A Mannequin Model

Name: Shay Taylor, Career: Fit Model, Age: 38, Salary Range: $100,000 part time — $300,000 full time
Power Move: After developing a clientele,Taylor incorporated herself and solicited her own clients as an independent contractor.

Lithe and svelte, Shay Taylor is a perfect size 8 — perfect, that is, for the nation’s leading designers. In fact, Taylor works eight to 10 hours daily, collaborating with designers and their pattern makers to create garments for real people. She is what is known in the fashion industry as a fit model or live mannequin.

“The industry created this standard in order to perfect a pattern for manufacturing,” explains Taylor. “Once the designer and pattern maker have their perfect size pattern/garment of size 8, they then use a numerical system to create the schema of sizes, such as 2, 4, 6, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, etc. This is how sizing is determined.”

Fit models work behind the scenes, off the runways, away from the glare of the public and flashbulbs of the paparazzi. On their bodies, however, is where new fashion designs begin to take shape.

“A good fit model becomes technically skilled at helping the designer and pattern maker create the image of the garment,” offers Taylor. “We make sure one can move, sit, and have comfort in the garment. But most importantly, when a woman puts on the garment, we want her to say, ‘I look great!'”

Working primarily in New York, Paris, Hong Kong, and Korea, Taylor has a clientele that includes designers Oleg Cassini, Bob Mackie, Tommy Hilfiger, Carmen Marc Valvo, August Silk, and Charles Nolan [pictured above].

Taylor began modeling in college to earn money. The bulk of her assignments were fashion shows in high-end department stores, though she also did print modeling and trade shows. Then one day, the late Herbert Rounick, an industry icon who owned the Oleg Cassini evening wear license, told her, “You have a fit body!” She didn’t know what he meant but she accepted his invitation to work, and her career as a fit model began.

Taylor first acquired contracts through modeling agencies, which is the industry norm. Once she developed a reputation, clients began to seek her out directly. She incorporated herself as Fashion Technicians Inc. and, for the majority of her career, has worked as an independent contractor.

Within the fashion industry, Taylor is best known for fitting evening wear, dresses, and lingerie. In fact, the original Wonder Bra exercise garment was created on Taylor, as well as an earlier edition of the McDonald’s uniform.

Fit models are paid an hourly rate ranging between $175 and $300. (Modeling agencies take a 20% commission.) A good client will book a model at least four hours weekly. The main requirement is meeting the industry’s standard of a size 8. “This means the model’s height, torso, arm length, leg length, bust, waist, and hips [along with all other body measurements] match this requirement.” It’s a body measurement that also must be maintained to the half