It all started with " America's Next Top Model." The Tyra Banks-hosted TV model competition, now in its 15th cycle since debuting in 2003, proved that the business of fashion — played out by packs of volatile young hopefuls — could be fodder for blockbuster TV ratings.
"Project Runway," "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," "Shear Genius" and a slew of other shows steeped in the worlds of fashion, modeling, styling and hairdressing followed.
Fast-forward seven years, and it's nearly impossible to find a major cable network that doesn't feature at least one show centered on fashion or beauty. The genre is burgeoning with new entries such as "Plain Jane," a makeover series that debuted in July on the CW, and " Hair Battle Spectacular," which began last week on Oxygen.
The venerable "Project Runway" kicked off its most recent season July 29 on Lifetime with an expanded 90-minute format. From the chastising "What Not to Wear" to the highly addictive "The Rachel Zoe Project," as a country we're glued to watching people get glam-ified on TV.
Here's a look at a few new and recent fashion-focused additions to the weekly style lineup:
'You're Wearing That?!?'
Following the age-old makeover formula, "You're Wearing That?!?" sees mothers and daughters giving each other head-to-toe makeovers under the direction of ultra-coiffed stylist Luciene Salomone. (A former director of special services for Bergdorf Goodman, she's an able, if slightly icy, host.)
The pilot episode features pseudo-celebs including former "American Idol" contestant Kimberley Locke and "Dallas" actress Charlene Tilton throwing barbs at the "granny pants" and too-tight tops worn by their nearest and dearest. Under Salomone's tutelage, the mother-daughter pairs go shopping to pick out a series of outfits for one another. And the ensuing "reveals" — in front of a pack of excited friends and family — are predictable but satisfying. Bad dye jobs are fixed. Waistlines are cinched. All is right with the world.
Premieres Thursday at 10 p.m. on the WE network.
'She's Got the Look'
"I don't think you can take a bad picture, but I think you have a bad attitude," Robert Verdi, the famously irrepressible stylist, tells one sassy-lipped model in an upcoming episode of "She's Got the Look," TV Land's modeling competition for models over the age of 35.
The show, which has been on the air for two seasons, has received a much-needed overhaul for Season 3: " Dancing With the Stars'" winner and co-host Brooke Burke signed on as host and runway legend Roshumba Williams joined the panel of outspoken judges.
The new mix, paired with a clutch of personality-plus contestants, is bound to make for one of the more interesting fashion shows this season.
Though it follows the "America's Next Top Model" format (there's even a requisite "dangerous" photo shoot with models swinging from suspended wires), the issue of age adds an interesting layer, since contestants come from all walks of life — there's a lawyer and a bus driver, for instance. And because these aren't fresh-faced ingénues vying for the top prize, the stakes feel slightly higher. Says one of the contestants, "'She's Got the Look' is my chance at the life that I thought I should have had."
Season premieres Aug. 25 at 9 p.m. on the TV Land network.
'On the Road with Austin & Santino'
Following "Project Runway" on Lifetime this season is the quirky "On the Road with Austin & Santino," a reality show that follows two of the fashion competition's most charismatic alums, Austin Scarlett and Santino Rice, as they tour small-town America, designing and sewing dresses for women of all stripes — including a teenage rodeo queen and a captain in the U.S. Army.
The half-hour program isn't exactly sizzling with intrigue: The sequence of events (meet the girl, bicker over the dress design, see her beaming in the frock amid her adoring family) never varies an iota.
But its personality-plus stars are worth tuning in for. "I wish I knew how to quit you," Rice says to Scarlett in mock-earnestness in one episode; in another, Scarlett affects a Southern belle persona while touring a plantation home, talking to portraits on the walls. And Scarlett's out-there personal style — Canadian Mountie-style jodhpurs, polka-dot ascots and brazen red lipstick — is always intriguing.
Now airing on Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. on the Lifetime network.
'The Day Before'
"The Day Before," by far the most pedigreed fashion show poised to return this fall, is more docu-series than reality show. The 30-minute behind-the-scenes program documents the lives of major fashion designers during the frenzied 36 hours leading up to a runway show.
Set to air its second season, the show will trail Alexander Wang, Diane von Furstenberg, Narciso Rodriguez, Peter Copping for Nina Ricci, Donatella Versace and L.A.'s Jeremy Scott (a pleasant surprise, considering how venerated the other names are).
The series, directed by documentary filmmaker Loïc Prigent, first aired last September with revealing, often humorous looks into the workings of Proenza Schouler, Sonia Rykiel, Fendi ( Karl Lagerfeld) and Jean Paul Gaultier. Though advanced copies of this season's episodes have yet to be released, this show for true fashion fans promises to be as compelling as ever.
Season premieres Sept. 8 at 10 p.m. on the Sundance Channel.
Want more fashion TV? Try these
These programs offer makeovers, modeling for older women, a new frock and a behind-the-scenes look at fashion shows.
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