Sixteen seasons in, and “Project Runway” has finally figured out how to make it work for women of all shapes and sizes.
The new season will include models with diverse body types for the designers to work with when it starts August 17, judges Heidi Klum, Zac Posen and Nina Garcia told “Good Morning America” last week. Previously, the show’s regular weekly models were straight size only, with designers encountering other body types only when a challenge included family members or other non-models.
Positive change and more representation is always welcome ― after all, the average American woman is now between a size 16 and 18 ― but Garcia gave a somewhat disappointing explanation for the change.
“The perception of beauty really changes throughout the times,” Garcia told host George Stephanopoulos. “We went from 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 part of a show that has full-figured women, real women, designers designing for real body types.”
The fact that she considers jumping from Twiggy to the supermodel a major shift in high fashion beauty ideals is pretty much the problem: From Twiggy to Naomi Campbell is a leap of two dress sizes. We also wish Garcia recognized that all bodies are “real bodies,” but okay.
To its credit, the show has both embraced more body diversity and includes more body-positive personalities than some of its peers. Christian Siriano, a regular guest judge who got his start winning season four, is widely considered to be a pioneer in the inclusivity movement, featuring plus-size models in his runway shows and dressing women of all shapes and sizes. Posen designs an affordable plus-size line for David’s Bridal.
Most notably, show MVP Tim Gunn has long been vocal about his disdain for exclusivity in the industry and the lack of fashionable options for women above a certain size. We’d be curious to hear his thoughts on this new development, considering he also believes the show once went too far, pandering to the body-positive movement by selecting Ashley Nell Tipton as its season 14 winner despite her designs being “hideous.” “Her victory reeked of tokenism,” he wrote in a September 2016 column for Washington Post in which he blasted the industry for its lack of plus size options.
For now we’ll give the show the benefit of the doubt that it’s not just looking for a way to drive viewership or generate headlines, as Gunn suggested it did with Tipton. It’s worth noting that “Project Runway” reached “some of its best numbers in target demos in two years” during Tipton’s season, according to Variety.
Either way, we’ll certainly be tuning in to see how its designers handle dressing people of all different shapes and sizes.