Week in Review
Tim Gunn of Project Runway fame is under the gun for making some very sensible statements. Anyone looking at this from the standpoint of business (for fashion is a business to sell clothes) can see no ignorance in what businessman Tim Gunn said (see Tim Gunn says he feels “conflicted” about transgender models by Katie Mcdonough posted 2/24/2014 on Salon).
In an interview with the Huffington Post that ran Monday, “Project Runway” mentor Tim Gunn said he feels “conflicted” about gender nonconforming and transgender models in the industry. Gunn framed his comments as being in support of positive body images and diverse representation in modeling, but he actually just reinforced destructive (and false) body norms and revealed his own ignorance about trans people, both in fashion and outside the industry.
Discussing Andrej Pejic, who self-identifies as gender fluid and prefers to use feminine pronouns, Gunn said, “The fact that fashion designers would put basically adolescent-shaped boys or men in women’s clothes is head-scratching for me because, anatomically, women and men have different shapes. So, to be looking at women’s fashion on a tall, skinny guy with no hips, there’s no way you can project yourself into those clothes…
When asked about his thoughts on out transgender models in the industry, Gunn called it a “dicey issue.”
“On one hand, I don’t want to say that because you were a man and now you’re a woman, you can’t be in a women’s fashion show. But I feel it’s a dicey issue. The fact of the matter is, when you are transgender — if you go, say, male to female — you’re not having your pelvis broken and having it expanded surgically. You still have the anatomical bone structure of a man.”
This is a very important point. A transgender model who is modeling women’s fashion is not going to have the same curves as the women who may buy these clothes. Which is not going to help women see what these clothes may look like on them with their more curvy frames. Or help the clothing line sell their clothes. What sells fashion is showing curvy women how their glorious curves will be even more glorious in their clothes. From a business standpoint it makes no sense to use transgender models to model women’s fashions. For the vast majority of their market has curves (according to a 2011 Williams Institute study only 0.3% of adults identify themselves as transgender). You can make a political statement by using a transgender model. But it’s probably not going to help sell your line. Which is ultimately the business of fashion.