Working very much behind-the-scenes and without cameras documenting the process, fit modeling is an invisible but invaluable segment of the fashion industry. Each Friday in the coming weeks, we'll share the stories of eight fit models, past and present, who will divulge the fascinating minutiae of this little-known but very integral (and well-paid) line of work. Next up: Full-time model and mother, Alison Cronin. You can read the rest of the models' testimonials here.
Clients, past and present, include: Gap, Victoria's Secret, Rachel Rachel Roy, Jason Wu, and Catherine Malandrino
"I've been in the modeling industry since I was 15 years old, doing commercial and print work, so I've always had a foot in the business. I went to NYU, and after graduating I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I got back into modeling, and stumbled upon this little niche of fit modeling. It's this part of [the industry] I didn't know about, and I think a lot of people don't know about. I met Dale [of True Model Management]; she was great at teaching and coaching me about the business. I just listened and learned as I went along.
You have to have a good memory: When you're fitting clothes, you have to remember what the last fit was like, the different types of fit and what kind of feedback each client wants. You have to pay attention. I majored in communications, and I think that has helped me in my career. I feel like I have a good grasp on how to tell people what they want and need to hear. Some designers want you to help with the whole design process, and others don't want any input. A lot of mass market brands are really meticulous about their fit and the process of it. You don't want to give too much of your opinion about the design of the clothes, but they want feedback about how the clothes feel and fit; if the armhole is too high, sleeve is too tight, things like that.
I've had a lot of my clients for a while: I was at Victoria's Secret for a long time, for three or four years. There are different fit models for each division, and I worked on their catalogue clothing and also some swim. I think it says a lot about a brand when they keep a fit model for a long time, because it means they really want to have a consistent fit for their customers.
I don't consider anyone competition in the industry. Some of my really good friends are fit models; we're all going for the same jobs, and the client might like one thing about the other person versus you. Maybe their bicep is bigger, whatever it is. A lot of big brands have in-house fit models that work there full-time, which has its ups and downs. You're a full-time employee, you have a contract and benefits, instead of working for yourself. I've heard in the industry that you can make money not in-house. You have to hustle more, though. When I was at my busiest, I worked with five clients a day, located all over New York, from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. running from one place to the next. It's probably a more relaxing pace [in-house]. I've always tried to work as much as I could and take on as many hours as possible.
I decided to take my time before getting back into fit modeling after having a baby, because I wanted to enjoy my time with my daughter. It's not like you have the baby and immediately have your body back! I know some fit models that had a baby and then went back to fitting with all of their clients right away. I actually worked until about 20 weeks, but I took my time getting back into it. I'm lucky that I was able to eventually get back down to the same size pretty easily.
I still do some print work, and I always have fun being on set. But fit modeling is a much more consistent thing; print models usually aren't working every day. If you're a good fit model, you can have work and be making money every single day. What I like about fit modeling is that you get to be part of the design process of a garment, from start to finish. You get to use your brain a bit more instead of just being in front of the camera.
Being a fit model makes it hard to shop; I'm overly critical of how things fit, because that's what I do for a living. If I try something on and it's not the perfect fit, it's hard for me to buy it. A lot of middle-market brands' customers have moved over to fast fashion brands, like Zara, Forever 21, and H&M, where the fit is not necessarily important. It'll be interesting to see what happens over the next few years in terms of fit models and this career.
I definitely have a new appreciation for clothing that's made well after working in this business, because I see how much is going into the whole process of designing, fitting, re-designing and re-fitting. Brands that go through the process and pay top rates for fit models do care about the clothes. There are definitely brands I've heard of not using fit models, and you can tell. Trying something on a mannequin, versus on someone who does this for a living, you can tell the difference. A mannequin can't tell you that an armhole is too high or if the material is chafing."