How Modeling Jobs Have Changed Since It Started

Things change all the time. As with any other industry, modeling jobs have gone through changes and evolved with the times. These developments are crucial as they allow the fashion industry to stay relevant and current with what is going on in today’s world. As the business generates millions of dollars every year, it cannot afford not to keep up with everyone’s and everything’s pace.

The Era of the Mannequins

In the 1850s, Charles Frederick Worth was the first couturier to use live models. Called mannequins, these women would model garments for private customers.

Worth is credited for making live modeling an actual profession. Before, that they would just use a seamstress as an occasional model. When Worth had his own Maison de couture, it had several house mannequins employed to showcase their garments.

Lady Duff Gordon had a few mannequins working for her in Maison Lucille in the 1890s until 1910. They were tall, barely smiled, and did not speak at all to customers. She gave them stage names and they were known to be glamorous women.

During the early twentieth century, though catwalk modeling was separate from mannequin modeling. Mannequins were in a league all their own, as they were employed full time by the couture house. They would be called upon to model gowns for private customers and they used to wear high-necked, long-sleeved sheaths under the gowns they modeled.

The First Modeling Agency in the US

In the USA, the first modeling agency was opened in 1923. During this time, there was also a mannequin school in New York where students were taught how to become fashion models. It became acceptable for fashion houses to have models and by the 1940s, Christian Dior was able to show his New Look collection using these girls. Dior encouraged his models to be more enthusiastic and do theatrical turns.

Each fashion house started to have their own style of modeling. In the 1950s, it was acceptable for models to interact with their audience. Collections were shown to buyers in a small salon or a living room-like setting. Models were allowed to smile and the audience wasn’t always full of famous people. It was full of buyers, who would take notes on the types of outfits the collection had.

The Rise of the Glamorous Models

By the ’60s and ’70s, models started to be paid very well. Icons like Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy became famous worldwide. Top models could earn as much as $1000 for a one-hour show. Photographic modeling and catwalk modeling were no longer separated. Models themselves became stars. The long-legged look was fashionable.


Statuesque goddesses dominated the runway in the eighties and early nineties. Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, and Christy Turlington all became famous for their beauty and many endorsements. They commanded high salaries and made the industry seem very glamorous.

The Waif Look


The waif look became trendy in the nineties. That was when Kate Moss appeared on the scene. She was so much shorter than the supermodels, but her unique look captivated audiences. Until now, she has steady work as a model even though she is already 40 years old.

The First African-American Model to Grace Major Publications


Tyra Banks, who modeled in the early ’90s until retiring from the catwalk in 2005, was the first African-American model to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. She was also the first black person on the cover of GQ magazine. She’s paved the way for other black models to be thought of as cover-worthy.

The Curvy Bombshells


The Latin invasion into the catwalk came in the late ’90s and early 2000s. This was when Gisele Bundchen, Alessandra Ambrosio, and Adriana Lima burst onto the scene. Their curvy figures changed the “in” look from waif-like to curvy bombshells. They’re known for their work with Victoria’s Secret.

The Introduction of Transgenders Into the Industry


And, the industry is still continuing to change. In fact, the first transgender model Andreja Pejic is making history, fronting beauty campaigns and walking the runway. As a man, Pejic did fashion modeling for both men’s and women’s wear. After the model underwent sex reassignment surgery in early 2014, she made her debut as a woman in February 2015.


The Recognition of Plus-Size Models and Other Types of Models

Myla Dalbesio is a plus-size model and she was hired by Calvin Klein for their Perfectly Fit campaign in 2014. This was the first good sign that the fashion world is becoming more open to those who do not fit the straight size labels. The plus-size community is actually getting more and more representation in the modeling world.

Jamie Brewer
Jamie Brewer

There are other signs of the changing times in the modeling industry. Actress Jamie Brewer walked down the runway for designer Carrie Hammer during the New York Fashion Week. She was the first person with Down Syndrome to grace the catwalk of NYFW.

The fashion world is embracing those with differences now. It is no longer just about having a pretty face and right measurements. Even those who don’t fit the standards of beauty are getting their own place in the industry. Modeling jobs are available for all types of people, showing signs that the modeling business is not just full of haughty types is becoming more relate-able to the general public.