Fashion Model: First let's rule out the obvious: being a model is a great job for a few hundred people in the US. For the rest of the models, it is a a nice part-time job at best. I have a better chance making a living as a professional golfer than as a professional model, and I'm a 20+ handicap.
We have only a little data for models in our database, so take this with a grain of salt. In Seattle, the pay for models is between $10 and $40 per hour, and the work week is 10 to 20 hours. Taking the middle ($20/hour, 15 hours/week), $15,000/year in extra income is nice, but it is not a career.
In our PayScale salary database, the states with the most model data (implying the most jobs for models), after the obvious New York and California, are Maine, Washington, and Georgia. I wonder where LL Bean, Bon Marche, and Rich's are headquartered. The later two recently were absorbed by Macy's, so it may be slim-pickings for models in Seattle in the future.
Fashion Designer: Now let's get serious. I was surprised to find that there is actually work for fashion designers in Seattle. The pay is reasonable, with a median salary of $42,500/year for experienced designers, and the high end going up to $70,000. Not enough to buy a $1,000,000 condo in Downtown Seattle, but a good living.
Of course, it is better to be an experienced fashion designer in New York. Salaries there have a median of $77,000/year, and can easily go to $110,000/year or more. However, NYC doesn't have 300 inches of snow a year and fantastic skiing less than an hour outside of town. That more than makes up for the pay difference. :-)
Seattle Fashion Designers also can easily justify a trip to NYC for Fashion Week. How else can they stay current on the latest trends?
Department Store Buyer: Before you buy the clothes from Macy's, someone has to buy the clothes that Macy's stocks. Being a buyer is another job I could have here in Seattle which would justify the trip to Fashion Week.
For experienced Department Store Buyers in Seattle, the median salary is $55,000, with top buyers earning $95,000/year. We also have a lot of data from Washington State, implying it is a common job here.
The pay for buyers is better in New York, but not that much better than Seattle. The median salary for an experienced buyer is $63,000 there, with the high end above $110,000/year.
By the way, Jennifer Aniston's character on Friends had the related job of being a buyer for Ralph Lauren. It is not good that I know this :-)
Garment Sewer: There once was a clothing manufacturing industry in the US, but not anymore. We have a total of 5 salary reports from Garment Sewers nation-wide. The median pay is $9.50/hour. There isn't much upside: with 25 years of experience, the pay only goes up to about $15/hour.
Enough dreaming of careers that were not to be - my next post will be back on the nuts and bolts of statistics and compensation.
Dr. Al Lee