PLUS MODEL: Tattoos in Fashion (and how to hide them)

© 2012. All rights reserved by NYMag.com Jean Paul Gaultier Collection

The history of tattoos goes back more than 5,000 years. These markings were cultural symbols used by tribal populations to identify rank and title, accomplishments, religion, punishments, and believed to have healing or magical properties. This unique form of body art lasts a lifetime and is embedded into the skin through the use of needles and ink. Within today’s society tattoos are very common and their mainstream use is no longer traditional, but rather a form of fashionable self-expression that is as diverse as the people who wear them.

Back in the day, if you wanted to model, having a tattoo was a complete and utter NO-NO. The idea of purposely and permanently marking your body with ink was totally unacceptable. A model’s body was considered to be a designer’s temple that needed to be free of markings, scars, and severe blemishes. This really hasn’t changed much in the last several hundred years. While the social mindset of the general public may have softened over time towards the acceptance of tattoos, their presence on a model is still unwanted–mainly because it distracts from a designer’s look and the marks are considered unprofessional for a working model. Depending on a tattoo’s location, size, design or all of the above, it can cause models to lose potential bookings. Models not booked for a tattoo related event need to have body art fully covered!

© 2012. All rights reserved by NYMag.com Jean Paul Gaultier Collection
© 2012. All rights reserved by NYMag.com. Jean Paul Gaultier Collection (Spring 2012)

If you’re a model with a tattoo you can expect to be asked that new aged question of its location and size. Not everyone will tell you to cover it up, but I will. If you want to be taken seriously, and if you want really good pictures that can help you to further your professional career, then you need to take the initiative and cover up those tattoos. Always remember that you’re using your body for work-related purposes and that this isn’t about you personally. It’s about the client that you’ve been booked to work for and giving them the best possible representation of their product as possible.

Straight Sized Models have traditionally been the go-to model of choice and have therefore always been more conscious of the importance of not being tatted-up. Sadly, these teachings were not so emphatically expressed to the full figured woman who is now entering into the fashion industry as the new breed of model in the Plus-Sized and Curvy categories. With the evolution of size acceptance comes the creation of more opportunities for models of a curvier disposition. These women vary in age as this fashion demographic is very diverse in scope from style to price points. Many of today’s aspiring Plus-Sized / Curve Models have tattoos and this is because they never anticipated that they could actually have a mainstream career in the fashion industry within their lifetime. A lot has happened within the last 10 years and it’s never to late to learn how to put your best you forward.

Kat Von D: Lock-It Tattoo Concealer
© All rights reserved. Kat Von D: Lock-It Tattoo Concealer

My best advice to any model within the fashion industry is to keep it a secret and cover up those tattoos when you’re working. This includes Casting Calls, Runway Shows, Events, Television, and Photo Shoots. Always cover your tattoos before arriving for Call Time, and bring the make-up with you in case you need to do a light retouching. Be sure to cover all of your tattoos because you never know if there will be an unexpected wardrobe change or wardrobe malfunction. It’s better to be prepared than to get caught off guard. Not everyone is going to want to take the time to Photoshop your likeness as this process is both time consuming and costly.

There are a ton of products on the market claiming to do the same thing but only a few of them really get the job done.

Cover-Up Makeup is not like your ordinary concealer that is used for the face. Invest in the right product that has been dermatologist tested, allergy tested, sensitive skin tested, non-comedogenic, non-acnegenic, and fragrance free. The goal is to find that perfect product that will cover properly, last long, and is as non-transferable as possible. It’s makeup so of course it is going to rub off a little but the key words here are “a little.” There are a ton of products on the market claiming to do the same thing but only a few of them really get the job done. I, like many other late-blooming Plus Size / Curve Models in the industry, have permanently marked my body with a tattoo. I’ve tried several well known brands and every mixture that I could possibly create to try and cover up my tattoos for long durations of time to no avail. Not only did it take forever to dry, but it also rubbed off on everything.

© All rights reserved by Dermablend


I’ve learned that if you’re going to cover it up, then you need to invest in the proper products to get the results you are looking for.

Then I discovered Dermablend and I instantly fell in love with its line of cosmetic camouflage products because it actually worked and was smudge-resistant. I’ve learned that if you’re going to cover it up, then you need to invest in the proper products to get the results you are looking for. Now is not the time to try and be cheap. Dermablend’s tattoo coverup has a three step application process which includes a Primer, the Leg & Body Cover, and a Setting Powder to lock-in the makeup. Basic soap and water can wash it off “eventually,” but the company’s Long Wear Makeup Remover gets the job done quickly.  They even have products that can help to cover skin imperfections such as Vitiligo, Birthmarks, Hyperpigmentation, Scars, Burns, Uneven Skin Tone, Acne, Rosacea, Stretch Marks, Spider Veins, Under Eye Circles, Bruises, etc.  Although there are several products on the market claiming to do the same thing, some really do work better than others. Just be sure to test out the product before you actually need it to make sure that it works best for your skin type and usage.

The truth of the matter is that models who bare tattoos within the fashion industry are silently discriminated against for being unprofessional.

While this tattoo topic is one that you rarely hear people talking about, I thought it important to have this discussion with you. The truth of the matter is that models who bare tattoos within the fashion industry are silently discriminated against for being unprofessional. My best advice to any model is not get one, but that’s almost uncommon in today’s society. So if you’re going to get one, then you seriously need to think about a tattoo’s location, size, and overall design before you decide to get inked. However, if this advice falls on deaf ears or if it’s to late to turn back the hands of time, then do yourself a favor and cover up that tattoo when you’re working.

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  1. I think this is really interesting. Since tattoos are becoming more and more popular, even in fashion and media that it would almost be more naturalistic to see models like that. The cover-up products are fascinating and are a great way to cover up if need be.

  2. I definitely respect your opinion and your extensive background knowledge of the fashion industry. This is a a very touchy topic in the modeling, I would know as well because I have been involved in it and have been around it for many years now. I have four tattoos, and I do not feel the need to cover them up. No one has said anything to me about them, and actually depending on the brand, some individuals actually like the edge they bring. Tattoos are an expression of ones personality and a freedom to show who they are in a different way. If a designer does not want the tattoos to show then of course I would cover them out of respect to that person. But saying that models who have tattoos are silently discriminated against is a very wrong statement. Our generation is tattooed more than others, and they are becoming more and more common, and are being seen on more models than not, (look at magazines such as pacsun and zumiez). It may be true that in the high end industry they are frowned upon yes, but the “whole” modeling industry is bigger than just that, and have been accepting tattoos more. 

  3. What an awesome article! I am getting my first tattoo soon, and it’s interesting to read more about it in this context.

  4. If you’re looking for a job in this industry as a model then this article offers insight into people’s negative opinions about tattoos in the industry. I like how you offer ways to hide it up with products or with clothing. Your insight gives the article a voice on this topic!

  5. I think tattoos are beautiful. They are a part of you, a part of your story. They say that you saw something that you thought was so beautiful or impactful or meaningful that you wanted it on your body forever, and I think that that is so amazing that people have the courage to bare that on their skin. Thanks for giving some insight into a community of people that are often not talked about in the fashion industry. 

  6. I’ve seen youtube videos about this foundation you can use to cover up tattoos! Very interesting. I totally agree with the notion that tattoos need to be covered up for casting calls, or any real life job!

  7. I don’t have a tattoo but I have plenty of friends who do and it seems that covering up tattoos, espceially in the professional world, is a very prominent discussion so this article can help a lot of people!

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