How Height, Weight and Age Influence Getting Signed by an Agency
This article is written by a member of our expert community. It expresses that member’s views only. We welcome other perspectives. Here’s how to contribute to MM EDU.
I’m about 5’6 and want to work in fashion. How do I get signed by an agency?
This is one of the most common recurring forum topics on Model Mayhem, and the simple answer to the question is this…
If you are under 5’8″, above a size 4 dress, or over the age of 20, your chances of getting signed by a major market high fashion/runway agency is as likely as winning the lottery and getting attacked by a gang of ninjas in the same 24 hour period.
Clothing samples are made to a uniform smaller size to save money (each couture gown can cost in the tens of thousands) and slimmer bodies are less of a distraction from the cut and drape of the clothes, letting them hang in the precise shape the designer had cut on the dress form. Essentially, the clothes are not made to fit the models—the agencies sign models that will fit into the clothes.
As far as high fashion’s focus on the extremely young, it takes several years to build a model into a working, bookable name, so agents prefer new faces, in the 14-16 range. Also, fashion trends and needs change extremely quickly, and your average editorial/runway model is near the end of her career by 23, unless she has become an extremely well known super model. Many girls also leave the industry due to a lack of booking in a sea of beautiful new faces, or from sheer burnout from constant travel, work and rejection.
What about Kate Moss/Devon Aoki/Marilyn Monroe/Lady Gaga?
Insert your choice of rare short model or shorter celebrity that has done modeling/advertising work. Essentially the answer is the same…
Kate Moss was signed exceptionally young in the hopes that she would grow, because she had such a one in a million look. Several influential people carefully boosted and maintained her career, and she was friends with a genius designer (John Galliano), who was also a rapidly rising star.
Devon Aoki is the child of millionaire restaurant mogul Rocky Aoki (founder of Benihana) and she has an extremely singular, exotic look.
Marilyn Monroe did indeed model, but not for high fashion, and her pin up and cheesecake modeling work was the equivalent of modern glamour modeling, where curvier bodies are the norm.
Lady Gaga has appeared in shows for both Alexander McQueen and Mugler, but this is due to her immense fame as a singer. Popular actresses/singers are often asked to appear in runway shows, ad campaigns or on magazine covers, due to their fame.
There are always a few cases in each generation who get signed in spite of being too tall/too short/curvy/older than usual/noticeably tattooed.
If you happen to have influential, major market bookers interested in you, very talented/famous friends, a wealthy father with a plethora of connections, or a multi platinum recording career, you very well could be the next exception to the rule. Without those mitigating circumstances, it is extremely unlikely. As most of Model Mayhem members does not have that sort of access, it is unwise to rely on exceptional circumstances as a given.
What about Plus Modeling?
Again, plus modeling is much the same as “straight” size modeling.
If you are 5’9″ or taller, a size 10-14 (though some plus divisions will also book size 16-18 on occasion, but the majority of the work is in the 10-14 size group, depending on the market) and have a gorgeous face and very even proportions, give the agencies with plus divisions a try. However, plus modeling isn’t a catch all for all of us whom don’t fit the fashion mold, and has equally stringent standards of its own.
Can’t shorter girls get signed by commercial agencies, as that is different from fashion work?
Commercial agencies and those in smaller markets are a touch more forgiving, but the minimum cut off is generally 5’6/5’7 and you better have one gorgeous book of commercial images.
Unlike fashion agencies, where one can get signed with just Polaroids, commercial agencies want to see that you can already produce images that would be a good fit for their clients. Even then you’ll be battling uphill with all of the taller girls who can work in either fashion or commercial, or have aged out of fashion and have gotten signed by commercial agencies to continue working.
On the plus side, commercial models have a much longer shelf life than editorial models, as advertisements and catalogs need a wider age range to reflect their target markets.
Promotional and talent agencies count, don’t they?
Promotional modeling has very little to do with fashion or commercial modeling. Generally, promotional models are hired to help get the word out for a brand or a product via passing out samples/flyers, informing potential customers about the product or service at events and trade shows and other duties more akin to customer service and advertising directly.
Talent agencies will occasionally book modeling work for those they sign (clients do need specific skill sets for print and advertising work), but you still have to have an established talent (acting/voiceover, dance, music) to be marketable to the clients looking for both skills and modeling experience.
So what kind of modeling CAN I do? I’m beautiful too! Why can’t I model?
For all the ladies who do not fit those molds: IT IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD. It also does not mean you aren’t beautiful or that you can’t model—just that you aren’t cut out for fashion. The majority of modeling isn’t high fashion, and there are plenty of other options.
Rather than beat your head against the wall and pout over your lack of height/sample size measurements/extreme youth (or, even worse, fruitlessly crusade to “change the industry”), here are the questions you should be asking yourself:
- What genres and content am I comfortable shooting?
- Is my end goal to model full time/as a sole source of income? As a side job? Or just for fun?
- What are my strong features/points? What genres/markets value those features/body types?
Depending on your body type, and the answers to those questions, you have a plethora of other options. Fit modeling, parts, fitness, glamour, alt, hair/beauty, pin up, fetish and art nudes (if you are over 18 and comfortable shooting either); there are many choices.
Identify the genres that DO work for you, instead of being frustrated by the ones that don’t, and you’ll probably accomplish more and have a lot more fun, maybe even make some extra cash. Plus, the forum posters won’t descend on you in a hail of snarkiness and irritation, which is a nice bonus.