Being Prepared on Set: Creating the Perfect Model Bag

Being Prepared on Set: Creating the Perfect Model Bag

by Reah Norman

In order to be successful in reaching all of your modeling goals, you must have the correct tools. I am always surprised at how under prepared models, no matter how seasoned, are when they arrive at a photo shoot. As a stylist, I have a “kit” full of tools that I use to do my job efficiently. I bring my kit to every shoot that I am on, so that no matter what is thrown at me, I am prepared.

As a model, you should approach your jobs with the same attitude and have some of the same items that a stylists, make-up artists, and hair stylists would have. There is not always going to be a team on set with you, so you should be as prepared as you can. From personal experience, photo shoots always run much smoother if the model is equipped when she arrives on set. A great option for a model bag is a small suitcase that rolls. Most models tell me that they simply leave their model bag in the trunk of their car, so that don’t have to worry about forgetting something or scrambling at the last minute.

To be a successful model, it is essential to have a complete model bag. Models often ask me for my suggestions about which items they should have included in their bags, and what investments they should be making in creating the best collection of “tools”, so the following are some of my favorite basic items that I recommend.

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There should be a variety of undergarments in your model bag, considering you will not always know ahead of time what type of clothing you will be wearing. Undergarments are essential to create the correct “canvas” for a garment, so make sure the items you choose fit you properly. You should always choose a nude/skin color as well as black. The Cacique collection from Lane Bryant has perfect options, as well as most department stores.

Strapless/Convertible nude bra:

Try the BRA 6 Convertible Plunge Bra from Cacique. It is a great all-in-one that includes a strapless option, as well as 5 other configurations.

Full-Coverage nude bra:
Try the “Figure Perfect” Smooth Full-Coverage Convertible Bra from Cacique. This bra is smooth and provides full coverage, but it also has the added bonus of convertible straps so you get more for your money.

Plunge nude bra:
Try the Smooth Plunge Bra from Cacique. This has a low, cleavage-enhancing frame and offers thin, convertible straps,

Basic seamless panties:
nude, black
Old Navy’s Ribbon Trim Hipster underwear and Cacique’s Seamless Hipster are both my top picks. Both options are great basics that will offer smooth support and sit just below the waist.,

Thong Panties: nude, black
Hanky Panky Lace Thong is a perfect basic when less back coverage is required, as well as the Cotton Thong Cacique. Grab one in nude, black, and white for all situations.,

Waist Shaper: nude, black
When it comes to selecting the correct shaper, it sometimes requires a bit of trial and error. You should be prepared to try several brands and styles to determine which shaper works best for you. I often hear mixed reviews on shapers, so what works for someone else, may not work for you. Selecting a high-waisted brief shaper is a great way to start your collection. (Try the Spanx “Hide & Sleek High Rise Panty”. This shaper is a brief that offers coverage throughout the torso to underneath the breasts and is available at The Floral Jacquard Waist Nipper from Hips and Curves is also a great option,

Waist and Thigh Shaper: nude, black
It is a great idea to have a shaper that offers coverage to the tummy, thighs and behind. This shaper can come in handy to prevent chaffing when wearing dresses, as well as assist in smoothing out pants, jeans, capris and skirts. (Try the Spanx “High Power Panties” from or the Tummy & Thigh Control Shapewear from Hips & Curves,

Thigh and Leg Shaper: nude, black
Thigh and Leg Shapers are perfect for situations when you need smoothing in the area, such as with pants, jeans or capris. This shaper is specifically helpful when the fabric of the garment you are modeling is thinner and less forgiving. (Try the Spanx “Hide & Sleek Capri Smoother”,, or the Hips and Curves “Shaping & Smoothing Leggings”,

Sheer-to-Waist Pantyhose:
nude, black
Sheer-to-Waist pantyhose are essential for your model bag, and are specifically important for runway, lingerie and swimsuit modeling. They can be helpful to ensure that nothing “jiggles” when walking down the catwalk and when shooting lingerie they keep the imperfections and skin tones in the legs and thighs smooth. Sheer-to-waist hose can be difficult to find in plus sizes, so stock up on them and keep a few pair on hand in case you need them. (Try the No Nonsense “Sheer-to-Waist” pantyhose, or the “Opaque Sheer Tights” from Leg Avenue,

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Basic Dark Denim:
Choose a pair of basic dark denim without any embellishments that are the perfect fit and length for you. Keep this pair set aside specifically for shooting, so they will not get worn out and faded from wash and wear. (Try the “Right Fit Stretch Boot cut Jean” from Lane Bryant. Generally, boot cut jeans work well for all body types, and these are a great pick because the “Right Fit” system at Lane Bryant offers a more precise fit and are available in petite, average, and tall lengths).

Having camis in basic colors such as white, black and skin tone can be useful when modeling both print and runway. You never know when you may need to cover up extra cleavage, or add a layer to a sheer garment. (Try “The Perfect Cami” from SWAK Designs . This cami is seamless and stretchy to hug your curves and the spaghetti straps keep it inconspicuous,

Bring a robe with you that you can wear between changes and while hair and make-up is being done. This makes changing outfits much easier and keeps you warm in drafty studios.

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Stylist Supplies

There will not always be a stylist, make-up artist, and hair stylist on set with you, specifically for your test shoots, you should always be prepared with basic items that might be needed:

Safety Pins:
These can come in handy if a garment gets torn or needs to be quickly altered on set.

Clothing Clamps:
Used to clamp clothing if it’s too big or somehow needs to be altered.

Fashion Tape/Topstick:
This is a stylists’ best friend and is used very often on shoots. It helps a garment stay in place, hides straps, closes gaps, and helps with a quick alteration on set. (Try the “Hollywood Fashion Tape” from Beth, Bath & Beyond,, or Topstick, which is originally used to attach hairpieces, but has become a great stylist tool,

Lint Roller:
This can come in handy to remove lint and hair from darker color fabrics, and will help to minimize retouching on your images.

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I called upon Beauty Editor and cosmetic expert, Artemis, to give me a few cosmetic suggestions, so the following are some of her recommendations and favorite products to include in your model bag:

Make-up and brushes:
When it comes to choosing the correct make-up, Artemis says, “Make sure that your foundation matches your skin tone. In a photo shoot, you need to match your face to your body. You should also include setting powder and concealer”.

False lashes and glue:
False eyelashes can help make your eyes look bigger and are especially important when shooting full-length shots. Artemis says: “Ardell Lashes and Duo Eyelash Adhesive are the best!” Both are available at your local drugstore.

Artemis suggests “Elnett by L’Oreal” because “you can brush it out & move on to a new style without residue”. This becomes very important on shoots where you will be doing multiple looks and hairstyles will be changing.

Curling and Flat Iron:
Artemis recommends the “T3 Tourmaline blow dryer” and “CHI by Farouk flat irons”

Always use lotion on the areas of your body that will be exposed when shooting. This will keep your skin from looking dry and ashy. Artemis’ fave is “Nivea Essentially Enriched Daily Lotion for Very Dry, Rough Skin. It is a body cream that includes oil, so it makes skin very shiny, without being greasy”. Available at your local drug store.

Hair extensions:
Clients will sometimes request extensions to achieve the look of fuller or longer hair, so having extensions that match your hair color precisely will give your clients more options when deciding what hair styles to choose for you. Stores that sell hair extensions can help you achieve the perfect match for your hair color, and you can take your extensions to your hair stylist and have them styled specifically to suit your haircut.

It’s also a good idea to bring a hair brush, hair bands and bobby pins.

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As a model, you should have a variety of basic heels, pumps, and boots in different colors that will work for any situation. From a stylist perspective, it is much easier to use a pair of the models shoes because we know they will fit well and most often we have to return the shoes that we have pulled for shoots so it can be tricky to keep them looking unworn, especially when shooting on location.

Pumps and heels that you select for your bag should all have a thin heel that is at least 1.5″ to 2″ high with a somewhat pointy toe. If you are a shorter model, then select a higher heel to compensate and give the illusion of a longer leg. You do not need to break the bank on shoes that you will be using strictly for your bag. Stores like Payless Shoe Source and Target offer great basics that are very affordable. I recommend that you start building your shoe collection with the following basics:

Basic pumps in black, brown and metallic. (Try the BCBGeneration ‘Alena” pump from Nordstrom,, or the “Mossimo ‘Virginia’ pumps from Target,

Strappy sandals w/ heel- black, metallic in silver and/or gold. (I love the “Miss Puerto Rico Divina Sandal” from Payless Shoe Source because of the multi-tone metallic color and the extra high heel,

Nude and/or clear heels– these are important specifically for runway modeling when your shoe needs to remain inconspicuous.

Boots- black/brown– mid-calf length boots with a thinner heel are best. Grey is also a great basic color to have as well. (Try the “Saddle Stitch Fashion Boot” from Lane Bryant,, or the Sea Platform Boot from The Avenue, Boots from Torrid, The Avenue, and Lane Bryant will all offer boots for wider calves.)

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So, there you have it! Having a complete model bag is a great start to accomplishing all of your modeling goals. It is so refreshing to work with models that are prepared and have taken the time to focus on the job at hand and bring the correct “tools” with them to a shoot. Remember- “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity”, so always be prepared, put your best foot forward and handle yourself with professionalism- I guarantee it will be noted!