As a professional model, it is essential that you are always prepared when you are on a booking or going to a casting call. But when you’re new to the modeling game, it’s hard to know where to even begin when it comes to what you should have to make sure you’re set. You also may not have a lot of money to go out and buy a ton of new things, so knowing what items are essential vs. optional is really important.
Below, I’ve laid out a few things to make sure you have as a new model. As you progress in your career, you’ll accumulate more items over time, but this is basically your “starter kit” and the bare minimum you should have in your model arsenal.
Portfolio/Book & Comp Card
If you don't have a portfolio put together yet, don’t freak out. Your book doesn’t have to be stuffed with tons of photos; 5-10 great ones is all you really need. If you’re not yet signed to an agency, set up a test-shoot with a good photographer and make sure you do several different looks in that shoot, and use those as starter images for your book. If you have an agent already, they will usually help coordinate setting up a shoot to get you some starter images. See more about portfolios in my post Modeling Portfolio 101.
Same goes for comp cards. Usually, your agent will put these together for you, but if you don’t have an agency you can easily create a comp card yourself. A simple google search will bring up tons of comp card examples. Use the images from your shoot and put them together in a similar layout of the comp cards you found online. Make sure your name and contact info is accurate and easy to read. If you need more comp card guidance, check out my post Comp Card 101.
While having a large variety of shoe options as a model is always a great thing, when you’re first starting out you may not have the funds to go out and splurge on a bunch of new shoes. You’ll often be asked to bring your own shoes to casting calls, runway shows and photoshoots, so it’s good to have options that are able to be used over and over again and in many different situations.
For starters, I recommend that you have at least these 4 pairs of heels: stiletto sandals with just an ankle strap & toe strap in black and nude, as well as a basic stiletto pump in black and nude. These 4 shoes can pretty much be used in any situation and match everything, so they are always my go-to when I’m asked to bring along my own shoes or when I go on a casting call. A bonus to add if you’re able, is a good pair of plain black stiletto ankle-boots, as those will often be requested in the fall/winter.
Remember when buying shoes specifically for your model bag, keep it simple. Make sure the heel is 3” or higher, and stay away from lots of bling and obvious brand labels as that can limit how much you’re able to use them. You also don’t need to blow lots of money on designer labels. Going for a shoe that is sturdy and one you’re able to get lots of use out of is much more important than how much you spend on the brand label!
Makeup Kit & Hair Products
As a model, you never know what may happen on-set and always need to be prepared to do your own makeup (or at least be able to make minor touch-ups). Female models should always have a basic makeup kit that includes foundation, concealer, blush, bronzer, setting powder, eyeshadow pallet(s), eye & lip liners, variety of lipsticks, and mascara. Again, you don’t need to blow a bunch of money on really expensive brands, but you should be able to create a few basic looks if the need arises.
Male models do not require all the items that women do, but men should also carry a good concealer, bronzer, and setting powder.
I always like to have basic hair tools and products set aside specifically for my model bag as well. Brush/comb, bobby pins, clips, elastics and travel sized hairspray, gel, and dry-shampoo are all great things to have in your basic model toolkit.
For models, undergarments are really important. When you’re at a booking, it is not the time to bust out your prettiest lingerie sets. Quite the opposite, actually!
As a model, you’re going to want the plainest undergarments possible. You’re going to want to always have a regular t-shirt style bra in black and nude, a strapless bra in black and nude, as well as seamless thong, bikini cut, and boyshort style underwear in black and nude. Try to avoid any lace as that can cause bumps under your garments, and always get the most seamless style as possible. While those are absolute must-haves, it’s a bonus to also have shapewear and stockings/hose in black and nude as well.
I have all of these items set aside to use specifically for modeling, that way I always know where they are and know that they’re in good condition.
Most of the time, your wardrobe for photoshoots and runway shows will be provided by the client or a stylist, but there are a few things that you need to make sure you have with you in case you’re ever in a pinch and need to improvise.
I always suggest having a spaghetti strap camisole in black and white, a black bandeau top, and a pair of black and dark blue skinny jeans. For the jeans, make sure they’re not faded or distressed. Again, I always keep these separate from my daily clothing so that way I know exactly where they are when I’m packing my model bag and I know that they’re clean and in good condition. There’s nothing worse than needing to wear your white cami on set and realizing once you put it on that there is a huge stain on the front!
When first starting out as a model, these are the bare minimum things you should invest in right at the beginning to have in your model bag. For a more extended list of things you need to have with you for a booking, check out my posts Runway Model Bag and Photoshoot Model Bag. Remember, a professional model is a prepared model!