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


  1. I completely agree, I definitely buy something that is similar to my race, not not because I'm racist lol but its because the skin tones that actually work for me. Especially when I see a make up that the model is asian, I would definitely research more on that product compare to white models, I think it is more because of complexion, skin tones and ofcourse culture that involves in it. Great post!!
    Oh and I do like that boots on you, you look so cute loving the polkadot top and the pattern tights

  2. You're doing a great job Elissa! Keep it up! :)

  3. Cute outfit! Love the tights, the outfit looks so well put together!

    <3 Cess O.

  4. love this color scheme on you, elissa.

  5. yes, me too.
    love the blue variation, looks really cute, sober and different.
    The booties are beautiful.
    Are they comfortable?


  6. i wish all the time that there were more asian models out there! and not just those who are 5'8" and with legs that make them look like giraffes! i'm usually going to blogs for inspiration as the people here at least more resemble my size and i can get ideas about how things will look on a more petite frame. and yes, i've bought several things after seeing how they looked on another person who looked similar to me. :)

    i love these tights that you're wearing and the boots look great on you! hope you're having a great weekend!

    cute and little

  7. The booties are really, really comfortable! I normally feel like a cripple after a day of wearing heels, but my feet were fine in these! And thank you for all the compliments on the color scheme...I love wearing purple. It makes me happy!

    I too go to blogs for inspiration regarding how real women (not 5 feet ten inch models) wear clothes. I'm actually thinking of canceling all my magazine subscriptions because I just can't relate to how they advertise clothes.

  8. Hmmm...I guess I do the same thing, but I am more likely to get something I see another blogger wearing because they are way more like me than the fashion models are--so I guess I am gonna get those boots you're wearing now that they've tickled down to me and I have short red hair too!

  9. hmmm this is an interesting study indeed although I personally don't think I am really influenced by the model's look simply because I don't shop online and I always try the clothes on before I buy them. So the decision is based on the way the clothes or shoes look on me.

    Great blog btw.



  10. I have to say I am less frequently influenced by seeing clothing items on models that look like me (I can't really think of many who do) and more on other bloggers or street style photographs - I often find new brands or new looks that way.

    Great post!

  11. I am more influenced to buy things when the model resembles me in a small way!
    I love your blog and am a new follower!

  12. Very interesting. My biggest struggle with fit is that I'm curvy, especially in the cup-size area and if I see something I like in a catalog but the model is super skinny and flat chested (as they usually are), I reconsider, thinking hard about how the top or dress will look on me and if it will even fit in the chest or if it will show too much cleavage. You'd think the industry would realize that we aren't so stupid as to think buying clothes off a skinny girl will make us look skinny and we need a variety of shapes modeling clothes so that we can get a real idea of how they fit.

  13. I completely shop this way!! Completely! I am 5 feet w/ a d-cup and maybe only 6 inches of torso...I love etsy b/c a lot of the clothes are on people closer to my actual body. When I see beautiful things on a typical model I do visual calculating in my head, like "oh well my boobs will make this fall here, and my torso is too short so actually it will fall maybe there (?)" also, often they don't have actual petite models modeling petite(!)...they put the regular sized image on the petite version and for real wide leg trousers do not look the same on a 5' women! Oh frustrations...

  14. ~ * ♥ * ~

    I must say that I do not really shop by looking at a model ~ especially as I have an aversion to
    looking too "on trend".

    I much more caught by the garment itself, and I really do not care what the model looks like! That being said though, the advertising industry tends to dress one type of model one way, and another type of model another.

    So I would probably never were anything that African model wore for instance, because the colors that suit their skin certainly will not suit mine! > <

    bonita of Depict This!
    ~ * ♥ * ~

  15. Fascinating post! I think I am actually more likely to buy something if the model resembles me - maybe not always, but it has happened for sure. Good to know I'm not the only one sucked in ;)

    Corinne xo

  16. I don't think I've ever seen a model that resembles me. There a couple of actresses with whom I share certain features though, and I've been inspired to try different hair styles in the past when I've seen a cute new 'do on one of them.

    I'm new to your blog, but it's quickly become one of my favorites!

  17. That is so interesting! I had never thought about how the way a model looks might affect what I buy!

    - Angela

  18. Absolutely, these findings are no surprise, I'm far more likely to buy something that a model who resembles me wears. Being a rather short Sri Lankan women, when I see clothes on tall blondes I always have to analzye - will that skirt/jacket/whatever look good on me, with my skin colouring, height, weight etc.? I think it's pretty clear to everyone but the fashion industry that consumers wish to see more diversity in their models.


  19. Absolutely. I'm still trying to figure out why brands haven't figured out that I'm the "perfect" size. :)


  20. I'm with the folks who tend to be influenced more by looking at blogs of what other people are wearing as well. I'm tall, but I still have an hourglass figure with a D-cup, and it's a royal pain trying to figure out if something that looks good on a flat, boyish model is even going to fit my chest without straining the fabric.

    Speaking of which, that outfit you have on is adorable. And I just realized that I could almost put it together with stuff I already own. O.o Tomorrow is my Thrift store day, so I might just do so. XD

  21. This is an interesting post, and although I think I'm aware enough, so to speak, to not just buy an item I kinda sorta like just because the model is a brunette goddess, much like myself (LOL! Kidding!), I will say that the willowy brunettes with the full sideswept bangs ALWAYS grab my attention, because, as a tall long legged brunette with sideswept bangs, I do find that I can picture myself rocking some of the looks they are sporting with great ease, and not much imagination. :-)


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