Model Essentials

May 23, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

I get asked frequently what a model should have in their wardrobe or what are the important things necessary to be a model.   I can only speak to my experiences over the last several years and the pitfalls I have run into with models not being prepared or not having traits necessary to get re-hired.

Key traits a model should have:

Professionalism -  Every model should approach each casting call, job, or opportunity as if it were a real job or a paying job.  Early in many models careers today, there is a lot of "trade for" work where they are not paid.  So approaching it as free exposure and not a real job often leads models into the pitfalls of getting a bad reputation.  It's understandable that because they are not getting paid in "cash" that they would look at it that way, especially if they continue to do free/trade work.  However, the more professional you act at these opportunities, the greater the opportunity for paying jobs in the future.  It is usually from these events that the photographers, stylists, magazines, or designers see how the model acts and when they actually need models for paying gigs, they will migrate to the ones who are most professional.

Promptness -  Frequently I have been running into models that are always late.   They might be well known in the area or even be popular in the local  "fashion industry".  However, being on time is essential.  It is crucial for video or photo shoots where makeup and hair has timelines to be on time for the shoot to get done.  Being on time is essential to your brand.  Trust me, if you are always late, the local industry is talking about you and your unreliability.

Confidence - There is a big difference between confidence and arrogance.  Make sure that you show up as confident and not arrogant.   You are building your own brand and selling yourself to a client or audience that you, in turn, might be selling something of theirs. They want someone who can be confident in their product or mission.

Perseverance -  Stick with it.  You are going to run into set backs in any job.  In this industry it might even get harsh, but you have to realize that there is a lot that is subjective in this industry and stay the course being confident yet humble.   This also helps build your brand and shows that you can get up when knocked down and keep going.  Very important when on a set and there are technical malfunctions, wardrobe malfunctions, or weather malfunctions.   Perseverance shows that you will keep attempting to get the job done.


From a wardrobe perspective  these are essential items that you should have:


Females: should bring a few pair of heels on set. Its best to ask ahead of time what the wardrobe is and see if you can match the wardrobe.  Basic black, white, off white are key as they tend to go with everything.  In many cases, it is essential to have "hot" red heels. Just my experience, but often times people want the red shoes.  Often I run into models bringing heels that are just too loud and for the shoot, they steal the show or take away from the set because they are way too trendy.  You should avoid this at all costs.  Yes they know you think the shoes are cute or you wouldn't have bought them, but being in a set ruins the image.

Males should have a classic pair of black and brown dress shoes to bring to the set.

Standard clothing:

Females:  Should have a black/white dinner gown, some casual jeans, blazer, and button down shirts.  Swimsuit and appropriate undergarments are also essential.  Having nude undergarments is always vital as well as strapless bra's.

Males: Sport coat, black/gray dress slacks, jeans and tank tops.


Classy, not overpowering accessories are good to have as well just in case.  Items that are not too annoying and only just finish off your look or compliment it.  Pearls would be a good example for women.  For men, usually not essential, but for winter, things like a hat or scarf are good finishers.

Here is a quick guide: (some apply both to male and female)

  • Bathrobe icon
  • Belts (various kinds)
  • Bras (underwire, seamless, strapless)
  • Dress Shields
  • Head Scarf
  • Jewelry
  • Lint Roller icon
  • Masking tape (to use on the bottoms of your shoes)
  • One piece swimsuit
  • Panties (nude, white, and black)
  • Pantyhose icon (nude, white, off white, and black)
  • Safety pins
  • Scotch tape (for quick hem repairs)
  • Shoes(flat shoes, white tennis shoes and high heels, white, off white, brown, and black)
  • Slips (white and black)
  • Socks (white sport socks)
  • Static Guard
  • Tube top and body stocking (nude)

Business Items

  • Address Book
  • Calendar
  • Pen
  • Money
  • Note Pad
  • Planner
  • Your Model Portfolio (including comp cards)

Some key things to remember:

On occasion I have had models show up to my shoot in the early morning that were out drinking the night before and have very little sleep.  This is more than annoying as they just ruined my entire shoot.  Drinking kills your skin the next day as it completely is dry and pale and no sleep brings crazy bags under the eyes and more.  This goes back to being professional and realizing that if the photographer has asked you to be in this shoot, then you should do everything to look your best.

Taking care of you skin, hair and body are key.  Eating right can apply to all of these as well as if you are eating junk, it will impact your weight, skin and the texture of your hair.  Using healthy products for all of these can also improve your look or just maintain it.

Height- while the old school of thought was 5'9" to 6' was essential to be a model.  Today is very different.  Print models are often shorter than 5'9" and can get a ton of work.  Many agencies have also lowered their requirement to 5'8" for much of what they do.  The height requirements are for several reasons which many people do not understand.  Height requirements were used for how clothing may drape on the person, pairing of other models (male or female) so that there isn't an imbalance on runway or in an image.  Today though, height has less of an impact in many ad images but it still is held tightly to on runway or in the high fashion part of the industry.  I see this changing in the future as it has already changed significantly over the last 4-5 years.

Lastly,  all modeling is driven by the needs of a client.  If they aren't selling a product or message, then there is no need for a model.  Keep this at the forefront of your mind as you are representing the client and the clients product.  Treat this as the most important thing and in the end it will help you deliver the very best images or video.

(next blog "Real Togger or Fauxtogger")


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