Interview With a Fit Model

Fit model?  What’s a fit model?

Have you ever found yourself frustrated in a dressing room, thinking, “Who actually fits into this stuff?”  Or have you ever tried on a dress that fit you so perfectly it seemed to have been made for you?  Well, today we’re going to fill you in on a fashion industry secret:  the fit model.  Designers hire young women of “real people” proportions– which usually means a size six– to test the fit of certain garments before they’re released to the retailers.   We got one young lady to dish to SG about the ins and outs of this niche job– anonymously, of course.  Who knows?  You might run into her on a Shop Gotham Garment Center tour…

Shop Gotham (SG): So what exactly does a fit model do?

Fit Model (FM): A fit model is basically a walking, talking mannequin who can give feedback about the fit of a garment to the technical designers, whose job it  is to make clothing fit as perfectly as possible. It means my measurements happen to be “industry standard,” so my proportions are the ones used when clothing goes from being a sketch to becoming a physical garment. I try on clothes all day, and call out how something doesn’t feel right or how it does feel right.  The tech designers try to reconcile those critiques with the list of “specs” (their list of  industry-standard measurements) that they have to folllow to keep everything consistent.

SG: You mention an industry standard, but sometimes a woman will be one size in one store and a different size in another.  Why is that?

FM: I’m a size 6 at all of my accounts. Every brand is different though!  I’ve been on go-sees (fit model auditions, basically) where I’m much too small or much too big for their size 6. Some places want models with a larger bust, or a particularly curvy midsection, etc. It depends on “who their customer is”- so a brand that caters towards middle aged women, for instance, won’t use a model who may meet the industry standard measurements, but her weight distribution gives her the overall shape of a woman in her early 20s. It all sounds very arbitrary but if there’s one thing that “fashion people” are, it’s picky!

SG: Do you ever have to do anything to manipulate your measurements?

FM: At one account, I wear padded bra inserts; at another, I literally used to wear a stick-on butt pad to make my low hip measurement 1/2″ bigger.

SG: Wow!  With so much emphasis on your measurements, do you have to be really careful about what you eat?

FM: At the risk of making everyone hate me, I have to work remarkably little to maintain my body the way the job requires it to be.  I can work out like crazy and watch everything I eat, or not go to the gym for weeks and eat whatever I want and I stay the same.

SG: Ooh, I do hate you a little bit.  What would happen if you weren’t so lucky?

FM: I at least have to stay “within tolerance,” which is about a quarter of an inch. I’ve been running a lot lately to prepare for an upcoming race, which I told my agents and they promptly re-measured me.  They like to stay on top of how/if our measurements change. I feel bad for girls who fluctuate a lot because that often leads to losing a job… but another one that your body is right for is usually right around the corner. I lost a little bit here and there, but not enough for my accounts to notice yet, fortunately.  So [my agents]  told me to start drinking something carbonated before my appointments so I’d “puff up” a little!  But then of course there’s those days when you’re a wee bit bloated or some such, and you just suck in your gut and hope the hour goes by quickly!

Stay tuned for more interviews with our anonymous fit model on!