Part 10: What’s in YOUR Model Bag?

Part 10: What’s in YOUR Model Bag?

What’s a “model bag” you ask? 

The Model Bag is indispensable in the life of a plus sized model; as a matter of fact it is indispensable in the life of ANY model.  Your model bag holds the “tools of your trade” which may vary from city to city and model to model. In time and with some experience under your belt, you will learn what to carry in it and eventually you will be able to anticipate what your clients will want.

I recently took a poll of some of my model girlfriends (both veterans and newbies) and asked them to send me a list of their top 10-15 “must have” items in their model bags.  I then took the responses I collected both from them and from information obtained from the internet, I compiled a working list of what a serious model should keep on hand at all times.  This is what I came up with…..

Let’s start with the “bag” itself:

Over the last 20 years I can honestly say I have performed hundreds of shows and I can recall the early years of dragging several heavy bags with me going back and forth to show, shoots & rehearsals.  I say “dragging” because in the early days of my career folks were just getting around to putting wheels on luggage and it wasn’t always affordable then.  Trust me when I tell you that it is NOT cute to lug around 3-4 heavy bags on the subways of New York or up and down the East Coast!  I practically wore my shoulders and back out from doing that very thing for many years.  So I strongly suggest that you use a wheeled bag of some sort.

Does size matter?

Yes, very much so.  I would try to keep the size of your model bag to no larger than the size of a standard airplane carry-on bag (between 19″ and 22″).

I know that 22″ may seem pretty small to a plus sized model but you’d be surprised at what you can fit in that bag.  Anyone who has done a fashion show at all knows that there is a usually a limited amount of space allotted to a model to prep and dress in.  Models who come on set with more than one suitcase or with a bag large enough to carry a body in it can eat up space quickly and often times can wreak havoc with the heavy model traffic in the backstage area (i.e. people tripping over your bag(s) trying to move back & forth between segments). Ideally you want to find a bag that you can either prop on top of a chair (since that’s what you are usually given to “set up” your space with) or slide underneath it to keep it out of the way.

Now if you are like me and have feet that are a size 10 or larger (I wear a size 12), you are probably thinking “I can fill up that little bag with my shoes alone”.  And I feel your pain here because it’s so true – the bigger your feet are, the more likely it is that you will have to supply your own shoes (and this happens even in the mainstream shows).  Big shoes can eat up your bag space quickly.  To remedy that problem I found this little lifesaver in the form of a shoe bag many years ago and trust me when I tell you that I never leave home without it!

It’s a nylon bag with enough compartments for 6 or 8 pairs of shoes (and if you’re a creative packer, like I am – you can sneak a few more in).  Unless you are specifically asked to bring a certain number or type of shoe – more than 8 pairs is really excessive.  Most rolling suitcases come equipped with a bag clamp on top and you can latch your shoe bag handles onto that for effortless travel.  You can find a 6-shoe bag online at Lillian Vernon ( and an 8-shoe bag at Walter Drake ( and it retails for about $15 to $20 dollars and believe me when I tell you it’s money well spent.

This bag travels really well and because I am so paranoid about airlines losing my bags – THIS is generally the bag that I will carry on a flight with me.  I rarely check my shoe bag on a flight because I can quickly replace or borrow the other items in my bag in any city should it get lost or delayed but my shoes? Obviously those will be harder if not impossible for me to replace on the spot.

“Must have” items for your model bag

Keep in mind that you will probably have more luck at adding the below items in your bag if you fill it as many with “travel sized” products as possible.  You can keep the full sized items at home and refill the dispensers as necessary.

Hanging Toiletry Bag – This will come in handy in keeping your bag organized and neat.  An expandable bag is a good idea because it holds a lot, can hang when it is fully expanded and when it’s closed it only takes up a small amount of room in your model bag.

In your toiletry bag you should try to keep it stocked with the following items:

  • Band-aids/Mini first aid kit/mini sewing kit – Because accidents can and do happen!
  • Clear nail polish– The polish is for the occasional run in your pantyhose and of course to add a shiny new top coat to your manicure if necessary.
  • Nail file/Clipper/ Krazy Glue – Because nails break and snag clothing Krazy Glue is good for a temporary patch job and it’s also good for repairing jewelry on the spot.
  • Double Sided Tape – For plunging necklines and to make a quick invisible hem if needed.
  • False Eyelashes & Glue – Because often times makeup artists don’t carry them or they don’t have enough on hand for everyone.  Note:  If you’re going to carry them – you’d better know how to put them on!
  • Concealers/Foundation Makeup/Mascara & Eyeliner – For the times when the makeup artist is late, is a no-show and/or doesn’t have foundation in your color.
  • Deodorant/Wash Cloth/Baby Wipes/Soap – For freshening up after long hours on the set.
  • Toothbrush/Toothpaste/Mouthwash/Floss/Mints or Gum – Because fresh breath counts – Always!
  • Lotion/Baby Oil Gel – To combat occasional dry or ashy skin and to keep your feet, hands and legs nice and soft.  Note:  Use the baby oil gel carefully and sparingly – you don’t want to risk getting oil stains on the clothing.
  • Hairpins/Hairbrush/Comb/Scrunchies – For controlling wayward hair and for quick touch ups or quick styling changes.
  • Pencil Sharpener – For sharpening your eyeliner and/or eyebrow pencils.  Have you ever tried to line your eyes with a pencil that needed sharpening or that you tried to sharpen with a scissor or knife?  One word:  Painful.
  • Visine / Saline Solution – For dry and/or irritated eyes and for when your contact lenses need lubricating.
  • Makeup Net/Scarf – For keeping the designer’s garments make up free as you get fitted or change clothes during shows and shoots.
  • Makeup Remover, Q-Tips & Cotton balls – For gently removing the makeup from your skin after a show or shoot. Makeup remover is better than soap and water because it has ingredients that help breakdown the makeup quickly for easy removal.  Q-tips for cleaning the makeup residue from the corner of your eyes on set.  Cotton balls are good for removing mascara and eye shadows from the delicate skin area around the eyes.
  • A couple of pencils (with erasers) – Erasers make really good earring backs in a pinch and they work especially well with heavier bejeweled earrings.
  • Straws – Use these to drink beverages with on set to keep your lipstick on and to avoid staining your teeth.
  • Safety pins – For immediate fixes when a zipper breaks, a garment rips or a clasp breaks on a piece of jewelry.
  • Airbrush legs/Bronzer – If you are like me and have a few scars leftover from childhood or have varicose veins; leg makeup and or bronzer can help to give you a nice even overall tone.
  • A Small Mirror – So you can apply your makeup and touch up your makeup when necessary.
  • Fresh individual mascara brushes and lip brushes – You might need to use or borrow someone else’s mascara, lipstick or gloss in a pinch.  To avoid transference of germs use a fresh new applicator every time.

Note:  The more items that you can place in your toiletry bag the more room you will have for adding other things to your actual bag.

Accessories/”Bling” Earrings/Sunglasses – Most designers already have a specific “look” in mind when accessorizing their garments, generally when a model does a “mainstream” shows, the designer will bring along the accessories that they wish to accompany their clothing on the runway, so you don’t have to pack your entire jewelry bag.  Occasionally on the local level the same thing will occur but when it doesn’t (which is more often the case) it helps to keep a few pieces (a gold or silver bangle, a rhinestone hoop, stud or a “bling” earring) will usually come in handy in a pinch. A standard pair of black or brown tinted sunglasses (I like the Jackie O. look myself) is a good thing to keep on hand too!

Body Foundation/waist nipper/Spanx/Nude and Black Undergarments & A Strapless or Convertible Bra
– A plus sized model should never come out of her house without a proper body foundation.  Actually a smart model will keep several different ones on hand.  A Spanx is a requirement because it keeps the “jiggle factor” down to a minimum. But if you are over a size 14 or you have a little more “junk in your trunk” than most, you will probably need something in addition to a Spanx to keep everything in place.  Your foundation(s) should come in both nude and black and a convertible bra in the same colors will drastically lessen the number of bras you need to pack.

Black Slacks/Turtleneck/Little Black Dress and/or Camisole – There will be many a time when you will walk for a designer who is showing furs, hats and/or accessories; the designer will usually ask that a model wear all black underneath the coat or head to toe black so that the fur, hat and/or accessory remains the focus of the showcase.  Since black is always considered chic you should keep it in your bag because you never know what last minute invitation may pop up and you’ll always have something stylish to wear.

Robe – Models spend an inordinate amount of time in their underwear or nude.  Nothing can make you more uncomfortable than having to prance around naked in a room filled with strangers.  Keep it in your bag always.

Comfortable Active Wear or Yoga Pants – Good for lounging around in as you sit in hair and makeup and also useful when you have a lot of down time between shots.  You will need to either wear of bring something that’s easy to get in and out of when you are on the set of show or spending long hours backstage for a show.

A Crisp White Shirt – A white shirt can go a long way when you are shooting pictures.  You can dress it up or dress it down.  It’s sexy and versatile and it photographs like a dream and when your clothing isn’t up to par, a simple white shirt and some accessories can get you an awesome photo!

Curling & Flat Irons and Ponytails & Wigs – Because I don’t have hair anymore, I ALWAYS keep a wig or two in my bag in case I or the designer wants to mix up the looks.  When I had hair, I absolutely LOVED wearing a clip on ponytail in varying lengths.  It’s a quick look that’s very simple and chic.  With the mainstream shows you don’t generally need to pack a curling iron because the hair people usually bring all the tools that they need.  But it is definitely a good idea to keep one in your bag when doing local fashion show.  You might have to pull it out at the last minute and do your own hair if the hair people are running behind or are totally overwhelmed.

Slippers/flip flops – To protect your feet while you are walking around on set and to give your feet and legs a break before you put on heels.

Sneakers/Gym Shoes – I used to keep a simple pair of white Keds in my bag back in the day.  I find that they are not really a necessity any more and it may vary from designer to designer.  You’ll probably need them more if you are doing catalog shoots but it’s better to ask beforehand if you need to pack them.

Pantyhose & Black Tights – Some designers like them and some don’t; it’s smart to keep a few pairs in the zippered pouch part of your bag just in case.  I would suggest you have a few pairs in nude or suntan, black and perhaps a gold or silver shimmer color.

Snacks & Bottled Water (Fruit & Nuts, Trail Mix, Energy Bars/Drinks) – Not every producer will thoughtful enough to supply the models with food & beverages on set.  More than likely you won’t have a chance to run out and get something to eat (unless you are waiting for hair and makeup and have some down time).  It’s good to keep some trail mix bars, some nuts and/or fruit along with a bottle of water in your bag to keep you hydrated and to keep your energy and blood sugar levels up while you wait.  Note:  Try to pack snacks that are not greasy and/or messy to eat.

Camera – This is a personal choice of mine.  I like to document my life experiences and the people that I meet while I am working.  I try not to ever leave home without my camera.  Memories are priceless.

Music (CD or IPod) or a Good Book or Magazine – You will find as you progress in your career that you spend a great deal of the time on set waiting for things to begin.  It’s a good idea to pack an iPod or bring a book to read during the down time.  You will avoid trouble and on set drama this way.

Small Totes Umbrella & Shawl or Pashmina – Because weather can be so very unpredictable.  I keep the Pashmina shawl with me because I don’t like air conditioning and I am always cold.

Static Guard and/or Tide To Go
– To control annoying static cling on clothing and for immediate stain removal.

Makeup Brushes or a Brush Roll – Having learned much from my early experiences of make up artists treating me like I had the plague – I always toss my brush roll (the bag I keep my brushes in) in my bag, so that when necessary – I have the proper tools to apply my make up.  If you’ve ever searched in vain for that errant lip brush or wondered where that enormous blush brush could have disappeared, you already understand the importance of owning a quality makeup brush bag. This is a fantastic investment for anyone who regularly employs cosmetic brushes as part of her daily regime. Not only does it keep them clean and separated from each other, it also provides brushes with an ideal storage space and it won’t take up too much space in your model bag.

The following should go without saying but I’m going to say it again anyway just in case you don’t know.  The veterans and the pros in this game already know that you NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT these 6 things:

  • Your Appointment Book – So you can keep track of how your day is lining up and so that you know where you are headed next.
  • Small Notepad for taking notes or a Journal– You will probably learn something or meet someone new on every set or at every show.  Remember to write things down.
  • Cell Phone/Blackberry – A model is on call at all times.  Put your phone or blackberry on the vibrate setting when on set to keep from disrupting things but always keep it on.
  • Composite Cards – You can meet a new potential client anytime and anywhere.  Your comp card is your business/calling card.  If you’re going to call yourself a model you should always have a few on your person.
  • Portfolio – And that potential client might want to take a look at your book. It helps to have it handy.
  • Vouchers – Proof of work performed – it’s how you get paid, keep a few in your bag at all times.

Remember This:  Having a properly stocked model bag will make you much easier to work with and will convey to others that you are professional. So pack it carefully and remember to check it after a few shows/gigs and restock as necessary.  Remember, your looks, your attitude and your professionalism will either make or break you in this industry.  It’s always better to be well prepared than unprepared.

Continued Success!