Dealing with wardrobe is an inevitable part of a model's career. Freelance or with an agency, you are going to want to know how to tackle the wardrobe factor when it comes to your shoots. The situation will vary from project to project. Some photoshoots will have a wardrobe stylist in charge of the outfits while other photoshoots may not. You may be required to bring your own clothing items or they may all be supplied for you when you arrive at the shoot. Either way, the more you know about the role wardrobe plays, the better prepared you'll be no matter what type of shoot it is.
If there is a wardrobe stylist assigned to the shoot, expect to hear from him/her via email or phone. This is where knowing basic fashion speak terminology comes into play. The wardrobe stylist may already have a list of things for you to bring, or he/she may simply ask what you have in order to get an idea of what to dress you in. Of course the nature of the shoot will dictate the majority of the wardrobe decisions. Fashion shoots, lifestyle shoots, and product shoots are all different types of projects, each with its own look and feel.
Most wardrobe stylists already have an idea of what they want the models to wear but may still ask the models to bring stuff from their own closets to save time and money. Remember, whatever you don't already have the wardrobe stylist has to go out and purchase for the shoot. If there are some clothing items you don't already own, you can always go and buy it for an affordable price at any store. Oftentimes it is worth the money because chances are you'll be wearing them for shoots again. Also be aware of the types of shoes you have. One quick way to make sure you'll have most of the items already on hand is to build up a model-friendly wardrobe of your own. These are clothing items that are often used for shoots but are also things you can wear on a daily basis (more on this in another post).
When bringing your own clothing and shoes to a shoot it is important that you get a garment bag. This item can be found in just about any store (Target and Wal-Mart for example) and all have various price ranges. Or you can search for one online for really great prices. This is the type of garment bag that I own and use for shoots:
Make sure you put your name on your garment bag so that it can be easily identified. The garment bag is perfect for fitting all of your clothing items in one place and because it accommodates hangers, your clothes won't get as wrinkled as they would if they were folded and stowed in a suitcase. If you want to use a suitcase, that's fine, but it saves a lot of time and energy if your wardrobe is already on a hanger and ready to go. Most stylists will have a steamer and other appropriate tools to take care of wrinkles but again, using a garment bag can eliminate the need for the steamer altogether.
There are also special carrying cases for shoes but I tend to keep that simple with a large tote bag. How you want to transport your shoes is up to you. Sometimes if I don't want to deal with too many bags, I'll simply put my shoes in a plastic grocery bag and stow them at the bottom of my garment bag. This helps to keep all of your items together in one place.
Often wardrobe stylists will purchase a slew of extra clothes in your sizes, which will be displayed at the shoot. It is up to the stylist if he/she wants to use only your clothes, mix and match your items with the purchased wardrobe or if only the clothes he/she bought will be used. Don't take it personally if none of your clothes end up being used on the shoot. The practice of having models bring their own wardrobe to a shoot simply serves to give the stylist and the client more options to choose from. In addition to bringing wardrobe, you may also be asked to bring along accessories (sunglasses, jewelry, hat, scarf, etc) or even "props" such as a suitcase, purse, laptop bag, etc. Whatever works for the shoot.
Additionally, be prepared for the possibility of wearing someone else's clothes. It isn't uncommon for models to wear each other's wardrobe according to what the wardrobe stylist lays out. This practice may seem "gross" to some but get used to it, it's a part of the business--besides, the clothes will be clean (let's hope so!). Of course this is usually limited to tops--you usually don't have to worry about wearing someone else's pants or shoes, unless there is a special circumstance and you happen to wear the same size as another model. But in general you can expect to wear another model's top or jacket. After the shoot make sure you get all your items back.
And I know I shouldn't have to say this but just in case: do NOT tell the wardrobe stylist what you want to wear. It is not about you or what you like. Wear what is picked out for you and rock it even if you hate it. Pouting because you don't like your outfit reflects poorly on you as a model (male and female alike) and is disrespectful to the wardrobe stylist. Let them do their job so you can do yours.
If you ever have any questions about your wardrobe, be sure to contact only the wardrobe stylist if there is one. If there isn't, then direct your questions to the photographer and/or the client, whoever is in charge.