Project Runway All-Stars Challenge Gets It Right–Only One Sour Note

8 Apr
Project Runway All-Star Joshua Ryan winning the challenge on Episode 10, 11 Feb. 2013. Photo from

Project Runway All-Star Joshua Ryan winning the challenge on Episode 10, 11 Feb. 2013. Photo from

Wasn’t it refreshing to see a challenge on Project Runway All Stars featuring female veterans? The disabled were represented as well–something I’d been hoping for on the show for a long time– and designer Joshua Ryan’s elegantly understated, classic-but-modern V-necked dress created for a prosthetic-wearing colonel won this challenge. Joshua even designed an outfit for her service dog!

Hitting a Sour Note

The only sour note issued from one of the judges as the panel examined the designers’ garments on the runway. After praising the style of Joshua Ryan’s just-above knee-length, bordered black dress and noting how happy and confident the Colonel appeared while wearing it, this judge inquired:

“Did you mean to show the prosthetic leg?”


Perhaps the judge was making sure Joshua Ryan hadn’t run out of fabric, as designers sometimes do on the show, and tacked on the border of the dress as an afterthought. That was my first, and most charitable, interpretation. The integrity of the garment, however, negated that theory. To his credit, Joshua Ryan admitted that he had, indeed, intended to reveal his model’s prosthetic. Was he going to lose points for doing so, I wondered?

Disabilities and Aesthetics

Perhaps I am too sensitive, but the judge’s simple question bothered me.  Within it I perceived an assumption that a prosthetic–hence, a disability–needs to be disguised by clothing if that clothing is to be regarded as high quality fashion. Expressed another way, disabled people don’t look good unless they hide their disabilities.


Disabilities are not the same as figure flaws. We might cringe at a non-disabled, plus-size demoiselle sporting a halter top (and muffin top) over tight low-rise jeans or a skinny-mini encased in garb that makes her appear skeletal and moribund. We gasp and giggle at the sartorial choices of People from Wal-Mart (although I haven’t seen anything like them in my local store). But these ladies have choices in what they reveal or hide; disabled women often don’t. Dressing to “go with the flow” with our conditions takes creativity, and that is exactly what Joshua Ryan demonstrated.

Fashion: Taking Up the Slack?

It is challenging to find fashions that address our needs; this is why Elle, Stephanie Thomas, Spashionista, and I are in the blogosphere, and why Ann Oliver  is designing. Joshua Ryan has shown us that mainstream designers have the talent to create for us. I never doubted it. Watching Project Runway and seeing designers compose great-looking garments out of candy wrappers, food,  and other unconventional materials convinced me long ago that the US has many in the fashion world with the ability to dress the disabled stylishly and affordably. Whether they will choose to work with this specialized niche is another question. Despite the judge’s comment, Project Runway All-Stars is to be commended for including a challenge featuring female veterans, and  for selecting Joshua Ryan’s dress as the winning design. May this episode be a sign of future progress!


4 Responses to “Project Runway All-Stars Challenge Gets It Right–Only One Sour Note”

  1. Carol April 8, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

    Well said Sis!

  2. Spashionista April 8, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

    I didn’t take it that way at all. I thought the question was asked to be sure that the client was comfortable with his design because it showed her prosthetic. I seem to remember he asked her about that in their initial consultation and she was very pleased showing it off. I think the judges were looking for his level of accommodation because he wasn’t exactly the most flexible designer in the show LOL.
    Good to see you back writing 😉

    Spashionista (Alicia)

    • desiburger2000 April 8, 2013 at 10:45 pm #

      It has been awhile, hasn’t it? Thanks for your response, Alicia. Good to hear from you, and I am enjoying your blog, as always.

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