Fashion

One 'Runway' Designer Wants Women To Shut Up And Like Their Wedgies

Olivier Green considers his options in this week's episode of Project Runway. i i

Olivier Green considers his options in this week's episode of Project Runway. Barbara Nitke/Lifetime hide caption

itoggle caption Barbara Nitke/Lifetime
Olivier Green considers his options in this week's episode of Project Runway.

Olivier Green considers his options in this week's episode of Project Runway.

Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

One of the things I like about well-made reality shows is that they are often very revealing about attitudes that the holder of the attitude considers perfectly normal and I ... do not.

On last night's Project Runway, the designers faced a challenge that throws some for a loop whenever it comes up: They had to design clothes to be modeled by women who aren't fashion models. Specifically, they worked with men to design clothes for the men's wives and girlfriends. (The wives and girlfriends also had input, of course.) Some of the designers embraced qualities that these women had that their regular tiny, straight-bodied models don't have: Burt created a very low-cut dress for a couple where the man was obsessed with his wife's cleavage, and Kimberly accentuated the curvy behind of a woman who clearly is just fine with her curvy behind, as is her sweetheart.

Olivier, on the other hand, was mortified by the fact that he had to work with what one of my friends would call "a woman made of woman." He didn't even know what double-D breasts were without asking the woman working at the fabric store (and remember — he supposedly designs clothes for women!), and he began complaining immediately about the fact that in addition to hips and a chest, his client had (and this is clearly the worst part) a mouth and a mind of her own.

In a video on the Runway site, Kimberly claims that Olivier is "such a sizeist," and that he constantly calls the models fat. Olivier, on the other hand, says that it's the responsibility of models to "look the way they should look," but he says, "I don't care about real women — they can look however fat they want." "Olivier's freaked out by normal people," Laura Kathleen adds.

In many ways, the weirdest part of his medley of grievances came when he began pining for the models he's used to. "I just really feel like working with a model again," he griped, "and having a non-speaking person just do their jobs and have it done, you know. Not so much talking back." The woman he was working with, by the way, was complaining about things like the fact that the pants were cut so that they — to use the elementary school terminology — gave her a vicious wedgie.

Hey, Olivier: Here's the thing. Even if you can force a model to walk down the runway with a wedgie and she doesn't complain, women don't like wedgies and they will not buy your clothes if you give them wedgies.

It's very, very strange to see a man who designs clothes for women who is so hostile to women's bodies. Not just one who prefers to design for petite women, which is partly a result of extensive experience working with one kind of body but not others. This is a guy who resents both the woman having an opinion about what she wears (which, hello, is the only reason anyone is going to choose to buy your clothes!) and the very fact that women have secondary sex characteristics. I'm sorry to be blunt and perhaps vulgar, but breasts are a feature, not a bug. It's one thing to prefer a skinny model because that's what everyone else puts in their fashion shows and because she's easier to fit. It's another be confronted with a woman who has breasts and give the impression that you have no idea what to do about that.

This is partly just a guy who says dumb things on television without thinking, but it's also partly about a very real part of the fashion industry, which is how much it has to do with anything women would actually wear — and how much it's supposed to. Perhaps it's just art, and you might as well demand that all your models be seven feet tall, because when you make art, you can make it however you like.

This particular show, though, specializes in the idea that clothes are for wearing, not just for looking at. And in this strange little moment, Olivier suggested that they aren't for wearing or for looking at, at least if the person looking is a woman. They're for his expression only, and if you don't shut up and wear them quietly, he just doesn't know what to do with you.

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