Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Project Runway Cuts a Designer for Dressing a Professional Woman in a Suit

I’m addicted to watching Bravo TV’s PROJECT RUNWAY even though I know little about fashion and care even less. It’s the creativity motivated by each challenge that intrigues me.

This week’s episode found the remaining six designers facing the assignment of designing a makeover look for recent college grads starting out on the path of their professional lives. And the designers had to also please the mothers of these young women.

The young women ranged in career paths from possible med school to photographer to graphic designer. And it was for the graphic designer that the hapless fashion designer created a suit look.

One of the judges reamed him for creating a look with all the “clichés” – a woman in a suit with a pocket square in her breast pocket.

Personally, I’m old enough to remember when it was novel that designers created suits for business women. I even did a news story for the (now defunct) Philadelphia Bulletin about a Philly department store that opened a department for suits for professional women (rather than suits for traditional social functions attended by “ladies”).

In fact, I was so excited to be able to buy such a suit in which to interview as I neared graduation from Wharton’s MBA program that I actually made the fashion mistake of buying a purple linen suit to wear in March in LA. Only once in LA wearing my purple linen suit and surrounded by women in dark suits did I realize that professional women wore “winter” colors and fabrics in LA during the winter months.

The look that got the fashion designer cut from Project Runway was surely too formal for a young woman interviewing for a graphic designer position. Yet in my time the brightly patterned blouse worn under the pinstripe suit material would probably have produced fainting spells among any women and men who spotted the off-beat blouse.

I’m happy for young women starting out today that fashion dictates now allow them a much wider range of styles in which to express themselves and still look professional.

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