Project Runway Season 16 Recap: One Size, Many Sizes

Welcome back, once again my friends to the show that never ends, at least not until it becomes unprofitable for Lifetime. It’s Project Runway Season 16.

Project Runway is back everyone! Not only is it back, but it’s back somewhere vaguely close to where it belongs in the television schedule, premiering in the summertime, before New York Fashion Week. Last season, Lifetime attempted to unhook the show completely from the Fashion Week world and debuted the season almost a month after the finalist walked their collections. Technically it worked, but it also forced the finale to happen so late in the year, most fans had stopped paying attention.

This year, we’re back to starting in a place in the calendar where the finale will happen before any holiday interruptions, though we suspect the NYFW presentation will still find itself completely divorced from the TV goings on. The irony: As the exclusive world of fashion finally accepts PR alumni showing lines during their four days of clothing insanity, the TV show draws back from even pretending they ever had fashion world pretensions.

Let’s talk about that drawing back, because one of the results of doing so has caused Project Runway to do something unprecedented this year: they’ve stopped going with industry standard models.


The reasons for this are twofold. The first is because designing for “real women” has become Tim Gunn’s pet cause in the last couple of years, and he’s spent the last couple of NYFW press rounds calling out the industry for sizism. (ProjRun winner Christian Siriano making his bones on plus sized actresses helps as well.) The second reason is ratings. Season 14, where the first plus sized designer won, was the highest rated season in years. It brought the aging reality show more press and attention than they’d had since the fight over moving from Bravo to Lifetime in 2006. You don’t argue with those kinds of numbers.

If plus-size brings to eyeballs, plus-sized it will be. Sorry “I don’t design clothes for large women” boys. The models will be reassigned every week, so that everyone has a chance to join in the plus-sized fun! The models will also get interview time with the camera, which is Lifetime’s official move back to trying to make the models happen, a think that has yet to succeed in a decade since they’ve tried it. It’s ok that they’re plus-sized, Lifetime, but we still don’t care what they think.

As always our first challenge begins the moment Heidi and Tim arrive, and will be to design something that “shows who they are as a designer.” As always, it’s a one day challenge, because Lifetime increased the size of the models, not the budget. What the challenge is not, for the first time in many years, is an Unconventional Materials challenge. I suppose the show felt that plus-sized was enough of a challenge the first time out, and allowing everyone to shop at Mood would calm the nerves. Instead, they’ll make red carpet wear.


Let’s see what Tim thinks of the designers’ first attempt at dressing to impress.

  • Kenya: She’s doing an Oscars strapless ice cream colored gown. Tim likes it.
  • Amy: Our token older lady is doing a cigarette pant.
  • Aaron: The pink haired boy is doing something with buttons that looks unfortunate.
  • Samantha: She’s going for ultra feminine yet badass. Tim agrees.
  • Kentaro: A former classical pianist, he is doing black and white two piece with a skirt.
  • Margarita: She’s doing a Palazzo pant and a cape in red.
  • ChaCha: He’s likes cute stuff. His outfit so far looks like it’s for a Kawaii red carpet. Tim looks ill, but tells him to commit.
  • Claire: Twin with hair calls herself the feminine one. She’s going sheer.
  • Shawn: Bald Twin is going for a clean design with disco shorts.
  • Kudzanai: Older gentleman who has candy cane colored fabrics. Tim thinks it’s great in concept.
  • Michael: He’s loves a sense of tackiness, we says as he shows sparkly fur and bling. And how.
  • Ayana: Our headscarf wearing Muslim is going to prove modest isn’t boring. I approve anyway.
  • Sentell: The man from 1993 is cropping pants with ankle zippers.
  • Batani: She’s all in on embellishments, which leads Tim to ask where the design is underneath the schmutz.
  • Deyonté: He’s got a plus-sized model and has discovered draping might be his friend.
  • Brandon: The stoned hippie isn’t into red carpet, so he’s just trying to make a basic look out of super lux fabrics. Tim is bored.

The model fittings come next, with only three hours left in the day (and two hours to work the next.) I still don’t care about the models opinions. Instead I care who managed to make something to measure properly the first time, and who are having total disasters. Like Brandon, who is still working in muslin, Batani where things look awkward, and Kenya, who better be a time management genius to finish.

Skipping over the hotel commercial to day of runway, and ChaCha has committed. Hey, pink ruffles are a choice. An MTV Movie Awards choice, but a choice. Meanwhile, Tim arrives to remind us the accessory wall is sponsored by JC Penny’s this year (of all places), but even more shockingly, to reveal there is no hair sponsor. The Beauty Salon is branded, but it’s “our hair studio.” Wow guys. The pens are fucking sponsored for sketching, but the hair salon is not? 2017 is very weird.

Let’s go down to the runway, and have ourselves a show.


Heidi is wearing a black jumpsuit, with her cleavage accented with a bow. Zac and Nina are in residence. With them is guest judge Olivia Munn, who wore black without a bow to accent her cleavage, to be safe. She’s here to promote the Lego Nina Movie — the one with live action kittens! The Tim Gunn Save™ is in effect, as is the AnthonyRyan Rule™.

Mushy  Middle:


Kudzanai: The challenge was to make a red carpet outfit, not an outfit from red carpet.


Claire: Red carpet, Orange sherbet.


Amy: Fussy cape to skirt stuff.


Sentell: 27th century red carpet wear.


Kentaro: Red carpet piano player.


Michael: Cheap fabric, good cut.


Aaron: Top’s trying too hard.


Samantha: Boooooring.


Margarita: Scarlett The SuperVillain.


Ayana: Gorgeous gown with a stunning hijab. *stands up and applauds* 



Brandon: This is meant for teenagers. He says “Billboard music awards.” The judges agree. They also love that he showed a plus sized model’s midriff. I feel like it wasn’t dressy enough for any red carpet, but I can see where they’re coming from even if this is not my cup of tea.


Kenya: She made an Oscar red carpet ready gown with pocket. My hero. Heidi is floored she whipped out a mermaid gown in one day. Nina and Zac are in love with it. Olivia loves the pockets, because POCKETS.


Deyonté: That’s an Emmy winning gown. I mean, I could see Viola Davis wearing that to win a Best Actress. Nina is loving it. Zac calls it “Michelle Obama.” Heidi loves the print. He wins the challenge.



Shawn: Red carpet mall wear. Heidi is polite: “unbalanced.” Zac is more blunt: “hooker-y.” Nina says “You can’t be best dressed if you’re not wearing clothes.” Still, she’s sent to safety first.


Batani: It looks like a bathing suit with curtains for legs and some schmutz on it. Nina says she wanted to camouflage the plus sized model’s body. That’s Exactly What The Judges Don’t Want.


ChaCha: It’s a sparkle garbage bag. Heidi calls it a scrunchie and a tent. Zac gets it, but it’s not enough of a design. Nina says it’s shapeless.

Between failing to understand you don’t cover the model’s plus sized body, and making a sparkle garbage bag, the show chose to send home… the garbage bag. Cha cha, ChaCha.

Next week: The Unconventional Materials Challenge.


2 thoughts

  1. the bald twin should have gone home. those shorts and ridiculous top were an F You to the entire competition. but they kept her for ratings or something.. who in their right fashion mind thinks that stupid top is cool let alone wearable!?


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