High Fashion Modeling Requirements As an Editorial Model – More Factors Than Just Tall and SkinnyOn March 24, 2022 by Emma Collymore
Educating yourself to recognizing what editorial print modeling realistically “looks” like in a high fashion magazine is the first step to understanding the variations of the different types of editorial modeling and how it is different from the other more common types of “commercial” print modeling work. Editorial work in a magazine is a huge “jump-start” for a fashion model’s career. It is the experience many strive for.
“Editorial” print modeling refers to “magazine experience” for the model where a “story” is being told without words, but rather by photographic pictures (or groups of pictures) of the model in a high fashion magazine. This type of print modeling carries a very “prestigious” landmark on a model’s career. Its’ work includes the current fashion and beauty trends of society by showcasing designers, make-up, hairstyles, skin care, etc. as told and expressed via a pictorial story. Editorial modeling can even tell a story about all of the different aspects of people’s lifestyles. If you pick up any high-end fashion magazine you can find numerous examples of editorial print work.
Some editorials in magazines are considered so prestigious because they set the standards and trends for the current and “near future” of the market that the pictorial story is being told about. Refer back to those magazines that are from months, years, or even decades ago. Somehow, the editorial pictures you may find from that period of time have been a part of the history of fashion, beauty, or lifestyle as represented by that magazine’s staff.
Who thinks of the concepts of editorial stories in those elite high fashion magazines? There are teams of people all over the world who work for the various high-end magazines that have their input. These people write and create their concepts of what styles, models, designers, and trends are “IN” for any unknown given period of time. That makes them a very important part of the modeling industry. When glancing through those magazines you should note that an “editorial” is not an advertisement for any “specific” company, so if you see one specific product being advertised with its’ logo, then it’s an ad…that’s something different called a commercial print advertisement. If it “looks” editorial, but you see the company name in large print…it is meant to tell a story for that company’s image of what they want to sell to the consumer. High end fashion and beauty clients can place some creative, multi-page print ads into magazines that may mimic an editorial spread. The biggest difference is the rate that the model gets paid for doing a commercial, fashion ad for a high end client versus an editorial fashion spread for a magazine.
For the purposes of editorial modeling, pay close attention to how expressive, awkward, dramatic, artistic, and creative the poses of the model are versus the more refined poses you would see in a catalogue that emphasizes selling the clothes as #1. Remember, the editorial model promotes the story and concept via editorial pictures in magazines where the main emphasis is on the story or trends. In the magazine’s editorial (pictorial) spread there will be some sort of reference to names of designers and the cost of garments and/or accessories that are being featured, but it is not meant to act as a dedicated advertisement.
These magazine spreads get a lot of attention. Surprisingly, even though the editorial model is a strong statement in the “story”, it is only unfortunate for the model that this is NOT a high paying job (maybe only a few hundred dollars). This may be one of the only drawbacks of being an editorial model in the beginning. When you need the money probably the most (if you haven’t saved enough money to last you through this phase), this income doesn’t go very far in paying the high bills that go along with living and working in the “big city”. Most would expect models appearing in a famous high fashion magazine to be compensated well with money, but they are not because it’s not a paid advertisement by a client. It is a special feature created and presented by the magazine.
Apparently, from the fashion industry’s view, it’s the “prestigious” experience that has a lot of value to the model, so models have accepted this reality (whether or not it’s really fair). After all, when the magazine hires a model for an editorial spread they are hired to perform their service as a model representing the magazine’s concept and creative story…it’s a booking. It’s not a tax write-off for the model. The potential tear sheet may (or may not) bring more prestige and work for the model because truly it is not guaranteed no matter what anyone tries to offer as a reason to work for such less money. The magazines do play such a major role in the modeling and fashion industry that it’s a tough argument on the model’s behalf. The magazines rather monopolize on this fact, of course, so they will always find another model looking for their big break who will accept their terms. Could those famous fashion magazines afford to pay their featured editorial models more money? Only they know.
Remember this fact; everyone is replaceable in the modeling industry. It’s a harsh fact, yes. The ideal goal is to work and to adapt until you decide you don’t want to model anymore (before the industry decides you’re done). It doesn’t quite work that way because trends change, models age, and new-faced models pop up all over the place. There are more reasons, of course, but the fact that there will always be someone else to replace any model is why magazines do have that power to pay very low for their editorial placements.
Eventually, on the very positive side, it seems that the experience of editorial print modeling does lead to more money and prestige because of the increased exposure, tear sheets, and the demand for future bookings from clients who do pay more money (and that is pleasing). The editorial model is a standard of what the “beauty and fashion” message is for that moment in time, so everyone wants them. When an editorial story features that model, they are literally given a seal of approval as representing who and what is IN. So, moving on from the fact that it’s not even a little “high paying” job can lead the open-minded model to keep their business mind open, too. Consider the MANY, MANY “pros” to the model from the editorial experience. This part of their career rarely happens to a large percentage of aspiring models, so the #1 “pro” is that they are super-fortunate to even appear in and get tear sheets from a high fashion magazine.
Being realistic, there are many successful “commercial” print models that would have really loved to have been a high fashion editorial model, but they never had that opportunity. Once again, models are subject to other’s opinions and standards that control their career’s general success. There are things that models can do to increase their “editorial” skills and “look”, though, but there are just some models who will never get their chance at editorial modeling even though they may be uniquely beautiful, outwardly gorgeous, or even perfectly reach the standard sizes required of editorial models. It’s not easy to compete with the concept of “editorial” beauty, so your modeling career should be balanced if you strive for such a “prestigious” role. If the editorial modeling style is what you think you really want to do, you need to remember that those editorials may not pay your bills alone in itself, so that’s an area where a model should be well-rounded and versatile in many other types of modeling that can help supplement their income. There usually is no time for a busy fashion editorial model to have another job because a model has to be very flexible with their time for going on bookings, go-sees, fittings, etc. Establishing a back-up savings of money even in the early stages of a modeling career is crucial to hold you over as you build your career.
Things in the fashion industry can change quickly, so this can work toward your advantage if you are very close to starting your editorial modeling career, but the changes can be more harsh if you’ve already been established as an editorial model because many insiders within the industry will know you’re on the way down when the magazines stop booking you. That is the time to branch out to other modeling opportunities if you still want to work as a model. Editorial modeling is relatively for a very short period of time in most models’ careers, so the model that is fortunate to model as both an editorial and then a commercial model may see the long-term success in their career through the years.
If the opportunity for success happens, it is a wonderful landmark in the model’s career, so use it wisely. This is an opportunity to be positively recognized, so show your potential as being dependable, professional, and adaptable. Don’t blow the opportunity away by acting immature or childish. Being professional doesn’t mean being uptight and boring, either. There are interpersonal, social skills that need to be adapted for different occasions. The editorial model has contact with such a wide range of industry professionals that each has their unique role with diverse personalities.
REMINDER: Your life is your personal business, so be careful of what and how you communicate because first impressions are hard to change. For example, being late is very, very bad. Also, complaining can be annoying. Having a free-spirit can be youthful, but there is always a correct time and place to be a part of every party scene (and there are pros and cons to that which can make or break a model’s career if they don’t use any self-control appropriately in their lives.) Relationships do form with people over the span of a model’s career. Some people may be there for a very short time, but other relationships can last for years. It’s an industry of “acquaintances” that really have fewer “real” friends, but as long as you know your place and your role in the industry you can keep a better sense of who’s really there to help you. People tend to have motives that are self-orientated, so keep your eyes on people that can help you and be prepared to offer them the type of relationship that is okay with you, but not so they are taking advantage of you. This applies to relationships with other models, photographers, agents, clients, etc. There can be real friendships, and there can be golden opportunities made with the right people at the right time, but keep your “radar” on for people scamming or exploiting you.
The fashion industry is a fast, complicated institution full of many eccentric individuals. To please one individual may not be pleasing to another, while to please the RIGHT one may launch a young model’s career. There is an element of trend “followers” involved in responding to whatever the trend “setters” say is IN the moment, so the industry is truly guided by the elite, high fashion magazines. What does an editorial model look like? Back to the trends, this answer can have variations dependent upon the moment or particular designer. On average, an editorial model is not the standard, classic beauty that most people think of as being considered “pretty”. There are exceptions, but there must be something very unique and special that can make the model stand out. Often, editorial models have a somewhat quirky look that stands out as obviously unusual. Odd and exotic looks, very tall height, slim built bodies, and models who have the ability to be “chameleon-like” in their appearance are candidates for consideration as an editorial model. It sometimes is an odd personal experience for the model that felt awkward and different growing up and then they are placed in a unique position where they are made into fashion objects of beauty.
Editorial print pictures are artistic and expressive without words, but at the same time are meant to show the garments you are wearing, or whatever image the model is promoting in the best way possible. The poses are much different than catalogue, and the way the body is expressing the story requires a talent. Some may call the talent “acting”, and it’s a modeling skill that only emphasizes the importance of what every good model should possess. The skill of being a chameleon that can change to the mood of the moment easily is much easier to work with versus having the same looks over and over all of the time. When an editorial piece in a magazine is about showing an “edgy” look and a pretty model just wants to show how pretty she is…she has failed. She has failed herself, the photographers, the stylists, the designers, the magazines, and ultimately the consumer who sees this editorial pictorial story and gets the entirely wrong concept from her “pretty” picture. It’s not about how the model is supposed to feel about themselves, but rather doing the job that the model is booked for…a.k.a. whatever the client wants the model to portray (for instance, a.k.a. “edgy looking” model or “retro looking”, etc.). The model should always have a mental note in their mind of the “concept” that the client wants to see and bring it out in front of the camera (or on the runway). Editorial jobs are for the top potential models. If a model feels ugly or weird in what they are modeling for a magazine editorial, they must dig deep and find a way to make the concept exciting or very interesting to match the conceptual idea of what they are modeling.
One job leads to another very quickly when the models start doing editorials, but remember that this stage may not last very long. Enjoy the adventure and any perks because they just don’t happen for most models in their careers. There are so many people all over the world who dream the same dream of being a famous model and their fantasy never gets fulfilled to what they expected. So, when the elite opportunity arrives you should be aware of how fortunate you may be considered in the eyes of other models that may not have “walked in your shoes”.
For any given number of reasons, modeling is not always a highly successful occupation even for the talented person. The work is not always glamorous, either, even though the finished product in a magazine or couture fashion show may appear that way. On a positive note, models can be exposed to some small and very large perks, too. Perks are based on what you may each consider above and beyond what you actually earn in money as an extra bonus that’s not measured on your income tax statement (such as meeting celebrities, attending parties, etc). Your booking rate can increase with the more you become in demand, too. When a model is seen doing editorial spreads in different magazines…they are becoming in demand! Even though the “editorial” rate is low, this popularity branches out into a variety of other options for the model’s career that makes them very, very busy as a professional, working model.
Editorial modeling in a high fashion magazine is a PRIME booking for a model that is serious about having a career in modeling. It is not the type of assignment that you can get in most U.S. cities. New York City is the fashion capital of the United States and it is where the opportunities are for high fashion editorial work. There are other cities internationally that have a lot of editorial work, too, so a model’s willingness and financial ability to relocate and travel is a “must” in order to increase their chances in appearing in any magazine spreads. Not all American models start their high fashion careers in New York City. Many obviously want to, but few get the right opportunity. Agents may recommend that they gain more experience and exposure overseas where there are many magazines and opportunities that may help their career get better established before they venture around New York City. (We’ll discuss more about international modeling, later.)
It takes a special type of model (physically & mentally) to get a grasp on what is required of them in this type of specialty. Rejection is a big part of this career as common as the many, unfulfilled dreams. A model must cope with the reality that they are always being critiqued by many others. For the individuals who have been “good-looking” and socially accepted their entire life, it sometimes is very hard to deal with rejection based upon their “looks”. It’s not easy to take personal criticism, but the better you are at preparing for the worst comments, the better you may be at not being caught off guard. Letting it ruin your day is much better than ruining your career and self-esteem because you will need to have confidence in your skills as a model.
Your personality should adapt as you see more of the modeling industry as an insider. It may sometimes feel as if you are using every bit of your patience and self control in not trying to stick up for yourself to the many different people who may drive you crazy, but always remember what will be best for your success as a model in the long run. Don’t lose control nor lose focus of what your job is as a model and who you represent regarding the client and your modeling agency. Anything that you experience as a model that is unpleasant is usually nothing new to most other models that have worked for a little while, so hang in there and do your best to cope because there will many other models who will not be able to take the heat and drop out of modeling as quickly as they began their dream. It may sometimes be lonely or scary when you’re far away from family and friends, so you may quickly assume more independence without their support over time.
You’ll be facing issues in a modeling career that other people your age may not encounter in their job description such as nudity. In high fashion, there’s no room for too much modesty, either, because the model’s body is stripped down, dressed up, and stripped down again from client to client and garment to garment as part of the fashion business as a live mannequin (a.k.a. models). Your face and your body are part of the package used to promote the fashion story on the runway or in magazines (versus nudity for pornography). There’s a fine line between what is “accepted” in fashion that uses partial nudity versus that what the model is “expected” to portray intimately for pornography. Fine art using nude models or a revealing high fashion designer’s haute couture versus modeling nude on a website or in a pornographic magazine have different standards and is viewed by the industry as such, so be aware from the very beginning of what you are comfortable with.
Often, it’s not just modesty that is sacrificed in a model’s career that causes their parents to be on guard. Models may be placed in many scenarios that they are not familiar with and they need to trust that they are safe when they feel vulnerable. This is where the high fashion model’s agency is the key to managing its’ clients and models. Models change in front of each other and clients sometimes, wear provocative garments, and sometimes are told to act sensually with others (male and female) in front of the camera and on the runway. This is a part of high fashion editorial modeling, too, where modesty can hinder the model’s ability to perform and get the final results.
It appears that when you add in the actual physical requirements of the editorial model you may see the numbers dwindle down to who actually gets an opportunity and succeeds as an editorial model. The female editorial model is anywhere in her teenage years aged 14-19 (on average) and is very, very thin (size 0-2…maybe size 4, depending on trends) and very tall (5’9 -6’0″). She won’t have very large breasts (under 34 C-cup), nor body piercings and tattoos. (*unless approved special circumstances). Add to her body’s physical requirements a “uniquely” beautiful face with interesting features and the average number of qualified females dwindles down even further. Remember, sometimes it’s not a typically “pretty” girl who photographs like a strong, chameleon-like, editorial model…sometimes a “pretty face” just photographs as a “pretty face” and that’s not always interesting in the fashion world.
The standards for male models are somewhat similar, but their age is older (average 18-25) and their height should be 6’0″ wearing a size 40 suit with approximately a 34 inch inseam. The male models should be lean, cut, and fit versus having too many bulging muscles that don’t fit in his clothes. He, too, must be where the editorial work is either in the U.S. or internationally. The male model may face his own obstacles when faced with what is expected of him, but there are many shared basics of modeling between female and male models relating to the industry and facing rejection.
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