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Why Do Lingerie Retailers Use Only a Few Models Instead of Models in Every Size?

Kiss Me Deadly

Today’s “Why Do Lingerie Retailers” feature is a short one, but a good one. One of the questions that’s come up a lot within the lingerie community (and the fashion community in general, really) is “Why don’t retailers hire a model in each size to show how the clothing looks on a range of body types?” Sounds pretty reasonable, right?

Here’s what Catherine had to say:
Put plainly, it’s money. Photoshoots are amazingly expensive. I get an amazing all-in-one deal (model/photographer/makeup artist/stylist) with Morgana but even I tend to skimp on other things — like the back shots of garments. Cost is also why people often don’t vary their models much. Each model comes with a separate fee, agency fee, and arrangements. Unless you are Marc Jacobs.

Cora Harrington

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Lingerie Addict. Author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that everyone who wants it deserves gorgeous lingerie.

21 Comments on this post

  1. Abigail Tyrrell says:


  2. Abigail Tyrrell says:

    I don’t agree. It’s not just money. There aren’t any! Models willing to bear it ALL, not for the camera but the INTERNET at plus size (and I mean 20+) are exceptionally few! You have to have an incredibly thick skin to take the criticism that is hurled your way once the photos are published – to the world. It takes incredibly brave women to show off what the industry sees and says is a “non typical” body in that kind of limelight. I love and support my models who often do their shoots for shoes and knickers. For them it is also not about the money (well, not just the money…hey, we all need to be paid) but about making fashion accessible and available.

  3. […] …Use Only a Few Models Instead of Showing All Sizes? […]

  4. Sverige says:

    yeah there must be a specific model of each size so buyers can easily figure out whats best for them.

  5. Johnny Ace says:

    I am often out perusing the web for info on lingerie, womens opinons, etc. I am a photographer myself, albiet more of a “live action” photographer, but I also do some portrait work.

    Now reading the replies and the Original post, I have to say I could easily provide a full range of women of all shapes, sizes, breast size, hips, you name it and for next to nothing. I work with a bevy of women in my field of Burlesque photography and they don’t require a ton of money or the attention many models demand. And yes, some of these lady friends of mine are on par with Playboy playmates (2 of em were actually in Playboy a few years back) to some of the beautiful bigger plus sized ladies.

    What a lot comes down to is companies clamoring for the high priced models and yes, some photographers are way over valued. Cut the excess and you can do all the consumers, who are why you stay in business, are asking for.

    This only has spurred me to modify my plan for a line of men & women’s clothing I am releasing later this year to have each size represented. I’ll even share my final costs of such.

  6. UpliftMaximizationTechnician says:

    I agree, it would be great to see a small 32B, regular 34D and 36G pictured in the same style of bra. Throw in a 38 back into the mix and you’d almost be able to cover the majority of body types. However…this is not feasible for a few reasons. One of them is cost, and in print at least, ad space. The most important…and this should go without saying but kinda needs to be said…rarely do a 32B and 36G work well in the exact same style of bra. It’s basic physics. Different body types require different types of materials, construction and style. High end bra lines recognize this difference and produce variations on a style, but most cheaper ones do not. I find this leads to women being given false and unrealistic expectations, which is unfair and frustrating to the consumer and leads to poor body image.

    My bigger beef these days is seeing size 0 models promoting shapewear and things similar to Spanx. This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. For God’s sake, put women who actually LOOK LIKE THEY NEED SHAPEWEAR IN SHAPEWEAR ADS. The amount of photoshopping put into those is irritating, as it does not give the consumer in any clear way, ANY indication of how this garment is actually going to work. I hate to point fingers, but Janira, I’m looking at you, lol.

    • Catherine says:

      But we don’t make samples in more than one size – the sampling process is heinously expensive. So this would mean doing one shoot with one model when we samples, and then when the stock came in, another shoot with 2-3 other models. To give you a rough idea, most people spend more than £1000 on a shoot., plus time and so on. A professional model is usually at least £300 for a few hours, and thats with a limited time you can have the images public for, so if you sell after that time . . .

      Even for a large retail outlet who had invested deeply into a line, to outlay seriously into a shoot for each line would eat into margings considerably.

      In really wierd news, Bluebella in the UK once told me (and an audience of about 40 people at a discussion group) that she had tried having multiple models, and that though her buyers had said they wanted larger models, they actually found that a the larger models were correlated with poorer sales of products. the only way I can think to explain this is because what we want consciously isn’t necessarily what ‘s going on subconsciously – and we’re in a society where desirability and high end-iness ( yeah, ok, I just made that word up) are associated with slenderness, so maybe even though we know its not realistic, we still end up being drawn to the idealised image.

      • Amaryllis says:

        That last point could also be for a slightly different reason – not that we necessarily identify with the slimmer models idealised shape, but that the only time that a plus size model is shown, it’s advetising plus size ranges. If I see a picture for a larger lady, I probably won’t even look at the sizes on offer, because I know that they will exclude me. Whereas, a more ‘normal’ (as in the norm for models) picture will not necessarily mean the range doesn’t extend upwards.

        I think there’s a great space here, though, for customer interaction – for example, on the KMD site and many other small brands, you can find fan photos or pictures of sponsored performers, who tend to cover a more realistic size range. Even if it’s not for every range and style, it still gives a good perspective on how the style of a brand works on different shapes and sizes, AND makes a statement about how the brand feels about women of differing body shapes. I think that’s something that could be promoted more, for example links to previous similar styles being worn by fans. I think that companies who do interact with their customers well get a lot out of it, but that the industry as a whole is very slow to pick up on the two way communication thing, which is a huge shame.

        I do sympathise with the tiny models in shapewear comment, but for a different reason – often, it doesn’t come in the size that their model is! So it must have been pinned or adjusted somehow, which is plain dishonest. And as someone who’s waist varies between 27″ and 25″, mainstream shapewear just doesn’t come in my size most times, no matter how dainty the model is… it’s just as well I don’t like the idea of wearing beige cycling shorts under my evening dresses, really!

        • admin says:

          That’s a really interesting point, and I also want to point out (because I don’t think it’s ever said enough) that “plus size” and “thin” aren’t the only two sizes women come in. I know you weren’t saying, but to me size diversity is more than showing a size 16 and a size 6 model. Every woman, by virtue of having a unique body, has to imagine how those pieces are going to look on her…and that would be true even if size 16 became the new industry standard overnight.

          And yes, definitely, brands who publicly use customers photos definitely get my attention. There can’t be a more ringing endorsement than your own customers sending you photos of themselves in your stuff.

    • admin says:

      I have to say, I’m okay with women of any size wearing shapewear. I think of shapewear as something to smooth your silhouette under clothing, and women of any size can use that. After all, being a size 0 doesn’t mean you have a perfect body…whatever that means.

  7. Zoggi says:

    I really like Ewa Michalak’s approach to selecting models. I can see how it could be expensive and I don’t know much about how she runs the business, but she has two models for most styles which is really useful given the wide size range. One model shows a small / average cup size, and the other shows what the bra looks like nearer the top end of the size range. It would of course be totally impractical to have a different model for *every* size in every style, but where it’s possible to budget for more than one model, I applaud Ewa for choosing models of different sizes. I also love how they look just like ordinary women!

    • Gigi says:

      I just checked out Ewa Michalak’s site, for the first time, it is fabulous! Thank you Zoggi for mentioning her. The styles aren’t particularly my taste but I do think they have a wide appeal, and the various ‘real women’ models are just great, posing with cupcakes makes it even cuter!
      Love it.

  8. Sarah says:

    I read about this the other day and was really pleased that Miss Von Teese was standing up for curvier women. She turned away models who she deemed ‘too skinny’.

    It will be interesting to see how much more money this range makes just from having more normal looking women modelling the pieces. Speculate to accumulate. And make women feel good in the process.
    It’s not all about the money money money!

    • Amaryllis says:

      Don’t you think that it’s a little dishonest and playing to the crowd for Dita to be complaining about the size of other women, considering how small she is herself? I think it was a hard-headed business decision of hers, to rack up some more publicity, myself. And I say that as a huge Dita fan.

      • AlexaFaie says:

        Dita may be small, but she still has curves. She’s not skinny as she has an hourglass figure even at her small waist size. What she was standing up for with the curvier women thing is to show women who have womanly figures rather than boyish figures.

        I think it would really nice for some brands to get regular women in to model. Of course top/official models are going to cost quite a lot, but if you get regular women in, they are probably more likely to do it for a confidence booster as much as anything (I know I would anyway). If you had even just one woman per cup size, you could have them all in the same style, and with the one photog, quickly snap one, then the next whilst the first is changing into the next style. Rinse and repeat. It would be an interesting experiment at least. Then when you’re browsing a website and select your size from the drop down box, you get presented with a woman of (or at least close to) that size.

        Boux Avenue (http://www.bouxavenue.com) at least show 2 cup sizes for the styles they offer both up to a D and from a DD up (They do to a H cup in some styles). Which for me is very useful as I’m a 32DD and have ordered bras where they’ve shown the style in a smaller cup size only to be presented with something which is completely different from a DD upwards. Things like the wings at the side being deeper so they come up higher at the armpit (making them unwearable for me, whereas the images of the smaller cup sizes showed a shorter wing depth). With Boux, I can at least see what the style might look like in my actual size.

        • admin says:

          I understand what you’re getting at here, especially since there is a huge problem with size favoritism in the fashion industry.

          However, I’m also of the opinion that all women (by virtue of being women, genetic or otherwise) have womanly figures. And talk about “regular” women or “normal” women vs. “the other kind” can come across as a bit alienating…especially since you have to ask at what point is a woman’s body considered “womanly” enough?

          • Zoggi says:

            This. To say that we should be using models with more “womanly” figures rather than boyish ones is missing the point. Any woman is womanly! Elevating one beauty ideal over another is not an improvement.

      • admin says:

        I think it’s a good message (yay for more size diversity!), but also (conveniently or otherwise) a good PR stunt. This could be a case where they overlap.

    • admin says:

      I get what you’re saying but, to be fair, if someone’s trying to sell a product, money is (and should be) kind of important. ;-)

      After all, it doesn’t matter how good your ideas are if you don’t have the money to make them happen.

    • Lily says:

      Just wanted to say that Dita’s breasts are enhanced, and so is her waist (via corsetry) so….

  9. KathTea says:

    well, that’s an interesting answer.

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