For its 16th season, Project Runway is doing something unheard of in the world of fashion: making designer and couture clothing for women of all shapes and sizes. That’s right! Real clothes for real women with real bodies!
Models on Season 16 range in body types and sizes from 0-22. Up until now, there has been an almost complete absence of designer clothing above size 12. According to a study from the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education, the average American woman is a size 16. So, the question posed by Project Runway mentor Tim Gunn and many others is: Where are the high fashion clothes that women can actually buy and wear? T
hat is the challenge for designers this season and it promises to create lots of drama. For the most part, these designers are out of their element designing garments for plus-size women, and the repercussions of this fact unfold throughout the season.
“It was about time,” Nina Garcia told Good Morning America. “You know, the perception of beauty really changes throughout the times. We went from like Twiggy to the supermodel to the waif. Now, happily, the industry is embracing body diversity and so are we. I’m very proud to be a part of a show that has full-figured women, real women, designers designing for real body types.” For years now, Tim Gunn, former Liz Claiborne chief creative officer, has been campaigning to fix the lack of body inclusivity within the fashion industry.
He won a huge victory with this season when Lifetime agreed to feature women of various body types on its reality-based fashion competition show. The models are chosen for the contestants by the judges and production staff, and are rotated often, so each week brings new obstacles for the would-be design stars.
“I’ve been wanting to do this for quite a number of seasons,” Gunn says. “To be blunt, the network has been quite nervous about it. The whole fashion industry is nervous, despite the fact that people are now talking about size inclusivity.” Real women do not fit into any mannequin mold and it is time that designers and the fashion industry realized this. What is flattering to one woman’s body may be unflattering to another’s, making diversity in design vital. It important that all women be allowed to look and feel beautiful in their clothes.