Saturday, March 5, 2011

Outfit Post: Are you more likely to buy if the model looks like you?

A few months ago I went to fetch my mail and was delighted to find the new Urban Outfitters catalog peering at me from the box. While flipping though it, I spied these incredibly fantastic wood and leather platform booties on a pale-faced auburn-haired model. Despite the boot's obvious heft, she seemed to float weightlessly above the ground while staring wistfully off into the distance. The exaggerated platform accentuated her long legs and gave her a kind of elegant giraffe-like appearance. At five feet almost-four inches, I am magnetically attracted to any article of clothing that has the potential to make me look taller. Clearly, these booties needed to belong to me.

So I bought them. If this model, who so closely resembled me (aside from our considerable age difference) looked elegant and lengthy in those boots, surely I would as well. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that they did not mystically harness the power to turn me into a gangly long-limbed creature. It's true that the boots are unbelievably comfortable, stylish, and versatile, but in them I'm still, well, me. I still have short legs. I don't have time for wistful staring. And, frankly, I wouldn't know the first thing about modeling, or photographers, or posing for catalogs, despite my best efforts in these blog posts.

While clomping around in my new boots today, I started thinking about a recent study I read about in Glamour Magazine regarding the influence of models on consumer buying patterns. According to the study, women are more likely to make a purchase when they see a model who reflects their age, race, and size. Ben Barry, a Cambridge PhD student, surveyed 3,000 women in the US, UK, and Canada, according to The Guardian UK, and using mock advertisements, found that "the vast majority of women significantly increase purchase intentions when they see a model that reflects their age, size and race. If you speak to consumers on the street about my research, nobody is surprised - consumers are light years ahead of the fashion industry in that they want to see diversity."

He goes on to say, "The industry operates in its own bubble, but advertisers and magazine editors need to be mindful of who their target market is and how the models reflect that market, catch up and change."

Recently, designers and modeling agencies have been making more effort to include diversity, both in size and race, on the runways and in print advertising. During Betsey Johnson's fall 2011 runway show, traditional models shared the runway with Johnson's store employees. They included tattooed and plus-sized store managers, design assistants, knitwear designers, and even the VP of Retail Operations. One was pregnant (she looked adorable, by the way) while the last to to walk, a male store manager names Seth Lefkof, revealed his identity after tossing his wig into the audience.

In addition, modeling agencies are becoming more committed to hiring and finding jobs for plus-sized models. IPM Model Management, a premier plus-size agency located in NYC, is rewriting the rules for the plus-size modeling industry. Currently, the agency represents an impressive group of models from all backgrounds and ethnicities.The agency pairs models with fashion industry leaders like Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Elena Miro, Lane Bryant, House of Dereon and Ashley Stewart, and also works with magazines such as O Magazine, Essence and Glamour, to name a few.

Raquel Boler, booking editor at Essence magazine, stated that “IPM Model Management is my go-to choice agency when I’m looking for beautiful professional, true-to-size, curvy models." This dynamic plus-size modeling agency has also landed talent contracts in films such as Bewitched, I Am Legend, Knowing and American Gangster. Television appearances are numerous and include: All My Children, The Today show, The View , Good Morning America, Ugly Betty, Mercy, Lipstick Jungle, Sex and the City and more.

What do you make of this recent study? Are you more likely to buy something if the model selling it looks like you? Have you ever decided against an item of clothing because you didn't feel like you could wear it the way the model did? Does the total package impact your purchases?

Thrifted J Crew button-down; Old Navy skirt; Old Navy belt; Old Navy tights; Urban Outfitters 6x6 booties; Frye clutch; Forever 21 rhinestone bracelets

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