The Garment and Beauty product industries are large users of models. People want to see what clothes or beauty products look like on somebody. Your high-fashion, designer-label garments, are designed for what fashion designers view as the "ideal woman." This is someone tall and slender, somewhat leggy, with a swan like neck and very young. In major markets like New York, this is someone who is 5'9" to 6' tall and from a size 8 to a size 0 depending on what is in. For men it is at least 6 foot tall and a 40 regular - of course, you have to have that "look" to go with the clothes. In secondary markets we would like to have this but often work with fashion models that don't meet these measurements. It is more important you just have a look of being tall and slender and that the sample clothes will fit you. The "look" can run from classic beauty to some extreme looks for fashion.
If you are going to work in front of the camera you need to be photogenic, and this you won't know until you do a test shoot. Usually the face is oval shape, with symmetry to the facial features. Eyes are almond shape. The cheekbones should be strong and nose straight and proportioned. Lips should be full. All of this just puts you in the general category; from there it is a matter of what the market demands are.
On the money - Top New York High Fashion models (there are just a handful of these folks) make more money then any other models (I have seen incomes as high as eight million a year). By contrast a model doing a fashion show at a local mall may get paid nothing. This shows the wide range of income one might expect in fashion modeling. Most folks who try to make it as fashion models will earn almost nothing so don't quit your day job.
Fashion Runway Modelling
Clothing designers traditionally show their new collections twice a year (Fall and Spring) to perspective (store) buyers. (buyers is a key word here, if some one is putting on a fashion show without buyer then it is entertainment) As an example, the New York Ready Wear shows just finished with 110 designers presenting collections for Fall 2000 (post 9/11 the number of designers has fallen 30%, note 2010 slow economy has not been kind to the fashion industry). Designers present these collections to a gathering of buyers by sending models down a walkway or runway. How well a model brings the clothes to life and shows important features of the garments can determine how well they sell. So it is worth it to a designer to have the most ideal models show these collections. This leads to why models have to meet very strict requirements and why they get such high fees for this type of work (modeling agencies have also forced up fees). These young models tend to be very tall, slender and move very well in clothes.
Fashion Catalog Modelling
There are a lot of clothing catalogs produced. (I know because my significant other gets most of them and tries to keep them all in business by constantly buying from them.) These catalogs, whether business-to-business, store, or direct marketing, require models to pose in the clothes they are trying to sell. Generally, catalog models are picked for a project because they represent the ideal of the market segment for which that catalog is targeted. Often times this is the classic beauty - tall, slender, healthy, and beautiful. The marketing idea is for transference, i.e. if you buy these clothes you will look as nice as the person pictured in the catalog. Catalog modeling usually pays well because of the volume of photos that must be taken. When I was sharing space with a couple of photographers who shot for a department store chain they could be shooting for weeks with models to produce at catalog.SPORTS/ATHETICALLY PROFICIENT/FITNESS - This is kind of lumping a lot together but this has been a growing area in modeling. With sport attire companies like Nike and the increase number of personal sports, fitness and outdoor magazines the need for models that look like they actually know what they are doing has grown. The idea is to look good and actual be proficient at the activity being photographed.