Side Hustle #57: Production Fit Modeling

by J. Money - Published May 27, 2015

[What up, y’all! Gotta cool new side hustle for you today if you like the fashion thing (or just making some killer money :)). My blogger friend Ashley Stetts gives us the scoop on production fit modeling – a much more lucrative way to model apparently! And open to both males and females, though this article is very much skewed female FYI… Let me know what you think!]

When most people think of modeling, they think of glamorous photoshoots on beautiful islands, jetsetting lifestyles and stick thin girls who eat ice chips for most meals.

Sure, that kind of modeling exists – and I’ve even graced a few magazine covers myself (see below) – but I was lucky to stumble upon the real money making job in the modeling industry: being a production fit model.

You see, the magazine covers were coveted gigs, but ones that only paid about $250 for the entire day. When you’re a production fit model, you make that per hour, and you don’t have to be stick thin or even beautiful to do it.

cover model ashley stetts

Yes, I Was a Model…

I started in the modeling world as most girls do – young, impressionable and eager to book any job no matter how much it paid. I was shooting for a lot of fitness magazines and catalogues here and there, but not making any sort of money that could actually support me.

In my early NYC days I supplemented my income waitressing in nightclubs. Actually, I didn’t supplement my income – waitressing was paying substantially more than my modeling career was! Here’s a clip I did with ABC News where I talk about this dark side of modeling:

One day when I was in my agency, one of the bookers asked if they could measure me to see if I would be a good candidate for fit modeling work, and I’m so grateful that I was. It was like winning the lottery.

You see, the super thin Amazonian height models that you see in magazines and on the runway are actually not so lucky. Their look is so specific and high fashion that they are confined to only the editorial magazine jobs that usually pay under $300 for the day and don’t come around very often.

These are the same girls who are living in model apartments with four other models and barely able to afford food (which I guess helps in this profession?). It’s a sad truth that many young models are brought to big cities like NYC with hope planted in them by agencies who turn around and charge them for everything from overpriced accommodations to fees for being featured on the website and hefty charges for advancing money that they are owed. It’s no wonder that all these models are broke – by the time all the fees and commissions (20%) are paid, there isn’t usually much left.

So you can see why I happily gave up the dream to ever be featured in Vogue, and settled into my healthy size 4 shape that didn’t require starving myself or a ton of rejection that comes from not being the desired “look” that’s currently trending (Punk? Big lips? Bushy eyebrows? No eyebrows??). With so much competition in the world of modeling, being able to do fit work was certainly a blessing for my wallet and my ego.

So What The Hell is Fit Modeling?

Fit models are like live mannequins for designers who have the proportions that match industry standards. For example, the industry standard for a size 4 is someone approximately 5’8″ with a bust measurement of 34, a waist measurement of 27 and a hip of 37.

If you have close to these measurements, have good posture and good shape, than you could be a candidate to be a fit model. Higher end brands generally fit on a size 4, but the mainstream brands tend to fit on a size 6 or 8, which is more of an average sized person.

ashley stetts fit model

A day at work entails going into the designer’s studio and trying on prototypes of their designs. You move around in the article of clothing and give feedback as to how it fits, and the garment is altered to fit your body properly.

The reason you are compensated so generously is because the designer’s entire line is built to YOUR body, so you become a valuable part of the design process. Your value also comes from the fact that you’re not able to fluctuate in weight or measurements at all. I repeat, you must stay the exact same size, always. I’ve lost jobs because I’ve gained a few pounds and couldn’t get them off fast enough – true story; and when you lose one of these clients, you lose big time money. You’re making anywhere from $150 – $250 an hour and usually fitting anywhere from 3 to 6 hours a week… you do the math.

So that’s the catch. You are paid very generously simply for having the right body, but you have to be hyper aware of staying the same size. You also have to be on your feet for hours at a time while people prod and pick at you with pins, but if you’re at all interested in fashion, that could be exciting for you.

It was always fun for me working with big name designers (I’ve worked directly with Diane Von Furstenberg* among others) and seeing their incredible creative minds and sometimes crazy personalities. It’s definitely not a glamorous job, and you may not be in magazines, but seeing clothes hanging in the store that were fit exactly to your body is always rewarding.

Are You The Right Fit?

Unfortunately you could only consider this as a job option if you live in a city that hosts design houses. I live in NYC, which is the mecca of fashion, and therefore the most lucrative place to be a fit model. There are also fit modeling gigs to be found in LA, and funny enough places like Columbus Ohio are home to brands like Abercrombie & Fitch who fit their clothes at the head office there.

After all of the struggles that I went through with modeling agencies, I recently launched my own boutique fit modeling agency here in NYC. If you think that you have the right measurements and can handle the pressure, check out StettsManagement.com to see the kinds of models I represent – maybe one day you’ll be up on the site and banking at this side gig too!

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Along with managing, Ashley also blogs over at The Frugal Model – a blog on money, health, lifestyle, and of course frugality. You can find her on twitter @TheFrugalModel and Facebook as well.

PS: Check out the other 50+ side hustles here: Side Hustle Series

*EDITOR’S NOTE: Funny thing about DVF (Diane Von Furstenberg) – when I was living in NYC years ago I used to run into her allll the time and we used to exchange smiles as we both had the exact same color hair at the time (neon red). I never knew who she was until I was long gone though and Googled her one day when someone pointed out that my luggage was a chick’s, haha… I was quite surprised to learn who she was! (And I still rocked that baggage for years too ‘cuz it was stylish as $hit ;))

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Jay loves talking about money, experimenting, blasting hip-hop, and hanging out with his two beautiful boys. You can check out all of his online projects at jmoney.biz. Thanks for reading the blog!

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chris @ Flipping a Dollar May 27, 2015 at 5:26 am

“You don’t have to be stick thin or even beautiful to do it”

Hey, that’s exactly me! :)

This reminds me of singers who do kids music instead of trying to win a Grammy. You don’t need to be in the top 1% of jobs to have a good life!

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2 ashley May 27, 2015 at 10:44 am

Exactly! The jobs that are quietly done in the background can be the most rewarding!

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3 J. Money May 27, 2015 at 11:15 am

You’re too much, Chris, haha…

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4 Emma | Money Can Buy Me Happiness May 27, 2015 at 6:04 am

Love the insight into the fashion industry – thanks Ashley. I especially love the irony that real women get the final say on a piece of clothing’s comfort and functionality.

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5 ashley May 27, 2015 at 10:45 am

You’re welcome! Thank god “real” models aren’t fitting clothes. We would all look like stuffed sausages.

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6 Camille May 27, 2015 at 6:46 am

Great fashion industry insight, and sweet side hustle! Also, I love me some DVF :)

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7 Brian @ Debt Discipline May 27, 2015 at 6:52 am

Interesting hustle and great paying too. Thanks for sharing.

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8 Tony @ Inequality Today May 27, 2015 at 7:17 am

Very cool side gig. Back in my freshman year of college I landed a couple of modelling gigs for an athletics magazine. The pay was pretty good too because they would only take students who ran track and field.

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9 J. Money May 27, 2015 at 11:16 am

That’s pretty cool! Reminds me of those British movies like Harry Potter who only hire other Brits.

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10 Kalie May 27, 2015 at 7:26 am

I learned about fit modeling when my sister was a fashion designer and her friend was her fit model. It’s a great gig compared to other types of modeling but still depends largely on the hereditary happenstance of being the right size. But that size is more common for sure!

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11 J. Money May 27, 2015 at 11:19 am

yeah, that’s why I don’t get why people think they’re so hot shit just for looking good when they had nothing to do with it. (weight loss & fitness stuff aside)

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12 Elise @ Simply Scaled Down May 27, 2015 at 8:22 am

Wow, this is such a cool job. I love learning about jobs like this that most people don’t even know about! Who knew that you could get paid for just trying on clothes (which sounds like a great gig to me!). thanks for the article!

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13 Mel May 27, 2015 at 10:15 am

This reminds me of how people always ask if I want to work on Broadway and I look at them like they’re crazy. I’ve been a successful stage manager for 12 years because I never got side tracked by the idea that that’s the only path in this career (not that Broadway isn’t an awesome path). I’m perfectly happy making decent money working for cruise lines or corporate gigs.

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14 J. Money May 27, 2015 at 11:20 am

And I’m perfectly happy with you doing that too so I can keep getting awesome guest posts about it from you :)

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15 Done by Forty May 27, 2015 at 10:58 am

What a neat niche. Who knew?

I wonder if they need paunchy male models for fitting?

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16 J. Money May 27, 2015 at 11:21 am

hah! I do wonder if male models are needed in this arena as much too? I should actually ask her!

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17 J. Money May 27, 2015 at 11:38 am

Okay, she said there are male models in this line of work, but not as many as women.

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18 Iron Mike Sharpe May 27, 2015 at 2:02 pm

I’d be like Kramer trying to model Calvin Klein underwear.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iViyKfcI1IQ

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19 J. Money May 27, 2015 at 4:15 pm

haha….. oh man, forgot about that one.

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20 [email protected] and the Beach May 27, 2015 at 10:58 am

I think it’s great you started a blog to help other models learn about money and the industry from a more truthful perspective. Honestly, I could never do it (even if I had the bod and the look). I find trying on clothes at the department store exhausting…and shopping for me is a very rare occasion! I’m glad to hear though that there are some behind the scenes type jobs in modeling that pay a bit more!

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21 ashley May 27, 2015 at 11:19 am

Thanks so much! Yes I’m lucky to have stumbled into this!

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22 Melanie @ Dear Debt May 27, 2015 at 11:40 am

Interesting post! I actually did fit modeling once in LA…I answered a fit modeling ad on CL and went to this designer’s studio, tried on a bathing suit and she just measured me. It took about 20 minutes and I made $75. Really wish I could find more gigs, but then again haven’t really looked since then. But now I don’t live in LA or NYC :(

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23 J. Money May 27, 2015 at 4:16 pm

Nice!

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24 Even Steven May 27, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Always thought I’d be a leg model, until the softball slide of 2007, I don’t think my legs will ever be the same.

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25 Fervent Finance May 27, 2015 at 3:48 pm

Maybe I could be a hand model like George Costanza. Just have to stay away from the clothes irons! Great side hustle!

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26 J. Money May 27, 2015 at 4:17 pm

haha… I think about him every damn time hand modeling comes up!

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27 Dude on a Mission May 27, 2015 at 5:45 pm

Two Seinfeld references in the same comments section…I knew this was my favorite blog for a reason!

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28 J. Money May 29, 2015 at 12:27 pm

A good day indeed :)

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29 Kayla @ Hello Pre Nurse May 27, 2015 at 10:51 pm

What a neat side hustle idea. I didn’t know there was another type of modeling besides the “high fashion” stuff. Thanks for sharing!

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30 The Professor May 28, 2015 at 5:31 pm

Don’t think this really applies to me, but thanks for sharing!

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31 galeforcewind May 28, 2015 at 9:56 pm

Great post – thanks. What about petites? Do they use specific size models for petites as well, or do they just scale down from the ‘standard’ sized clothes?

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32 ashley June 1, 2015 at 8:54 am

There is definitely a market for petites. Not every line uses them, but if a particular brand knows that it has a large petite client base, it will bring in a petite fit model :)

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33 Elisa May 31, 2015 at 2:51 am

How cool! I wouldn’t mind doing that, but I live in Seattle… Brittania, Generra and Union Bay are looooong gone… :-) And by that reference, you can tell I am now in my (early) 40’s… When I was in my teens and 20’s several people would tell me I should be a hand model– but I had no idea how to go about that– I will say, it is nice to be able to try on rings that are in the case, and they fit perfectly!… sigh… :-)

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34 J. Money June 1, 2015 at 10:57 am

That would be nice to model diamond rings and then get to keep some for payment!

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35 IndyJ July 31, 2015 at 3:19 am

Is there any way to find out where these design houses are located if you do not live in NYC? I live near Raleigh, NC, and I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume that we don’t have anything like that down here in the sticks ;) But I actually fit the requirements almost to a tee, it would be great if I could find something like that around here!! Thanks for the great info!!

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36 DennyMC February 16, 2016 at 12:06 pm

Would be pretty sweet deal for women that are older and not size itty bitty anymore. I’m 60 and size 9-10 pants and large shirt size, right now. :)

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37 K February 24, 2016 at 2:21 pm

Interesting but as far as I’m concerned a size 4 IS stick thin. :/

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38 Sasha March 19, 2016 at 8:05 am

A 4 isn’t stick thin. How is 130-135lb super tiny?

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39 Michele June 8, 2016 at 1:17 pm

I live in London, UK and I’m a plus size girl.

I’ve completed some fit modelling jobs for a few plus size retailers out here and enjoyed it. They were just regular stores, but they valued the models, as we really helped them to create their clothing lines.

It does involve standing around for long hours, changing garments quickly, giving good feedback to the designers and being friendly and personable. Also, you can’t be shy about your body as you could be in front of several designers (male and female) and/or models.

I’ve fitted underwear, tights, shape wear and general clothing and I met some nice ladies. Sometimes it would be a solo job and sometimes I would work alongside several models of different sizes. Occasionally you could keep some of the clothing.

One of the best things was that you didn’t need any prior experience, you just had to have the right measurements and the ability to maintain your weight.

I found the jobs by replying to ads online and I’m still registered with a couple of agencies here in London. It pays decent money and it’s a job I would happily do all day.

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40 J. Money June 9, 2016 at 7:48 am

Very cool!!

Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Michele. Really interesting to read :) (And got me to come back to this post as I’d forgotten about it! So many cool/unique ways to make money out there!! Way to stumble across it!)

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