One of my guilty pleasures is watching Project Runway. It's a reality series for up-and-coming fashion designers, with weekly challenges that might involve anything from making elegant red-carpet-worthy dresses, to making outfits from material you might find in a camp site.
The reason I love it is the sheer practicality of it all. Each week they make something from scratch, sketch an idea, cut some fabric, fit a model, present a runway look. I'm constantly astounded by the sheer talent of these people, their inspirations and stories and ideas, their finished pieces.
And I have no idea why. Fashion is not my thing. My best needlework comes with buttons and the odd sock I choose to darn. The only thing I can remember making in textiles at school was a huge flag I could take to the football.
But I turn to Project Runway every season, and it's been on air since 2005. But here's my problem. This season, season 17, I find myself just a little irritated by it, for reasons which have nothing to do with the clothes.
Season 17, now showing on Foxtel, was billed as the season of diversity. The designers include a Syrian refugee, a gay man who had to flee India with his lover, a mother of nine kids, young, old, people of colour, of all sexualities. The models are diverse. Different sizes, shapes, races and even gender, with Mimi the first trans woman to hit the catwalk on the show.
But what has irritated me is the attitude of some of the contestants when it comes to embracing this diversity. Don't get me wrong, they all rush to Mimi, with her cheekbones you could slice a tomato on, slim hips and broad shoulders.
But there's two "curvy" models in the line-up who lose out every week. Kate and Asia are gorgeous, tall, voluptuous, women. They're branded with tags, even from the judges, such as "healthy", "plus-size", "curvy", "full-figured", someone even called them "real women", and I wondered what that meant for the rest of the models. Kate was continually dressed in horrible outfits because the contestants admitted they didn't know how to dress "plus-size" women.
The average Australian woman is 164cm and weighs 68kg. She wears a size 14-16, with a 14D bra size. New research suggests the average size of an American woman is now between a 16-18.
As much as the fashion industry purports to cater for real women, for the best part it doesn't.
There was one challenge in season 17 where they had to dress actual women, women who worked as teachers, police, paramedics, one woman drove a garbage truck. It was like some of the designers hadn't even thought that women such as these would be needing clothes at all.
Everyone who's not built like a Victoria's Secret model knows how hard it is to go clothes shopping. We squeeze ourselves into things that might fit our tops but not our bottoms, pull up pants with tiny waists and too long legs, we try on bikinis that barely cover a nipple.
If clothing - if fashion - is meant to make you feel better about yourself, sometimes the mere act of shopping is what defeats you first. Which is why it's always fabulous when you find clothes that work.
Now work it.
By Samantha, Melbourne: Empowers women to be all woman and effortlessly fierce with flatteringly comfortable wrap dresses. Find them at the Handmade Markets or online at bysamantha.net
Birdsnest: A local Cooma business that's been keeping women happy since 2008. They've responded to feedback from customers about the need to clothe a diverse range of shapes and sizes and are developing their own brands to suit. birdsnest.com.au
Hear Us Roar: Nobody puts curvy in the corner. An online marketplace focusing on sizes 12+. They offer online styling consultations and a great range of clothes. I want that jumpsuit. hearusroar.com.au
The Fold: A Melbourne-based swimwear company designing for D+ women. There's nothing worse than bikini tops which give no support. I'll be ordering the Tri bikini before summer starts. thefoldswim.com