Changing Planet

Project Runway Designers Launch Neanderthal Line for Fall


As days grow shorter and temperatures subside, it’s time to consider the winter wardrobe — especially if you spent the summer naked.

For the cavewoman 28,000 years ago the selection was limited: skins, furs, perhaps something woven from the tall grass.

Stone Age clothing, if it can be called that, most likely served only to trap body heat. There probably wasn’t much intended to make a fashion statement beyond body paint.

But what if the thoroughly modern designers of the hit television show Project Runway could conjure up a range of outfits for the on-the-move woman with the hunter-gatherer lifestyle? What would they do with the available materials?




 Sketch by Blayne Walsh, Project Runway




National Geographic’s Pop Omnivore editor Marc Silver decided to find out.


The model for the exercise was none other than Wilma, the lifesize reconstruction of a Neanderthal woman made for this month’s National Geographic magazine cover story on our nearest human relatives. You met her on this blog three weeks ago.

Paleo-artists used the latest fossil and DNA evidence to produce Wilma. National Geographic staffers named her after the wife of the cartoon character Fred Flintstone.

Because scientists believe that Neanderthals most likely went about naked in the European summer, she did not get clothes.

Designers from both Project Runway and National Geographic sketched outfits for Wilma, although not all of them seemed to reproduce her thick, muscular build.


Sketch by Mollie Bates, National Geographic magazine

View all the sketches on Marc Silver’s Pop Omnivore. Let him know which ones you like best. 


Reconstruction of Neanderthal woman for magazine article by Kennis & Kennis/Photo by Joe McNally/NGS

More from National Geographic News:

PHOTO IN THE NEWS: DNA-Based Neanderthal Face Unveiled

More from National Geographic Magazine:

See How Wilma Was Made (Photo Gallery)

Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn

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