As e-commerce continues to thrive (this past Monday was the biggest online shopping day in the history of the Internet), the Times notes that a new kind of modeling has gathered steam: that which makes clothes look good from a tiny photo glimpsed furtively on one's computer, to be clicked quickly before one's boss walks by. And according to Gilt Groupe art director Philip Attar, this calls for models that are "relatable," since they're “selling clothes to people who can’t touch anything ... So even if only for one second, you want to have some connection with her.”
So what makes a model look relatable on the Internet? For starters, she must appear natural and warm; what's more, she can't be overwhelmingly gorgeous, should her beauty make customers feel like slobs:
Web models need to be attractive, of course, but not intimidatingly so — the better, the thinking goes, to woo shoppers who may be browsing at 3 a.m. in their slippers. Many niche apparel sites direct their models to evoke just-off-the-street charm with a touch of je ne sais quoi ... not a bore (as opposed to the unrelentingly cheery models on the Web site of a department store like Macy’s).
She also shouldn't be runway-model thin:
The professional online model is skinny, sure — but size 4s, not zeros like many on the runway. “Seeing clothes on someone like them really resonates with consumers — not a runway model, not an austere glamazon,” said Hillary Mendelsohn, an online marketing expert and founder of thepurplebook.com...“The ones that attract us the most are ones with effortless cool who are actually approachable, that you could be friends with.”
From a modeling-industry standpoint, it's nice to know that there's a market for slightly more normal-looking girls. However, drawbacks include changing in and out of 50 or more outfits during a single shoot, which means that a model's ability to whip her clothes on and off is an added job requirement:
"Oh, you can definitely do 80 outfits in a day,” said Lindsi Miller, 21, who models once or twice a week for Swirl by DailyCandy, their sample sale site. With a hint of pride, she added, “They tell me I’m the fastest changer they’ve ever had."
Interestingly, there seems to be no hard evidence that models sell clothes online much better than plastic mannequins, although Bluefly is the only website that's done any sort of trial, during which they found that "using human beings only slightly increased sales." But it's far more interesting to talk about models than mannequins, so here we are.