Plus Size Designer Wins Project Runway, Life Itself

by Holiday Black

Designer Ashley Nell Tipton is the first plus sized contestant on Project Runway. That alone is huge. Tipton went on to dominate the competition, making it the first ever plus collection to win in the series. The show has been going on for eleven years but has failed to present more body-positive, inclusive styles during that time. Tipton’s winning collection marks a triumph for plus sized designers and the fashion world at large.

Tipton grew up struggling to find clothes in her size…clothes that she actually liked. Her grandmother taught her to sew by hand, and it was in her passing that Tipton applied to be featured on Project Runway. She competed along all straight-sized contestants, which is super important in making plus sized women and plus sized clothing visible. Like all geniuses, however, her success was hard won. Despite having triumphed in numerous competitions, she was picked last by her peer designers in a collaborative contest.

Feeling especially Daria-esque when I say to myself for maybe the 80th time today that, people are cowardly low-life snakes who are afraid of magical beings, but it’s true. I’m just glad that Tipton’s spirit has weathered all of the universe’s bull shit, because her designs reign in just the right amount of spunky chic. 

I think this win is important because it brings plus sized fashion into the mainstream, where it deserves to be….you know, as if plus sized models and designers are human beings or something.  Her win represents more than just a move towards visibility and recognition—it’s also a celebration of her unique talent and vision. 

Her collection is awesome because it’s not trying to hide the fat/plus sized body. Take my words with a grain of salt as I’m a person with thin privilege, but I really like how Tipton uses dramatic body con style cuts and bright colors. I feel like when I’m in the plus sized section sometimes, things look minimal and austere, as if the sheer size of one’s body determines the degree to which it is a site of expression. Her playful prints, varied textures, and sequins (forgive me as I drool all over my keyboard) push the fashion world to acknowledge that these bodies, too, are allowed to scream out as loud as they want to.

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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