I hope this pushes other brands to take the confines of gender out of their design process.
Read more from Sable at xoVain!
I’ve always been adverse the whole “So what do you do?” question that seems ancillary to “Nice to meet you.” In general, I’m not great at talking about myself. You’ll notice this if you make me do it long enough because you’ll see how my face kind of starts to involuntarily contort. For the most part talking about myself (especially in the context of what I do) makes me want to punch myself in the face, primarily due to what I presume to be some sort of vanity-guilt, if that’s a thing.
Being a freelancer in 3-4 different fields doesn’t help to answer that “What do you do” question. I basically itemize all of my “jobs” and then change the subject rather quickly. Most of the time it’s met with a “Oh, that’s cool,” which is what you say in 2013 as polite reaction to something you may not understand but are aware of.
I can usually get away with cool deflection no problem, until I mention, “Oh and I’m a fit model as well.”
90% of people I meet for the first time are like “YOU’RE a model?” (Occasionally interchanged with “You’re a MODEL?”). This is usually followed with vehement backpedaling at the sight of my wounded sneer because what is wrong with my face, you jerk? Is it not symmetrical enough for you?
Honestly, it’s probably because I’m much shorter than one would expect for a model (I’m 5’2”). But therein lies the rub -- I said FIT model. My face could be a potato and it wouldn’t matter. Specifically, I’m a 6P fit model. Petites, according to most sportswear clothing companies, are 5’2 max ideally.
Fit modeling is one of the more stable careers in modeling that you can have but probably the least brag-worthy. The irony of this job is that it sounds appealing in a sort of glamorous yet bonkers Devil Wears Prada meets The Tyra Show melee, yet to me it’s the most awkwardly corporate job I have.
I try on clothes in an office space with employees walking back and forth in nearly full view of my various states of undress (there’s a partial partition but it’s not a dressing room). The technical designers who I fit with aren’t shy about poking, prodding, and pinching, sometimes talking about my body as if I wasn’t there.
If a garment isn’t made correctly or looks funny on me, no one masks their looks of contempt and disgust (even though I know it’s not personally aimed at me, it still doesn’t feel awesome to have a team of designers throwing all the shade at your body in an ill-sewn garment).
Oh and there was that one time when I was a new hire, being paraded around a conference with a bunch of stern dad-looking executives in a full-coverage onesie with a ribbon tied around my waist, along with their missy and plus-sized fit models, to demonstrate our body proportions comparatively for the companies garment vendors.
Don’t get me wrong -- I wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t worth it. I mean, I can get over the awkwardness of the nature of all this for the sake of professionalism… and the paycheck.
I never said there weren’t perks! Fit models can make anywhere between $150-350 an hour, which when you think about how much most Craigstlist prostitutes probably charge, is downright bananas. Plus, I don’t have to worry about getting Ted Bundy’d.
I’ve been doing this for the past two years, getting the job at a time when my waistline wasn’t cup-runneth-over or anything, but there was a slight bit of fluff there. Just so happens is that that’s what works best for this company: My bodily proportions on a holiday diet. I do need to eagle-eye my figure though.
The thing about fit modeling is that you have to maintain your measurements and proportions -- you’re basically a human mannequin. There are standards to uphold. My finances are pretty much dependent on committing to an industry-sanctioned “average” body type. I wear one-piece swimsuits at the beach despite their bathroom-related obstacles, because I still consider my profile silhouette waxing ever so slightly more Alfred Hitchcock than I’d prefer in a bikini. Basically, if I wanted to get all toned and shit, I’d probably lose my job. Hot bod or fat banking account?
There was one bout of stress-induced weight loss a few months ago that became noticeable enough that my clients were unhappy with the way their pants were fitting on me. The ironic and humiliating solution was having to wear “the Butt.”
Let me preface by telling you that “the butt” is not some contraption made and sold amongst the fit modeling/garment production industry for undisciplined mannequins such as myself to fill in trousers. They’re basically for women who are self-conscious about their pancake asses -- they’re granny panties with cushy neoprene padding on the back that is shaped like a butt. You can get them off eBay in bulk. It was suggested that I find one of these to make up for my lack of ass -- a small price to pay to maintain the job.
The model on the site “the butt” was purchased from appeared to be a slim Korean girl wearing a body-con nightclubbing dress, booty-tooching to the camera. And I’m like, “Wait wait wait -- you mean women wear the equivalent of chicken cutlets on their butts probably (read: definitely) to attract ass-men?” Does no one think that when you land your ass-man, he might be plenty disappointed to disrobe your nude-colored scuba-looking knickers and discover ghost butt?
This is the reason I never wore thickly padded bras or silicone inserts, despite the fact that I regularly see obese 8-year-old boys shirtless on the beach who have more boobs than I do. I am not sure if that is more commentary on childhood obesity or my longtime ranking on the itty-bitty-titty committee. But enough about fake butts.
You won’t necessarily find tall waifish girls fit modeling, unless it’s for mid-high end boutique brands, typically. The only ones I’ve been acquainted with are fairly average-height with robustly healthy figures and work for older clothing companies that sell by volume in department stores rather than having their own shops.
I, myself work for a sportswear company that makes clothing for the kind of woman who I’d expect is your recently divorced middle-aged aunt/high school art teacher from South Florida, or possibly, your “I’m not like a regular mom, I’m a cool mom” mom -- not revealing but with a nod to current trends and way too many embellishments. Most of it I would never wear myself, although occasionally I get to take home samples of things I like.
The market for petit fit models is rather slim considering most companies want to save money by just grading down sizing from “missy” sizes (aka regular sizing) so they don’t hire petites. Also, they’re fickle. You know how you buy a different size depending on the brand? That’s because no company really follows a universal measurement guideline with their models.
My body may work perfectly for this one company and be totally whack for other ones. Also, most companies want an 8P rather than 6P size for their petites. Most people who hold successful careers in fit modeling work for many companies and pound pavement 8 hours a day from office to office for multiple fittings. The “careerers” who’ve been doing this for at least a decade often get bad knees from standing and walking all day too (except they’re probably making something like $5,000-$7,000 a week, so they can just buy new knees, right?)
Given the specific nature of my bodily proportions, I’m not able to make it rain in this field alone -- thus the several jobby-jobs I have under my belt (writing for the xo’s being one of them). Fit modeling isn’t even something I want to be doing forever (it’s good money if you can get it) just in case I ever feel the urge to get really fat or really skinny, or god forbid even slightly divergent in either direction (I like to eat, WHAT). I’m glad however that it can go toward funding all of the other things I do, like running my fledgling accessory line, being in a band, and having shelter on an ongoing basis.