The Search is Over! We Found Our 5' Tall Fit Model.

Posted on 24 May 2015

The mainstream model height of 5’7” has made my search for a fit model challenging. For Madeira, I was looking for someone 5’ and 5’3” so I can fit my designs for two heights (5’2” – 5’4” and < 5’2”). The journey was eye opening.

Whenever I tell someone that I am launching a clothing line for petite women, they inevitably express this frustration - “Why is it that they make clothes mostly for tall women only? Short people don’t exist?”

I am with you and I have a few speculations as to why this is the case, which I will share later in this post. But for now,

Everyone, please meet Stacie!

Exactly 5’ tall, Stacie is a good friend who falls within the proportions and measurements of our size Small (for prototyping). She has been generous enough to donate her time to help me. I cannot wait to try the first sample on her to see how our first design fits, and share the results with you.


What Is A Fit Model?

A fit model is someone who has the measurements that represent your customer demographics (i.e. size, shape, proportion, height, age, etc). When a brand designs an outfit, they fit a prototype (or sample) on a fit model and adjust as many times as they need to fit the garment on her body before using it as a “mold” for production.

The Search of a Petite Fit Model

After spending hours browsing Model Mayhem website, contacting modeling agencies for their “non-traditional” models, and posting on model community Facebook groups (Thank you, Russelle for helping out!), I received about a dozen of applications. Thank you for those who tried out! After reviewing all the measurements and proportions, no match was near found.

May be it was serendipity; I came across my friend Stacie's picture on Facebook as I frustration and disappointment level went off the roof. Ah ha! Why didn’t I think of her!?

Did You Know? Petite Are Not The Minority.

Did you know that half of the woman population in the United States is 5’4” and under? The fashion industry defines “petite” as 5’4” and under. So, half of our women population is actually petite based the 2012 CDC study for data collected between 2007 – 2010. You can find the report here (table on page 13 and page 14 tell you the mean heights by age and ethnicity).

Companies usually go through modeling agencies to find fit models, who are mostly of a standard model height of 5’7” or higher. What this sounds to a lot of us is that if you not at least 5’7”, you are not a model, which is completely outrageous.

Whenever I hear someone tells me that she (or he) cannot be a model because she/he is not tall enough, I think to myself – how on earth did we get here?

I am Asian and just under 5’4”. My husband is not much taller than me. So, our daughter is not going to be tall.

It’s irresponsible to send messages to girls that their height defines their beauty. 

I started Madeira only for petite women because I want to level the fashion playing field. There are enough clothes out there for tall people already. So I just want to put it out there to all the petite women:

You can be short and beautiful in your very own way!


Now, My Speculation On Why Most Clothes Are Made For Tall Women

(1) The fashion industry adopted a set of measurements for their customers way back. As the population mix and ethnicity change (e.g. increasing Asian and Latino population), these companies did not want to forgo their loyal customers and change their sizing. You see, from a business standpoint, it is not trivial to change sizing. You may risk losing your current customers while not knowing if your “new” target customers will like or fit your products.

(2) Back in the days, the more affluent populations were predominately white and tall, which are the one who can afford a higher price point; more attractive to name brands. As the second or third generations of immigrant children rise up the social ladder (a lot of them are Asian or Latino descendants), the affluent population is no longer limited to just the tall folks. But since changing a brand’s sizing is not trivial, the shift to include more petite population has not made it into mainstream yet.

(3) From a process standpoint, it’s just easier for designers/brands to be able to have a uniform height to fit their garment rather than accommodating variations.

These are just my speculations. Thank you for reading this far!

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