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What is a Fashion Model?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A fashion model uses his appearance and natural chemistry to sell goods or services. He commonly works in promotional production settings, including still photography sessions, video recording studios and venues featuring live fashion shows on runways. Other popular modeling environments include specialty stores, retail stores, commercial showrooms and custom salons.

A model’s marketability in the fashion world depends upon the image that is desired by his employer or dictated by the product or service he is promoting. While an image of athletic virility may be required to advertise youth-oriented goods, a more mature image may be preferred to promote services and products normally purchased by older consumers. A model who can convincingly portray a wide range of ages, styles and personalities can significantly improve his marketability.

The road to becoming a super model, a term commonly used to describe a fashion model who has gained international fame, is normally one full of challenges. Modeling is a highly competitive industry full of attractive hopefuls of which only one or two will ever achieve stardom. Besides being charismatic and photogenic, someone in this position is ordinarily required to have strong work ethic and a positive attitude.

A person aspiring to success in this field normally begins with a solid plan for self-promotion. Educating himself on the latest trends and styles in clothing and accessories is important as his public image is generally expected to reflect the latest fashion. He is commonly expected to follow a strict diet and exercise plan to keep his body in a highly-marketable condition. The ability to apply makeup to achieve specific effects and having a versatile hairstyle are helpful tools for a person in this position as well. A portfolio of photographs depicting many moods and dispositions is typically considered an essential tool for an aspiring model.

Landing a posh job as a runway model or being hired for a multi-page layout in a high fashion magazine are generally considered landmark events for a fashion model. These career plateaus indicate a level of success enjoyed by a select few. Many models with lucrative careers started out in much less glamorous positions, such as spraying perfume on department store customers, modeling for college art and photography classes and working as sample models for garment makers.

A career as a model may involve working as an independent contractor or require a contractual agreement with a public relations company, advertising firm or modeling agency. It is common for a fashion model to simultaneously work in several mediums while building his resume and portfolio. Pay varies depending on the length and demands of the job. Some assignments involve travel, which is customarily paid for by the employer.

No formal education is normally required to model. Taking classes in fashion design, dance, art or drama may give an aspiring model a more competitive edge, however. Some modeling agencies may also offer training in runway modeling procedures as well as hair and makeup techniques.

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Discussion Comments

By hidingplace — On May 15, 2011

@goldenmist - You make a decent point, but I also think it’s important to remember that obesity is a bigger problem in countries like America than thinness. You have to consider natural or genetic metabolism as well; I for one eat what I would consider to be a healthy diet but am still much skinnier than the average person. I've seen doctors and they've told me not to worry about it.

And unhealthy eating practices don't just result in thinness, either. If you haven't eaten in days then you might be skinny, but you're probably not going to look very attractive. Diet affects your complexion and overall health and without that you’re not going to look like a model, so there’s no point starving yourself.

Probably the best course of action is to prevent girls from comparing themselves to models in the first place. Models are not average at all, that's why they're models. They're naturally thin, have high cheekbones, eyes set far apart, etc. It's just like how you shouldn't compare your life to a movie.

By goldenmist — On May 13, 2011

@softener - I agree that it's probably hard work being a fashion model in some ways, but I also think that it's not exactly the most noble career to pursue. To basically just make a living off of your good looks while furthering an unrealistic image of how people are supposed to look seems wrong to me. Some fashion models have even died from malnutrition, not to mention all of the body image disorders that young girls have nowadays thanks to the fashion industry.

By softener — On May 12, 2011

I think although it mainly takes a lot of good luck to become a working fashion model, there's also a lot of work involved; it's always kind of bothered me that people assume being a model means just sitting around looking beautiful. Especially if you're an independent contractor, you have to be very ambitious about maintaining your appearance and managing your time. I think the other most important factor to being a successful model is having the ability to network and socialize with people; this is important for just about any job, but fashion especially. "It's all about who you know" as they say.

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