What is and in a “Modeling Bag”?

Posted on February 18, 2013


Another one of those questions I receive frequently from models is what I recommend that they bring with them to a modeling session beyond what the photographer or art director requests. Your bag will be something you always take with you on every job or show you go to. This doesn’t cover what you take with you during a casting call, but rather the jobs themselves where the model is required to pose, walk, or be a model of any kind.

This is what is called a modeling bag. Each model will have different things in it and I find that most model’s bags or kits evolve over time. I am going to list different things here, and know that models who are just starting out rarely have a kit like this – they build and grow it over time as they are able to put a bag together and learn what they need. You will notice that there are things that are hygiene,  trouble solution kits, clothing, area kits (hair, nails, makeup, etc.),  and  jewelry.  This bag will be your backup kit for when things go horribly wrong, so think of things that you _must_ have for every shoot and make sure those items are in it. You won’t have everything listed here. From year to year, the contents will change. And, depending on your mix of modeling that you do and your experiences, your mix of items will be what you find most helpful and useful to you as a model. If you do multiple types, like photographic model and runway model, it is possible that you have two different bags with one for each one. The contents can vary significantly. I may itemize this down for lists that work for different types of models in the future if I get requests for this.

The bag you carry this all in will vary depending on you. Most models carry this bag as a back pack or travel luggage with wheels and is no larger than 22 inches. It should be able to be carried on a plane and fit under the seat of an airplane (making it easy to always carry it with you, even if you travel by plane).  If it is much larger, and you work in fashion shows, you will find out how fast the suitcase gets in the way of everyone. The shoes can be strapped on top of most hard suit cases, and usually cost around $15-20 to fit 8-10 shoes (they are usually designed for 6-8, but you can usually mange to put more in).  The few models who have had them have said the shoe bags are well worth the money.

As a photographer who carries some of these items with me to a shoot, it isn’t typical that a photographer can provide outfits,  panties, slips, and various stockings.  Some photographers will have a small makeup kit. Items that once worn that I don’t want to deal with the cleanliness issues, I give them to the models. I find that it is always the same models who are unprepared with the same items over and over again.

Below is a list of the essentials that should be in every modeling kit or bag. This would be the following items:

  • appointment book
  • bobby pins – essential for keeping hair in place.
  • bras – nude, black, and white. The nude bra should be convertible to different strap combinations. no lace and smooth. They should fit well. Have clear and nude straps for the nude bra. Clips that change the way the straps lay are also very helpful.
  • business cards/comp cards
  • cell phone – absolutely critical to stay in touch with someone else when you are on a shoot, and to call someone if there is an emergency. It also allows you to stay in touch with your crew if something unexpected happens on the way or way back from the shoot. It should be turned off during the shoot.
  • chicken cutlets, falsies, or similar aid – these are used when you need that extra support or look to improve your figure when you can’t do it any other way. Chicken cutlets are silicon or foam padding that goes under your breast to lift the breast up. Falsies cover the breast and round out the breast and make it appear larger and more round than it is normally. This may even be a simple pasty to just provide a little bit of coverage so nothing shows – either form or color.
  • cotton swabs/cotton balls/cotton pads
  • escort – I always encourage models to have someone else with them when they model.
  • fashion clips-these are available in black and white and are short elastic bands with clips on either end that are used to make clothing fit that doesn’t. You can purchase them at most fabric stores.
  • extra feminine hygene products – you never know when you will need these, and it is better to have them on hand than desperately need them and not have them.
  • hair bands – these are always good to have a couple on hand.
  • hand sanitizer
  • lip balm
  • makeup remover
  • medications and first aid kit – it is always good to have aspirin, acetaminophen, benadryl, band aids, and some kind of topical cortical steroid that is over the counter. If you take special meds and may be crossing the line when you need to take them, or even close, it is good to have them in your kit, too. At the very least, have some small band aids to put in place when things rub and cause hot spots before they turn into  blisters.
  • minimal makeup (foundation and mascara)-you want to always bring mascara because it is the most difficult item to keep clean in a makeup kit. Foundation because you may need something that matches your skin – the MUA may or may not have something that works for your skin color. This is important for the really pale and really dark models. This may also include a concealer, too.
  • panties (nude, white, and black)-most say these all should just be a thong, but from my point, they could have a little more coverage. The thong should be a nude colored one. You will want one panty with more coverage, and one that is a boy short type that is high waist panty. If you are a print model, and you aren’t comfortable in the thong, don’t put it in your bag.
  • pencil sharpener
  • picture ID – this should be your drivers license or passport. Key is having your birth date and picture on it, and it being a legal or official government document.
  • portfolio or book
  • safety pins – these should be an assorted sizes from very small to large. They help in making clothing fit that doesn’t, fix clothing when it breaks, and similar.
  • snacks – these should be easy to grab treats for quick energy. I recommend they be as balanced an energy source as possible like peanut butter crackers, Baby Ruth candy bar, trail mix, or similar.
  • stain stick pin
  • swim suit – two piece. If you can get the top as something strapless, even better.
  • tissue paper
  • extra vouchers if you work out of an agency
  • Bottle of water.

Then, we get into the less essential items that may or may not be in any particular model’s bag, but are good to be in there.

  • body lotion/baby oil gel – double bag in a zip lock bag so it doesn’t leak out and mess everything else up.
  • body shaper/girdle/cincher
  • book/mp3 player/entertainment – for the moments you are waiting (and there will be times you do)
  • bra – seamless (no straps of any kind)
  • deodorant (clear)
  • eye drops/fake lashes/eye lash glue/tweezers
  • hair extensions (clip on)/clip on pony tails/wigs/hair clips/hair decorations
  • hair spray/brushes/combs/curling iron/straightener
  • hosiery – variety of colors and patterns and types
  • jewelry – small assortment relating to what is being shot. Simple items work best.  This includes bracelets, ear rings, necklases, sunglasses, pins, and other bling.
  • lint brush/tape roller/double sided tape/clear masking tape
  • makeup kit – minimum makeup to do your own makeup. Be sure it is camera ready or high definition classified makeup for the best appearance under bright studio lights and direct sun. It should include eye shadows, blush, eye liners, etc.
  • mirror – something to do your makeup in, preferably self standing
  • measuring tape – for immediate measurements
  • nail kit – fake nails, clippers, file, nail glue, nail polish (nude/clear), etc.
  • razor – disposable and shave cream
  • lightweight robe
  • scissors
  • sewing kit-sewing needles/threads/etc.
  • comfortable shoes to walk in
  • small roll of toilet paper
  • toothbrush/toothpaste/mouth wash
  • towel
  • tube top/body stocking

If you have a large suitcase that you are taking with you (or a second suitcase that carries these items):

  • active wear/yoga pants/sweat suit
  • belts
  • boots
  • camasole/slips
  • dresses – at least three dresses including one little black dress
  • scarves
  • shoes – at least 3 inch high heels and in multiple colors and styles. Nude, black, white, and metalics are a good starting point.

Edit 18 Feb 2013: My daughter who is also a model brought up a good point – if you are modeling and don’t have an escort, don’t turn your phone off. Just silence it. Turning it off can be considered a safety issue and make it more difficult to get help when you need it. Just know it is there and ignore that it is there when you hear it buzz.