Tim Gunn just called out the fashion industry for dismissing plus-size women.

"Project Runway" mentor Tim Gunn took his fashion industry colleagues to task for failing American women in a lacerating op-ed for the Washington Post on Friday.

Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images.

"I love the American fashion industry," Gunn wrote in the column. "But it has a lot of problems" — not the least of which is the dismissive attitude toward women deemed "plus-size," nearly 2/3 of all women in America.


"It’s a puzzling conundrum. The average American woman now wears between a size 16 and a size 18, according to new research from Washington State University. There are 100 million plus-size women in America, and, for the past three years, they have increased their spending on clothes faster than their straight-size counterparts. There is money to be made here ($20.4 billion, up 17 percent from 2013). But many designers — dripping with disdain, lacking imagination or simply too cowardly to take a risk — still refuse to make clothes for them."

The timing of Gunn's column — published to coincide with the first day of New York City's Fashion Week — appears calibrated to capture the attention of his fellow industry professionals, who the TV personality charges with disinterest in — or hostility toward — women with larger bodies.

"I’ve spoken to many designers and merchandisers about this. The overwhelming response is, 'I’m not interested in her.' Why? 'I don’t want her wearing my clothes.' Why? 'She won’t look the way that I want her to look.' They say the plus-size woman is complicated, different and difficult, that no two size 16s are alike. Some haven’t bothered to hide their contempt. 'No one wants to see curvy women' on the runway, Karl Lagerfeld, head designer of Chanel, said in 2009. Plenty of mass retailers are no more enlightened: Under the tenure of chief executive Mike Jeffries, Abercrombie & Fitch sold nothing larger than a size 10, with Jeffries explaining that 'we go after the attractive, all-American kid.'"

Gunn even called out his own TV show, admitting that "Project Runway" has "not been a leader on this issue."

Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images.

Indeed, contestants on the series routinely complain about having to design for women who aren't professional models, and they have, on occasion, belittled their clients for not conforming to their preferred body type.

The problem with sizing goes well beyond a few persnickety fashion designers.

Women's sizes can be vague and misleading — often by design. Early attempts to create a standard sizing chart faltered as researchers discovered that real-life women's bodies had a strange habit of defying standardization.

That, coupled with unforced errors like excluding non-white women from surveys, unrepresentative sampling, and the proliferation of "vanity sizing" — the practice, common among retailers, of marking a garment a size or several lower than its actual dimensions — can make shopping for the right piece of clothing a daunting experience. Not to mention that many outlets make their extended or plus-size clothing only available online, where trying things on involves waiting four-six business days and a whole lot of luck.

But there's good news! It's actually not impossible to design clothes for women of all body types, and some designers are starting to get it.

Designer Christian Siriano, who got his start on "Project Runway," recently created a line for Lane Bryant and has made it a point to work with celebrities of a variety of sizes, most recently "Ghostbusters" star Leslie Jones who, initially, couldn't find a designer to dress her.

This season's "Runway" winner — Ashley Nell Tipton — secured her victory with a show featuring all plus-size models. While Gunn had some harsh words for her designs in the op-ed, dismissing her win as "tokenism" — her new J.C. Penney line has been embraced by women who have long sought plus-size clothes made by an actual plus-size designer.

In 2014, a group of designers and clothing retailers told Refinery29 that, while plus-sizes are often associated with higher cost of manufacturing, a lack of fashion-forward choices might be partly to blame for low sell-through rates.  

Hopefully, Gunn's op-ed can serve as a wake-up call for the rest of the industry.

Photo by Frazier Harrison/Getty Images.

If anyone can convince more fashion designers to "make it work" for the majority of American women, it just might be this guy.

We know that mammals feed their young with milk from their own bodies, and we know that whales are mammals. But the logistics of how some whales make breastfeeding happen has been a bit of a mystery for scientists. Such has been the case with sperm whales.

Sperm whales are uniquely shaped, with humongous, block-shaped heads that house the largest brains in the animal world. Like other cetaceans, sperm whale babies rely on their mother's milk for sustenance in their first year or two. And also like other cetaceans, a sperm whale mama's nipple is inverted—it doesn't stick out from her body like many mammals, but rather is hidden inside a mammary slit.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less