When you shop online and browse reviews, do user-submitted photos of real people in clothes help you make your decision? Over the last decade, clothing brands have improved the diversity among the models on their websites — and some (such as Aerie) have pledged to stop airbrushing images — but you’ll never find as much variety in shapes, sizes, heights, and ages than among pictures uploaded by actual customers. So today we thought we’d round up fashion stores that use “real” women as models!
And interestingly, over the past several months, more and more product images on clothing brands’ websites are being shown without models, presumably because of the pandemic’s impact on the logistics of photo shoots. I don’t know about you, but this definitely makes me less likely to buy something — so customer images are more important than ever.
Tip: You’re most likely to find customer photos in reviews of dresses (especially special-occasion dresses) and jeans.
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Here are four fashion stores that use “real” women as models:
On their homepage, Boden asks customers to submit photos of themselves showing how they style their Boden pieces by tagging @Boden_clothing on Instagram; the website gallery is here. Each image from the gallery links to a product page (but once you click through, you may find that it’s very low stock, which is frustrating). Fortunately, you can also see customer images within individual product pages.
When you write a review, you can upload pictures from Insta, Facebook, or your phone/computer.
Boden used to feature “real” women in their “Boden by You” Insta stories. You can still find them here, and you can click through to the product pages. (Not everything may be available, however; the last story was about 30 weeks ago.)
You’ve probably noticed that some Amazon clothing items (and other products) have a ton of customer photos, some have a few or just one, and many have none. When you do find them, the quality varies — a lot are mirror selfies in dim light or with not-exactly-clean mirrors (no judgment here!), while other images make it much easier to see the item. There are often closeup pictures, too, which are especially helpful for seeing details — or flaws, in more cheaply made items.
As you’ve probably found, you’ll also encounter some interesting “slices of life” — in one review, the customer included a photo of her cat curled up on her leggings on the floor, for example. There aren’t many influencer-y images, for better or worse.
(Psst from Kat: I love the user-submitted photos on these flapper dresses (perfect for Halloween, if you’re going anywhere this year!), as well as this $50 skirt suit — I feel like you can see the pros and cons pretty well.)
Rent the Runway
Rent the Runway has been using customer-submitted photos for years, which is particularly helpful when you’ll only be receiving your selections only one or two days before your special event and you’re trying to figure out sizing. (Note that RTR also offers membership plans.)
It’s also kind of fun to see women’s photos of all sorts of special occasions — sort of like an online version of people-watching (yes, I am easily distracted). RTR also has plenty of workwear styles available.
The photos range from pretty outdoor portraits to poorly lit mirror selfies to pictures of people with heart emojis covering their faces — but usually a particular product will have a variety of shots that can help you make a decision. The written reviews can fill in the blanks.
Like RTR, ModCloth has been featuring customer photos for years — and they also are very size-inclusive, with a range from XS–4X. They’re also more likely than other brands to show an item on models of varied sizes.
Some pieces have reviews with photos, although unfortunately, the site only shows you five reviews at a time (why?!) and doesn’t give an option to see an image gallery, so you have to keep clicking through five at a time to see if there are any photos. (How nice would it be to filter by “photos included”?)
The average quality of the photos is very good, probably because ModCloth is a specific, niche brand. You’re also likely to see a lot of women who obviously love accessorizing and putting together fun and funky outfits. (I did come across one review that included a photo of the top hanging on a hanger…)
On Instagram, the brand asks customers to use #MyModCloth to show off their looks; some are featured on the brand’s account.
Loft allows customers to add a photo when submitting reviews, and you can find photos with the hashtag #LOVELOFT on Instagram and on the site. Sister brand Ann Taylor also lets customers upload photos.
How helpful do you find customer-submitted photos when you’re shopping for clothes? Do you know of other fashion stores that use “real” women as models?
Stock photo via Deposit Photos /