If you’re going to design clothes for a bigger woman, you need to use a bigger dress form. And you need to showcase them on bigger models. Period.
I mostly liked this episode. I think the “teams” concept is working out well, way the hell better than I’d expected. I was worried that when the designers got split into two-person teams, the co-operative love-fest would wither on the vine; but they mostly seem to be getting along and working well together, and it’s paying off — both in the quality of their designs, and in how much fun the show is to watch. The “performance outfit + red carpet look for Miranda Lambert” challenge was a bit limited in terms of creativity — any time you’re designing clothes for one particular person, you’re working in a pretty narrow window, especially when that one person’s aesthetic isn’t all that creative or interesting — but it is the kind of challenge that designers have to face in the real world, and it’s always interesting to see how the PR contestants work their personal visions into someone else’s style. (Or laughably fail to do so.)
So I was trying to put my finger on what it was that was bugging me about this episode… when I read this comment from Qitkat, one of Tom and Lorenzo’s Bitter Kittens commentariat, in a discussion of how the challenge would have worked better if Lambert had done an in-the-workroom consult during the design process:
A consult, absolutely. When a challenge has been *make a dress for Heidi or Nina*, they have always come into the workroom. SJP came to the workroom for a consult for her line; I’m positive there have been other consults. At the least, a video conference.
Along with models who more resembled Miranda’s size.
Along with models who more resembled Miranda’s size.
Miranda Lambert is a pretty average-sized woman, from what I can tell. Probably smaller than average. But she’s not an average-sized celebrity woman. She’s bigger and curvier than most high-profile actresses/ singers/ models/ celebutantes. And when the designers were given this challenge, they were specifically told that Lambert loves her curves, and embraces them. (The look she had on the PR judging panel was doing her no favors, IMO: but in general, she’s a nice-looking woman who seems to love her body as it is, and seems to have fun with it.)
So why the hell were the designers designing for the same damn rail-thin model size they always do?
Speaking as someone who has been many different sizes over the course of her life — hell, someone who’s been many different sizes in the last few years: You cannot — repeat, CANNOT — just design an outfit for a Size 0, and expect it to work on a bigger woman simply by expanding it in all directions. Different cuts and styles look good on different-sized bodies. What looks good on a size 18 isn’t generally what looks good on a size 12; what looks good on a size 12 isn’t generally what looks good on a size 6; what looks good on a size 6 isn’t generally what looks good on a size 0. And you can’t always tell which is which just by picking up a dress and looking at it. At various sizes in my life, there’s been many a time when I’ve picked something off the rack that I thought would be a disaster but that caught my eye as being worth a shot; tried it on; and fell head over heels in love. And of course, the opposite is true: there’s been many a time when I’ve picked something off the rack that I was sure would be hot shit, tried it on, and couldn’t shudder out of it fast enough.
(This principle doesn’t just apply to weight, by the way. Different clothes look good on people of different heights, different body structures, different skin colors, different hair colors, different ages, etc.)
So if you’re designing an outfit for Miranda Lambert, you really need to think about questions like, “What would look good on Miranda Lambert?” Not just, “What is Miranda Lambert’s general sense of style?”: that should be your starting point, of course, but you also need to ask, “What will make Miranda Lambert’s curves look popping and voluptuous and hot, and what will make them look boxy, or cheap, or just out of proportion?” And you bloody well need to showcase it on a model who looks at least vaguely like Miranda Lambert.
So given that we had to look at outfits made for a curvy, voluptuous woman, showcased on standard rail-thin models… how did the designers do with this concept?
I think Richard killed it. He got Lambert’s “little bit country, little bit rock and roll” vibe, and nailed it. Country = fringe; rock and roll = chain; make fringe out of chains. There was enough chainy fringe that it would read loud and clear from a distance (which performance wear needs to do), without overwhelming her frame. (More on that in a sec.) And the underlying dress had a good structure: nothing super-exciting, but it’s structured enough that it could work on an hourglass shape, and it’s simple enough to let the fringe do the talking.
Amanda, on the other hand, made a gorgeous, “glam plus wild child,” “country plus rock and roll” dress… for a Size 2. Solid, torso-covering, chest-to-knees, flapper-style fringe is almost impossible to make work if you have big boobs. Richard’s fringe was less dense, and let the shape of the body underneath show through: I think on Miranda Lambert it would showcase her body, and her motion on stage, without hiding it. Amanda’s fringe on Lambert’s body would, I’m guessing from my own experience, make her look like a lampshade.
Note to Benjamin: Strapless is really, really hard to do if you have big boobs. If for no other reason, it’s hard to find a strapless bra that gives you enough support… and even then, it often tends to look crass. Or else you have to be strapped into the dress so tight, it makes the poor girls look like they’re mummified and struggling to breathe, which kind of defeats the purpose. You pretty much need major architectural corsetry built into the dress to make it work. Which this dress doesn’t have. And the sparkly pocket protector over the one boob would, I think, swing this dress over hard into the “crass” side. It already looks somewhat crass on this small-breasted model: on someone with big boobs, it’s going to look like her breasts won a blue ribbon at the county fair. I do like the ruching around the waist and hips, though: that’s a good look for a curvy girl.
The judges were right about this, Stanley. Lots of full, drapey fabric around the hips is a bad idea for a curvy woman. If you’re proud of your size and your curves, and want to show them off, it looks apologetic, like you’re hiding. If you’re not comfortable with your size and curves and want to downplay them, it makes you look bigger. And this neckline just made me think of what Joanna Coles kept saying in Project Runway All-Stars: Will designers please remember that most women wear bras? Especially curvy women. (On the other hand, Lambert herself wore a super-plunging neckline to the Grammys this year, so maybe I shouldn’t complain.)
I was skeptical about Kate’s look at first… but the more I look at it, the more I like it. Leather corset? Hell, yes! It can go a little “Ride of the Valkyries” if you have curves, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I think the proportions of the long-line, over-the-hips corset look a little off on this model… but I think they could show off Lambert’s hips and curves beautifully. It brought a nice, rock-and-roll edge to a glam dress. And it was one of the few Red Carpet looks this week that didn’t look either boring or vile. I would have liked it better with princess seaming instead of straight seaming, though.
Boring, but fine. And actually, it’d probably be a lot less boring on Miranda Lambert. That neckline is beautifully designed to showcase substantial cleavage, while giving it support and looking elegant. Not very imaginatively designed… but it seems that Layana heard, “Miranda loves her curves,” and took it to heart. Give the woman a gorgeous diamond necklace, and she could work this all the way.
Are you fucking kidding me?
Patricia’s thing wouldn’t look good on anyone. You could put Patricia’s thing on the most conventionally beautiful A-list actress or model in the world, with the most fashionable body of the week, and she’d end up in Fashion Police. As for how it would work on Miranda Lambert… see above, about both “strapless” and “chest-to-hips fringe.” Shudder.
Tu: A very nice look for a slim New Yorker. Totally wrong for Miranda Lambert: both in terms of what works with her body, and what works with her aesthetic.
Right, Michelle. Because what every girl wants is a giant shredded lump of leather hanging around her throat, like she got attacked by a mountain lion while wearing a lobster bib. See above, re Patricia: This would not look good on anybody.
And what every girl wants — especially every curvy girl — is lots of tortured leather piled onto her bodice, so you can’t actually see her torso, and yet can’t stop staring at it. Like a road accident. Not to mention a skirt that bunches tightly around the hips, with a center slit and seam up the front like an arrow pointing to her coochie. And that tablecloth fringe. Shudder. Daniel, Daniel, Daniel… what were you thinking?
Okay. Samantha’s is a hot mess. That skirt looks like curtains, and cheap curtains at that. But I’m going to give this one an A for effort. The concept is actually pretty good: leather vest with a V-neck and a little shape built into it, short fringy skirt. Very “country plus rock and roll,” very flattering to curves, and I bet it’d be comfortable to move in on stage. If she’d actually pulled it off, this might have been in the top for me.
I don’t know what to say about Matthew’s look. Which maybe, by itself, is a good enough reason for him to have gone home. The structured bodice and A-line skirt is okay; but again, strapless is hard to pull off if you’re curvy — and if you’re curvy, strapless plus a short skirt can look tawdry if it isn’t done just right. Which this wasn’t. This was just boring, without the virtue of elegance. I’ll always respect Matthew as the man behind the PR kilt, and I strongly suspect he got sent home this week because the others on the bottom have more personality and make for better TV… but I can’t work up a huge head of outrage about it.