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What is Runway Modeling?

In the modeling industry, runway models are often held in high regard. Supermodels often get their start on the runways of fashion week, and their names are often known worldwide. Although runway modeling is probably the most well-known type of modeling, those new to the industry may not be aware of what makes it different from other types of modeling, like fashion or commercial modeling.

In this post, I'll explain some of the intricacies of runway modeling and how its requirements differ from many other modeling types.

Photo by David Bolen Smith Photography

In a nutshell, a runway model is a model that wears clothing and/or accessories on a runway in front of an audience. While this seems straightforward and is, for the most part, many requirements go into being a runway model.

While the modeling industry is slowly becoming more inclusive regarding height, size, and age requirements for runway models, the standards are still very strict. Runway models are required to be taller than your average person, generally 5'9"-6' for women and 6'-6'3" for men. The height requirement alone really narrows the selection pool, but on top of height requirements, there are size requirements too. For women, sizes 0-4 is generally required. It's a little more flexible for men, but they are still expected to be slim and fit. Due to the strict size requirements, runway models, especially women, get started very young. Most start around 17 and age out by the time they hit 25.

With such strict requirements, the number of models that fit the "runway standard" is very small. Thankfully, as I stated above, the industry is getting much more inclusive as consumers demand more realistic representation and diversity on the runways, opening the door for more and more models to break into the runway world and stay there longer.

Along with fitting the strict physical requirements, runway models must also have a good runway walk and presence. This walk is more than just a normal walk. It takes time to learn and refine. The walk style trends change over time as well, so runway models must be sure to pay attention to this and adapt their walk accordingly to stay current. Different designers will also have different styles and moods that they want their models to portray, so the models have to be able to adjust their walks to fit the designers' needs.

While you can be a freelance model and get runway bookings, casting calls for big runway shows often aren't open to models who aren't agency represented. And while runway models can also be booked for things like print ads or magazine editorials since the runway requirements are so precise (and honestly pretty unrelatable), many agencies have a division specifically for runway models, and they don't often book non-runway jobs. And even though runway modeling is considered one of the most glamorous types, runway models don't get paid nearly as much as commercial models. As a result, many models will start off doing runway to gain some exposure and networking and then move into other realms of modeling for more consistent and better paying bookings.

Though the job of a runway model may seem easy and fun, it can be quite difficult. The days of a runway show are very long and often include multiple fittings and rehearsals. Models must also be willing to wear swimsuits, lingerie, or other revealing clothing and wear shoes that are incredibly uncomfortable or don't fit properly. However, even if they are extremely uncomfortable or do not have properly fitting shoes, they will still be expected to walk well and confidently while ensuring that all the garment aspects are being shown off correctly and as the designer requested. They may also have multiple looks within one show, and quickly changing from one complicated look into another can be pretty tedious.

Walking the runway is incredibly fun and a great way to get yourself in front of many fashion industry professionals, but it's not for everyone, and that's ok! If you find it challenging to get runway bookings or don't enjoy it as much as you thought, there are many other types of modeling you may have more success at and enjoy more!


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