Be Haute: How to Dress Like a Model

Cherry red skinny jeans make for a colorful twist on off-duty model staples: a menswear button-down and a luxe bag.
Cherry red skinny jeans make for a colorful twist on off-duty model staples: a menswear button-down and a luxe bag.
John Lamparski/Getty Images

If you're a "Project Runway" fan, you've likely paid attention when the models come in for a fitting. There seems to be an almost uniform-quality to their off-duty clothing in that ultracasual setting. Even snapped on the streets of New York during Fashion Week there are items you'll see repeated, if styled with a bit more flair.

The overall look tends toward casually fashionable, often downright comfortable and, as we set forth here, within the regular woman's rip-off abilities.


So let's start by taking a look at the clothing and accessories that appear to be in many models' go-to wardrobes, and how they like to wear them. These are, for the most part, pretty standard pieces that may be hanging in your closet as we speak; and if they're not, most can be purchased relatively cheaply ...

On the runway, models are about as inaccessible as a group of people can get without holding high office -- stunning, unreadable, strutting in 6-inch heels and being graceful about it. Off the runway, though, they can look almost like the rest of us if the rest of us were improbably thin and had the style sense that comes from wearing haute couture for a living. Models -- or at least the ones who know their fashion and care to show it -- seem to have a shared knack for making the most basic articles of clothing look effortlessly chic. Here's the basic rundown:

On the Bottom

  • Skinny jeans. Enough said.
  • Tailored, tapered pants or trousers in something substantial, like a wool blend or a heavy, elegant knit; typically black; sometimes high-waisted; often paired with high-heel booties
  • Casual, black, above-the-knee skirt, pencil or A-line, often paired with ...
  • Black leggings

On Top

  • Basic T-shirt that's soft, drapey and often looks fashionably well-worn, paired with any of the bottoms mentioned above
  • Soft, long sweater, often in neutral tones, sometimes sloppy-by-design
  • Easy cotton button-down with a bohemian feel, often in solids, prints, plaid or chambray and paired with skinny jeans and flat boots
  • Layering tanks

On the Outside

  • Leather jacket, typically black, typically biker, sometimes with an asymmetrical zip-front

On the Ground

  • Booties, usually black leather and high-heeled, and occasionally peep-toed
  • Flat boots, sometimes slim and simple, like riding boots or boho slouchy suede; other times chunky and tough -- think Frye, harness or combat style
  • High-heeled knee boots, simple and elegant
  • Sky-high heels, sometimes spikes, sometimes platforms, almost never round-toed
  • Chuck Taylors, high or low

Everywhere Else

  • Calvin Klein nude G-string, apparently an industry must
  • Printed lightweight scarf, wrapped and tucked
  • Long knit scarf, bulky and cozy, often neutral-toned
  • Effortlessly great hat, including wide- and narrow-brimmed fedoras and floppy, felt numbers dipping just-so over one eye.
  • Designer bag. Expensive. Recognizable.

And because it's not always daytime, especially in model land, there is the little black dress. The model LBD tends to be pretty minimalist, with body-skimming cuts and relatively conservative lengths -- short, but nothing that would prevent bending over to readjust a Blahnik ankle strap.

Because in fashion, and this is important, hoochie isn't haute. Working leopard-print hot pants on a D&G runway is a whole different (fabulous) story. In real-world fashion, classy wins every time.

For more information on model closets, casual chic and other beauty and style topics, check out the links on the next page.

Related Articles

More Great Links


  • "In Her Closet: Ali Stephens." Modelinia. (Sept. 10, 2012)
  • "In Her Closet: Elisa Sednaoui." Modelinia. (Sept. 10, 2012)
  • "In Her Closet: Hanne Gaby Odiele." Modelinia. (Sept. 10, 2012)
  • Tse, Tiffany. "What They Wore: Models Off Duty." Who What Wear. April 23, 2012. (Sept. 10, 2012)
  • Wexler, Sarah Z. "How to Dress for the Job You Want." Marie Claire. June 25, 2008. (Sept. 10, 2012)