How we find those lovely, diverse, & gorgeous models for our patterns

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The first time I saw a model that looked like me in a magazine, it profoundly changed the way I looked at my body.

It was the late 90s and I was about 18. I’d never felt at home in my body. Like many women, and especially adolescent women, I had a habit of distilling my body down into a collection of faults: my too-fat belly, my oversized and uneven breasts, my puberty stretch marks, my ugly scars.

It was then that I came across a magazine spread of Mia Tyler, sister of Liv Tyler, looking unbelievably sexy in lingerie. She had curves and roundness like me. Her boobs looked like mine. And she was gorgeous. That’s a (different) photo of her above.

Yes, I had seen beautiful curvy women in real life before. But for a young girl, seeing that representation in a magazine caused a major shift in my thinking. And I could look back at those photos any time I felt those terrible feelings returning. They were concrete proof that beauty came in many shapes and sizes.

Since that time, I’ve been convinced that the most beautiful thing about women (and humanity in general) is our diversity. I am constantly astounded by how many kinds of beauty there are in the world, and equally astounded that people choose to only acknowledge a narrow selection of these forms of beauty.

Now that I’m a grown woman with my own company, that is the kind of beauty I’d like to express: diverse, strong, and happy.

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Actually hiring diverse models can be tricky, especially because we are located in the northwestern part of the US, which is much less ethnically diverse than any other place I’ve lived. It’s also not exactly a fashion capitol, so there are fewer models to begin with than a city like New York or Los Angeles. But given those constraints, it’s still totally possible to seek out a wide variety of models.

At the same time, it’s important not to reduce the women who model for us to a single feature, such as their skin color. Too much focus on one aspect of someone’s identity or appearance can also be objectifying.

Much like seeking diversity in the workplace, it isn’t about working off a checklist. It’s about casting a wider net, and it’s about understanding the value that diversity brings to just about anything.

Where to find models

Our wonderful Art Director is Christine, and she is the person who conceptualizes photo shoots (for both Colette Patterns and Seamwork) and hires the lovely models you see. I spoke to her to help give a little more insight on how it all comes together.

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Agencies

The first place we look for models these days are at modeling agencies. Agency models can be expensive, but they often have a bit more experience and are easy to source and hire.

There are many kinds of models you can hire through an agency, and each agency classifies models a little differently.

  • Fashion: These tend to be your typical young, thin women – runway or editorial models.
  • Lifestyle: These models are often hired more for commercial shoots rather than fashion or editorial work. For example, advertising or catalogs. Because of this, there is more diversity in age and other characteristics. And they smile more!
  • Sports: Because of where we’re located and the presence of large activewear companies like Nike, there are a LOT of sports and fitness models. These models are athletic and tend to be ethnically diverse.
  • Plus: Some agencies have a small roster of plus size models. In our area, these rosters are tiny. Some cities with more apparel business (New York and Los Angeles) have many more agency-signed plus models, or even entire agencies that specialize in plus.

Christine says, “I like to hire models that make our readers think ‘Hey, I see myself in her.’ This is not an easy task, as there are only a couple modeling agencies in Portland, and their rosters are not very diverse.”

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“The most difficult models to find and hire are plus size, medium size, and models over thirty,” Christine says. You’d probably expect the first and last categories are underrepresented, but you would be surprised how difficult it is to find models who are neither a size 0 nor in the plus size category.

You’ve probably also noticed that many so-called “plus-size” models are not exactly plus size in reality. I believe part of the reason is that there are so few categories of models that “plus” becomes a catch-all bucket for “not your typical size 0.”

At the same time, a lot of women are turned away from modeling because they aren’t large enough to be plus, and not small enough to be in the other categories (according to the agencies).

In other words, the way agencies choose to divide and categorize the women they represent has a huge impact on the diversity of models available. In talking with other business owners and designers, including bridal and lingerie, I know there is a market for models anywhere from size 6 to size 26 and up. But it is very difficult to find these women at your typical agency.

Independent models

Some models are not signed with agencies at all. These models can be a little trickier to find, and range in experience from the full-time professional models to the completely inexperienced.

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We’ve worked with independent models who are every bit as talented and experienced as agency models, and sometimes more so. Independent models also have more freedom to look like themselves, because they’re not trying to fit into as many different looks and styles as possible. If you want a model with wild hair, tattoos, or other highly distinguishing features, this is a good way to go.

It’s also a better bet for the hard-to-find models I mentioned above. Many of these women are filtered out of agencies because there is no place there for someone who is a size 10, for example. Many plus size models have difficulty signing with agencies too, because not all of them have a division that fits.

Non-models

Finally, there are people who are not models at all!

I’d like to point something out here. Many people seem to think that modeling is a matter of standing still and looking pretty.

The reality is that it’s skilled, creative work, much like acting. It involves emoting on cue, awareness of your body, and comfort in front of strangers and cameras. Not a lot of people have these abilities without practice and talent.

I’m sure that if you’ve ever felt uncomfortable in front of a camera, you can imagine what that’s like in front of a group of strangers. If you have any doubts about your abilities or the way you look, that is a very difficult thing to disguise when a lens is pointed at you and everyone is staring and telling you (hopefully kindly) how to walk and move and pose and look.

So using non-models can still be wonderful, but can also require a lot more work and direction. It’s been our experience that folks who have never modeled before find it really difficult and tend to be a bit stiff and self-conscious at first. But there are naturals too!

Choosing a model

Once Christine has a concept for the photo shoot, she begins working on the specifics, including hiring the model.

She asks herself the basic questions: What are the pattern designs? The monthly theme (for Seamwork)? The color story? “This will give me a good idea of the person I could see beautifully showcasing these looks.”

“I also try to keep in mind the models we have used in the past, and aim to represent the underrepresented, and show variation from month to month. Shooting a wide range of people that our Seamwork/Colette community can connect with is really important. I care deeply about showing that every woman is beautiful and unique just as she is.”

Once she starts looking through portfolios, there are several things she looks for, but the main thing is personality.

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“When I look through agency portfolios, I am drawn to models that have photos of themselves in a more relaxed state, laughing or smiling! In contrast to high fashion, serious, cold editorial shoots, my goal is to have fun, and capture the natural beauty of the model at ease, just being herself.”

Moving forward

The great thing about Seamwork is that it’s allowed us to bring in a wide variety of women to collaborate with us. Watching Christine work is fantastic, because she is such a naturally kind and gracious person and genuinely loves to hear about our models’ lives and other pursuits. She really believes in bringing out their individual personalities.

Christine adds, “Our models so far have been amazing people to work with, and I always love connecting with them during our shoots, hearing about their hobbies, families, and interests. They are hardworking, extremely talented women.”

But there’s more to do. Though we try to mix things up from month to month, we’d love to show the same style on more body types, especially for the Colette Patterns. Multiple models can be expensive and tricky to coordinate, but it would be fantastic for people to see a design on someone that looks like them even more often.

Any thoughts or questions about how we find our models? I’m happy to answer!

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

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Comments 71

Claire hoopesparkstudios.com

Thanks for sharing! It’s really interesting to hear about your vision for the Colette brand, and the process of bring body positivity to fashion.

sam

I really enjoyed this! It’s refreshing to see that serious effort is being put towards not just doing the opposite of traditional model sizing aka plus size, but trying to represent EVERYONE in the body type spectrum. The middle sizes, the talls, the petites, etc. I am a curvy petite sewer, and sometime struggle to imagine what an outfit would look like on me because my proportions are quite different from both a size 0 and size 20 model. That I can look at some professionally designed photos instead of just pattern reviews (still a very valuable resource) gives me one more source to decide what I want to sew. Thanks!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Petite models are also hard to come by! I know petite models struggle in much the same way medium or larger models do, but there are some lovely independent models we’ve used who are definitely petite.

Emileigh Rogers flashbacksummer.com

I agree! I’d love to see shorter models. It’s hard to visualize how pattern proportions can work on me, sometimes. As a 5’0″ tall lady, it would be lovely to see some shorter ladies like me!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

One model we use frequently is Jade. She is definitely a petite lady!

Sarah

I just wanted to say that I think it is wonderful how much thought you put into the models you hire to represent your brand. I like Colette patterns in general and am enjoying Seamwork so far, but I freely admit that one of the reasons I started and continue to support Seamwork is that I like what Colette stands for and appreciate how you promote diversity on so many fronts, from body size to skin color to age. Thank you for being a force for good in the fashion industry.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

That’s great to hear!

Virginia

Great article! It’s so nice to see diverse models in Seamwork. I’d love to see a hirsute model sometime!

houseofpinheiro

really enjoyable article and so relevant discussion. Colette Ethos in business is really inspirational.

Renee missceliespants.com

What a great post. So informative and interesting to hear about your process. Thanks for sharing!

Laura J.

I love this. It’s so hard to know what clothes are going to do on YOUR body if all you ever see is a bunch of size 0s. It would be nice to see one pattern sewn up for multiple body types, to get a better sense of how it might flatter different people. Might sell some more patterns too ;)

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Yes, that’s what we’d love to do! The logistics are the challenging bit (sewing lots of samples, fit, coordinating more people, etc).

Charlotte thecreativedomestic.com

So interesting! Thanks for the insight into this side of the industry!

Chris

Your models on seamwork are just gorgeous. Every one of them is so beautiful – and I didn’t even notice that they might not fit into the standard model category because they are so wonderful to look at.

Rosie Sparkleneedles sparkleneedles.wordpress.com

Thanks so much for this brilliant, open and insightful post. As always you explain things so clearly, and I really admire your commitment to showing strong, positive images of a wide range of women.

Leigh

I am quite new to the world of sewing and am loving seeking out sewing blogs to keep me inspired. I honestly had no idea that there was a such an amazing world of independent pattern makers out there!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post!! And I love, love, love to see ‘normal’ people modelling as well as seeing people posting their own versions of patterns. I feel like I’ve crawled through the wardrobe to sewing Narnia and don’t think I’ll ever look at ‘commercial’ clothes and shopping in the same way ever again.

Now I just have to improve my skills enough to sew things that are good enough to wear out in public! :-)

Sarai colettepatterns.com

It’s easier than you think! Just remember that no one notices the mistakes except you. :)

jennifer miller letthesewingbegin.wordpress.com

I love your statement, “…I’ve been convinced that the most beautiful thing about women (and humanity in general) is our diversity”. So true! Many of us not-so-small, not-so-young appreciate your attitude. Fascinating article, thank you!

Christine mestludd.blogspot.com

I love what you’re doing! Seeing how the finished garment looks on different body types is really helpful when looking for patterns, and seeing different body types (or other kinds of variation) represented on the internet is important for everyone!

Elizabeth Made This elizabethmadethis.com

What a great article, and thanks for the inside look on your process! I have to say that your models are a happy looking lot…it’s so wonderful to see people modeling clothes who are actually smiling! I too wouldn’t mind seeing more in the petite category. Being 5’2.5″, I know that proportions can get really strange sometimes and I have to think and alter patterns a lot sometimes before I can get to a workable point. Sometimes models who are significantly taller than me can blur my perception–that’s actually why I never buy a pattern without excellent line drawings. It’s easy to spot where the problem areas will be on a line drawing, but not necessarily on a modeled photo. Keep up the great work!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

This is really true. Tall models really do skew the proportion of clothing, especially if they are a size 0.

If you think about it, patterns are graded both horizontally AND vertically, so a size 0 pattern is typically quite short. When you put it on a 6 foot tall lady, it looks completely different than it does on a 5 foot tall lady.

Karen Saari livinginserendipity

I do appreciate your point of view, as a tall plus size, and senior citizen. I love the majority of your patterns because they cover well, and are also stylish. I can’t wear all of them – I would feel very uncomfortable wearing a short, tight skirt. But I can still take that pattern and make it longer and not so tight. I agree it would be nice to see the designs on a variety of body types, but I also recognize the expense incurred for that kind of layout. Do you have a place where we can share photos of what we make for ourselves – solving that problem?

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Yes, we have a very active Flickr group with over 10,000 photos!
https://www.flickr.com/groups/colettepatterns/

We would like to build something ourselves where people can post photos rather than relying on Flickr, but that’s the place for now. :)

Stephanie

I really enjoyed reading this article. I like that it explained the process behind those photos. I was wondering, since said photos are made mostly to illustrate patterns, do you build the garment and then look for a model, or choose the model and then build the garment according to her size? Just asking! And please, please keep up the good work!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Great question! We usually decide on a model, and then create the sample garments based on her stated measurements.

This has actually caused some problems recently, when the model’s measurements are nowhere close to what the agency provided to us. We had an incident recently where there was a 5″ difference from what we expected. You can imagine what that’s like, when you have everything set up, hair, makeup artist, equipment rentals, and the clothes will not even come close to fitting the beautiful woman you’ve hired!

We’re taking steps to change that by fitting the women ourselves from now on, plus working with models we’ve worked with before always helps. But of course, women change sizes too. It’s always a challenge. :)

Margie

But those models are still not like me. I am only a UK size 8 but I have lots more abdominal fat than Mia Tyler and without the cleavage to compensate. It makes it difficult to dress a figure when your stomach is more prominent than your bust. You can have fat everywhere else but a fat stomach is an absolute no no and it certainly isn’t used in models. It is the case that whenever spreads are done for swimsuits to fit every body shape, the fat stomach example is either plain old left out, or a model who doesn’t have any abdominal fat in the first place is used. I have been pretty underweight before but the proportions didn’t change one bit and the actual amount not very much at all. It can’t be helped by exercise as it isn’t about toning, but genetics laying fat over the muscle. I totally don’t feel accepted as a skinny-fat person. To be a ‘real’ woman you have to be curvy! That is something very much driven home these days. And it is very unkind and excluding. Plus I am regularly told how unhealthy it is to have abdominal fat. It isn’t in my control!!!

Just because you are small doesn’t mean that you are without things you dislike and want to cover up. I also have good legs generally but knees that are not for showing. I am 50 but have yet to see anyone who looks like me who models – body wise that is. They are still far from ordinary looking women and are well proportioned and lump free. Also attractive in a way anyone would recognise. It’s a myth that the everyday woman is being presented anywhere.

Christine G

Margie, I can hear that you are very frustrated, and I think I would be too, to have a body that was under- or non-represented. Having not seen a picture, I obviously can’t say whether or not lots of women have your body shape.

I think it’s a bit unfair to say that the women Colette uses for models for their patterns don’t represent any woman, though. 9 times out of 10, the makeup and under garments used by models help to hide their “flaws” to present the best look they can. Quite frankly, no one wants to look through clothing magazines or pattern magazines and see an ugly model – it just doesn’t sell! I really commend Colette on breaking out of the paradigm that every model must be teeny tiny and conform to high-fashion’s view of what a woman should look like, since most don’t look like that.

For me, as a plus-sized woman, I really appreciate seeing patterns modeled by women that are closer to my size than not. Is it an exact match? Well, no. The only way to get an exact match is to sew the clothing and wear it! They do include so many more shapes and sizes than is usual, though (look at the Vogue pattern models, for instance). Expecting them, or any company, to have models that cover each and every possible body size and shape is unrealistic.

These models are ordinary looking women, because “ordinary” women come in all shades, sizes, shapes, and looks. They are just as deserving of the label ordinary as I am. I’m a beautiful woman because I’m a woman. Do I think that I could be a non-model for Colette? Well, I’d sure love the shot at being one, but it would take quite a bit of courage for me to put myself out there. I’m just an “average” gal, never done modeling of any sort, but I think I’d make a great model for Colette! Saying that the women they do use for models don’t count as “real” women takes away from women everywhere.

Ani

Yes, and I’m a very short pear shape with a huge bust and quite the tummy. I don’t see that around much either in modeling, but seriously…there are SO MANY body types out there. How could they possibly represent each and every one? Of all the places I shop, Colette is 100% the most diverse in terms of body shapes, sizes, and colors. The phrase “every woman” isn’t meant to be taken so literally. It refers to reaching for a much wider sample pool than other companies. There isn’t a Maori elder in here either, wearing a Laurel, and that’s okay.

Christine

I love many of the patterns you create, and have subconsciously noticed that the models wearing them aren’t typical fashion models. I do support Seamwork and I think this article has made me decide to support Coletterie on a more regular basis. Thank you for being so awesome!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Wow, thanks Christine!

Amanda symondezyn.wordpress.com

Even when the patterns aren’t to my taste, I always love looking at your photoshoots because you do have such a knack for finding unique and beautiful models, who are diverse and yet not in a contrived way. Working in marketing, I totally understand where you’re coming from there – it’s tricky to be diverse without making it look forced, but you guys do it beautifully :)

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Thanks Amanda, that’s so fantastic to hear. Christine gets a lot of the credit for that, I think. One of the main reasons I wanted to work with her when we first met was her positive attitude toward women, girls, and body acceptance.

Amy

I, too, would be considered “plus” size by the fashion industry, even though I’m not plus sized. I’m almost 6 feet tall, and currently wear a size 16 (athough I’m on my way back down to a 12). Having sewn my clothes for almost 30 years, I have had to learn how to alter patterns to fit my length — I haven’t been 5′-4″ since I was 12! I appreciate patterns that are simple, classic, and easy to alter. Keep up the good work, Sarai!

Katrina

This was a fantastic article, very enjoyable to read! I don’t know why I was so fortunate, but I never grew up with this all-too-common low self-esteem that comes from comparing oneself to the media images. Compared to the industry standards, I have been “plus-sized” since I was a teenager (that’s 40 years now), even though my BMI falls in “healthy” range (ha! another label!).
My assumption has always been that the fashion industry perspective is seriously warped and the vast majority of women are plus-sized, so that must be the norm. (Not body-shaming thin people – I’m just talking about a bell-shape curve distribution of the population.)
Your models are beautiful, and they do an excellent job of presenting the pattern styles. I actually have done modeling and it was an absolute nightmare, so I know it is hard work, very much NOT just standing still and looking pretty. Thanks so much for sharing the many different aspects of your model search process!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Thanks Katrina. You are so right, modeling is really hard work and takes skill. It’s a little bit like acting and a little bit like dance. It’s conveying messages and emotions through your body, which is very difficult to do on cue.

SJ Kurtz erniekdesigns.blogspot.com

Indeed, I ended up doing a photo shoot for a magazine I worked for, because the ‘petite’ model didn’t show up. It is HARD to look like you are just hangin’ out (okay, talk about your first world problems….). Really hard (okay, I do sound whiny but you get the idea. Anything is hard if it does not suit you.

The wonderful thing about sewing blogs, and particularily Pattern Review, is seeing a variety of people in a variety of styles, some of which I would never have considered for myself and my evolving physique.

Katrina

Ha ha yes. Just hold your leg in that position for 20 minutes and act natural! Stop grimacing! LOL

I agree that the sewing community (both online and in-person) provides a wonderful, healthy perspective on female appearance. The real people on Pattern Review and also Stitcher’s Guild, sewing for their own beautiful shapes and sizes, are incredibly inspiring.

Corinne

I have absolutely noticed the diverse beauty of your models, as well as their lovely personalities, and would expect no less from you guys. Having just moved to the Portland area after living in the Bay Area all my life, I appreciate the effort all the more. I love how kind and down to earth the people are here, but I do miss the diversity! I have been reading your blog and sewing your patterns for at least a couple of years, and what resonates with me is not just the pretty styling and great design, but the intentionality and thoughtfulness of it all.

Ani

I used to think the Pacific Northwest was not diverse at all…until I moved to Ohio and now I sometimes cry thinking about how lovely and diverse Eugene was :) So while it’s still not comparable to the Bay Area, at least be glad you’re not here!

Sallianne

I just completed a sundress for my granddaughter’s 11th birthday and am just getting acquainted with this site. She has just surpassed me in height (I’m 5’1″) and I had to adapt the basic shift pattern to fit her by putting a triangle shaped insert into the bustline area. I am usually a petite size 4 or 6 and Margie, I too always look at the line drawings because by the time a pattern is cut down to my height the lines of the clothing can look quite different! For my granddaughter, she has the stomach bigger than 41″ bust issue (yes, at her age!) and is mixed race, while I am the typical blue eyed blonde. I love the idea of making up one pattern to fit and showcase diverse ages and bodies and ethnicities! My granddaughter is very interested in sewing and I am encouraging that! We live in the very homogenous upper plains, but I have a sister and cousins in the PNW – we would love to come out and be “diverse” models. I have also been challenged to adapt patterns and choose fabrics that are not “too young” for me at 62. I love the naturalness of the diversity of you show and I’m sure it reflects the diversity of seamstresses across the country! Keep up the good work!

Lissa Brooks

I have greatly enjoyed the diversity of skin color, age, size, etc you’ve shown. I’m sometimes very pleasantly surprised to see you use a model I usually just wouldn’t see somewhere else. It’s part of what makes me love your work.

Ann dinahsdollsclothes.wordpress.com

Each time the Seamwork email arrives it makes me happy! I think it’s so refreshing to see a broad range of models, it’s a breath of fresh air!

Amy clothhabit.com

I love this. It’s wonderful to hear about your process in choosing models from what’s available to you. I personal take delight whenever older women are chosen… in my 20s I subscribed to a magazine that often featured 40-plus-aged actresses and models simply because I loved how relaxed older women seemed in their own bodies. I couldn’t wait to get there! Of course actresses and models are definitely skilled at conveying that no matter what their age, and I couldn’t agree more about the skill modeling requires. When I have been around photo shoots I notice how much it IS so much like dancing–a real language of emotion and movement. (And knowing that, I’d rather be behind a camera any day than in front of it!).

Jane

Garment manufacturers also hire fit models- children’s sizes, juniors, misses, large size, and men’s. They tend to work behind the scenes unlike the runway and advertising models. With the exception of children’s models (who constantly grow and thus face a high turnover rate) , fit models must consistently maintain their weight and measurements so that manufacturers can check the fit and movement of their garments before they are produced on a large scale. Fit models must be able to communicate fit issues that may not be easily visible to the eye that affect comfort and movement of a garment. A good fit model is highly valued at the company or companies where she is hired!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

We did once have a fit model who completely changed sizes. Very challenging for us, but… they’re humans too. :)

Nani Blyleven

Interesting article, and glad to know your philosophy and the background of your photo shoots. I bought my first indie pattern, the Hawthorne dress, because of the real woman photos. The dress looked flattering on her curvey figure so I knew I would like it for my short, round figure as well. No other pattern company out there gave me that perspective. I’m a fan, many thanks.

kc theactofmaking.tumblr.com

This is beautiful, and as a reader I really appreciate the commitment you make to having diversity in the ages/races/body types of your models.

Have you considered using disabled models as well? A friend of mine has some spinal curvature, and it wasn’t until I went shopping with her that I realized exactly how different her experience of ready-to-wear is. She has done a great job of figuring out her personal style, but it took a lot of trial and error, trying on things that look great on someone with left-to-right symmetry but looked bananas (or completely constricted, or completely fell off) her less symmetrical body. Seeing someone like herself represented as a model would’ve probably been very meaningful to her as a teen, and also helped her suss out which styles would work for her and which would be impractical.

I’m not sure where one would go to find disabled models, though (and my friend lives in New England, or else I’d offer her name). Maybe you could contact organizations that support amputees or sports clubs for disabled athletes?

Sarai colettepatterns.com

That’s a great idea. I actually have scoliosis myself and strong asymmetry, so this issue is close to my heart.

kc theactofmaking.tumblr.com

Ah! I remember you writing that before, but had totally forgotten! My friend is not a sewist, so I don’t know how she’d work her own body measurements into clothing to suit her better. Do you find that it influences how you work with patterns a lot? Or how you choose the things you’ll make versus the things you’ll buy?

Sarai colettepatterns.com

It definitely influences the styles I wear, because I’ve got a relatively short torso, high waist, and not a lot of waist definition (though more than I had before spinal surgery). I don’t need to adjust patterns for the asymmetry in my back, though. Maybe if something was super fitted through the upper back I would.

Jessica ayenforcraft.blogspot.com

What a great post! It’s lovely reading about Colette Pattern’s philosophy and the discussion from readers. I love the diversity of your models but also how comfortable they look in their own skin – there’s a lot of laughter and playfulness, which is a nice contrast to the look you usually see in fashion spreads, etc. I rarely see any models who look like me, and your patterns are a refreshing exception to that! There are so many dimensions to beauty – skin color, hair (type, length, cut, color), age, body type, height, etc. – and so often these many facets get collapsed down into a single “look” or two. As a teen I played a lot of sports, and I remember being very self-conscious that my body wasn’t ultra thin or curvy (I was rather T-shaped: broad shoulders [broader than my dad’s!], very little waist definition, no hips, legs that were thick like tree trunks — and totally proud to be physically strong, but I also felt unfeminine and unpretty. I had curves in the “damn-your-calves-are-impressive”-says-my-male-gymnast-friend kind of way.) So I’ve certainly enjoyed that your models cover a wide spectrum of looks — along multiple dimensions!

Sarai

The fact that you have a diversity of models is what I’ve admired about your organization. That and great patterns. Thank you for trying to reflect all the variety we come in.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Thanks! Is your name really Sarai too?

Sarai

It is. :)

Steven Davis free2secure.com

How about artist models?

Great article.

Robin

You probably don’t have the time, but wouldn’t it be great to have the Colette Modeling Agency? The models you represent would fill in those gaps!

Thanks so much for the ethos and positivity, they are refreshing!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Haha… that would be amazing, but probably a bit out of scope for us. ;)

Sierra

Excellent article! I definately appreciate the focus on real bodies for real women.Keep up the good work!

Ani

I really do love the commitment to showcasing the many, many varieties of the human body. It’s funny and interesting the way that models affect the wearing of a garment! When the Osaka/Aberdeen patterns came out I really, really did NOT want to make them, until I saw a few people on instagram wearing them. Once I did, and loved the way they fit, I realized that I was absolutely thrown off by the body shape of the model — not at all that there was anything wrong with that shape, but because it was closer to the typical “model shape” and I’ve been conditioned to feel bad about myself when I see it. I learned a lot about myself in that moment, haha! My body type is peculiar and not really represented much, but I still react much more favorably to the “curvier” model types because those haven’t been used for decades to make me feel bad about myself. I hope that makes sense and doesn’t come across as skinny-shaming. Because skinny ladies are lovely too, of course :)

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Really interesting!

D.

I’m from Portland. I used to model in the late 80’s early 90’s. I never liked how everyone in the industry felt like they owned you. Makeup artists, hairstylists, photographers would frequently compliment me on my physical assets as if I were responsible for it (dudes, it’s the genes) or reproach me for my physical deficits as if I were to blame I (dudes, it’s the genes). Mind you, they were talking to a teenaged girl. The standard garment sample size was size 6, so everyone was required to fit into it. But since you had to be at least 5’8″ to be a model, you needed to be very thin (which sounded like odd circular reasoning to me). At 5’5″ I was in the petite category. I did a brief stint for Revlon in NYC and learned how the famous supermodels ate: the entire salad, 1/2 the entree, and never dessert. If lunch was provided, some only ate the fruit. My agency in Japan thought I was too “thigh-y” even though when I stood with my legs together, my thighs didn’t touch. They would take my waist and hip measurements before handing me my weekly cash allowance. I was only 17. Now that I’m middle-aged, my hair is peppered with gray and when I stand with my legs together my thighs certainly touch. How refreshing it must be for your models to walk onto the set as themselves without the running commentary. Thank you!!!

Jilly denversews.com

I love seeing older fashionable women in any size. It’s inspiring. I hope you find all the models you’re looking for! Great job!

Emileigh Rogers flashbacksummer.com

I so, so respect you guys for this! It takes courage to “risk” using models that aren’t the typical version of “pretty.” I am glad to know you guys are so intentional in who you choose. I’m also glad you’ve incorporated older women. I think we idolize youth too much when we should be looking to older women who know so much about life, and I appreciate that you capture their beauty in your pieces!

Woolbothy

Over 30?! Over 50 or over 60 would be nice. We’re the original baby boomers and there are a hellof a lot of us – a huge market!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Yes, over 30 includes over 40, over 50, over 60, etc… all of these are difficult models to find. We lucked out with the super talented over 50 model shown above, she is great.

Kristin Link sewmamasew.com

I love that you make an effort. Every one of your models are gorgeous and your efforts to find a diverse range of humans does not go unnoticed. Even if I don’t look like the models you us, I connect with the fact that they are real.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Thanks Kristin. :)

Dianne

I think all your models look gorgeous and more company’s should use real women images like yours. xx

Lynn

It might interest you to know that one of the reasons I bought my first Colette pattern was because of the models used for your shoots. They looked like real people, wearing real clothes that I could actually wear in my everyday life. Of course, the attractive designs, beautifully printed patterns and clearly written directions also figured into my purchase decision (smile). But seriously, I love your look, and the models you choose are a big part of that for me.

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