The Model Community

No, “the model community” isn’t some twisted Ayn Rand world view. It’s much more fun than that! It’s a community effort to visualize what it would look like if the fashion industry represented a true variety of body types and looks.

I won’t go into the entire lead-up to this project right now. You can read about my realization of just how limited fashion’s standard of beauty has become here, and you can learn about my groundbreaking concept (I’m kidding; this should be part of Personhood 101) that all women are real women right here.

In a nutshell, this project sprang to life through a suggestion from a fellow blogger. I had mentioned that I was pulling together a look book based on a progressive one released by the department store Debenhams. I was scouring the internet for photos of models who were unique in some way; some wore size 24 clothing; others were covered in freckles; still others were in their sixties. I wanted to compile images of people who looked fashionable and beautiful without fitting the traditional mold. (To be perfectly clear: there’s nothing wrong with models who fit that mold, but they’re almost all we see, which is a problem.) At that point, my blogger-friend Stef jumped in and pointed out that – if I was going to challenge beauty standards – it might be more interesting to do it by asking members of my actual community to model for the look book. And something fabulous was born.

Over the next two weeks, several of my friends, family, and work colleagues will be helping me gather photos of them in clothing that makes them feel wonderful. When all the pictures are in, I’ll find a way to compile them and share them online, and I’ll post the final product here. In the end, there are two goals:

1. To exhibit an alternate possibility: showcasing fashion on people who represent all kinds of beauty.


2. To playfully celebrate diverse types of beauty, and – in doing so – make the members of my community feel pretty freaking awesome.

If this is all sounding kind of super and you’d like to play, I’d be thrilled! Here are two options:

1. Stef, who inadvertantly masterminded this whole thing, has called for photo submissions at her blog Smile, kiddo. If she gets nine entries from around the interwebs, she’ll also post an unconventional community look book. Please send her your photo! She has the details in the post linked above.

2. Or – if you’re really into this concept – please let me encourage you to steal it, improve it, and pass it on! Gather photos from your online friends, or try what I’m doing and set up actual photo shoots for friends who live nearby. Just puh-lease let me know if you do make your own look book, because I’d love to link to it and start a collection.

I’ll go ahead and post the instructions I sent to my community below, in case that’s helpful to anyone who’d like to re-create the project. If you’re not interested in doing that, you can stop reading here… but thanks for taking a moment to think about the kind of beauty that’s all around us, every freaking day, showcased in the members of our own “model” communities.

Dear friends,

(Blah blah, exposition, blah blah…)

…I’ve got a talented volunteer photographer on board, a really nice camera, and a space with good lighting. What I’d really, really love to do is invite you all to come by and have your photo taken.

The concept is simple: all the images will be shot against a blank white backdrop. You should wear an outfit that makes you feel beautiful/awesome. It can be formal, it can be grungy, it can be a swimsuit – whatever you like, just so you feel kick-ass in it. Our photographer can help with ideas for poses but, as much as possible, I want shots that reflect your personality. If you’re a grinner, grin; if you want to pull a Blue Steel face, that’s rad; if you want to look thoughtful or angry or seductive, rock on. You can paint your face like David Bowie or come in your Sunday best.

So… please let me know by this Wednesday if you’re interested. Once I have a list of names, I’ll find the two best times for us to do photo shoots.

Also: I included some people here who I know are long-distance but who I’d really love to have participate. If you feel up to hanging a white(ish) sheet as a backdrop and sending a photo of you in front of it, I’d be giddy. (Ditto if you live around here but can’t make it by in person.)

Once we have this together, I’ll be sharing it on my blog. I’m also trying to pull in other bloggers to do similar projects with their communities, and so far I have one on board. Maybe we can get a little momentum going and turn this into something really cool.


12 responses to “The Model Community

    • You’re a rock star! Bring it – and by it, I mean a photo of you, looking whatever way you like best, against a white background if possible.

      The best thing you could do would be to get in touch with Stef via this post on her blog ( because I’m not sure how much response she’s gotten from the blogging community and she wants at least nine people in her look book. If hers doesn’t happen, though, I’ll be stoked to add you to mine.

      Thanks for being awesome.

  1. Reblogged this on I am a heathen. and commented:
    This is something you beauties might want to get involved with, too — a ‘real world modelling’ project representing all ages, origins, body shapes and styles. Having spent my life gazing longingly at pictures of legs that are longer than my entire body, I’d like to see more tiny girls on the catwalk. Small is beautiful, or so they say.

  2. Jennie, thank you for directing people over to my blog to play – I appreciate it!

    So far I haven’t gotten any response from my community (which I kind of figured might be the case); but my yoga teacher wants to announce this in her class coming up – so we’ll see if that generates any interest.

    Regardless of the end product (or lack thereof), the positive energy this has initiated is cool. So yay either way! 🙂

  3. do you not sleep? you just get inspired and making things happen? who does that? i am so impressed. how is the project going? is there a page where i can view yet?

    • I don’t sleep, lately! Is it too horribly corny to say that inspiration is more potent than caffeine? Yeah, probably, but I’m too sleepy to hit the delete button…

      I’ve got somewhere between 25 and 35 people on board, and tomorrow is the first of two photo shoots! I think I’ll be able to share the final product around May 27.

      Also, to answer your (very kind) question, I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by people who are creative and good at problem-solving in the exact ways I’m not. And so, I come up with these hair-brained schemes and then, as they say, “When our powers combine…” (Oh, I *hope* you know Captain Planet!)

  4. Jennie, I love love love this idea, and I think it would make a great project for RLB. Here’s hoping we’ll have our own Model Community Look Book by the end of the summer!

    • Oh, absolutely do it! The best outcome I could hope for would be lots of people taking on this project and starting conversations!

      I’m hoping to post our final product tomorrow or Thursday at the latest, so check back and definitely keep me posted on yours! If it would be helpful to have any of the language I sent to my friends or know how we set it up, I’d be thrilled to share.

  5. Pingback: #beautyrevolution | Beauty Coup·

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