,
Southport, Lancashire PR8 9BR
Tel: 0871 717 7170 (calls cost 10p per minute)

Association of Model Agents (AMA),
11-29 Fashion Street, London E1 6PX
Tel: 020 7422 0699

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