Monday, January 16, 2012

Project Runway All-Stars Episode 2: A Night at the Opera

"And now, on with the opera. Let joy be unconfined. Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons, and necking in the parlor." 

Greetings, Project Runway fans!  This week's episode lacked the interpersonal drama that has dominated recent seasons of Project Runway.  In fact, taking a cue from Mr. Marx, there was, indeed, dancing.

Admittedly, I came in late and missed the first 10 minutes.  The challenge was to design a dress that someone would wear to attend the opera.  If I were one of the all-stars, I would have heard "blah blah blah blah, opera, METROPOLITAN OPERA OPENING NIGHT."

Because you know that Georgina Chapman is on the judge's panel and her gowns attend the opening of the New York Metropolitan Opera every year.  

Taylor Momsen in Marchesa (Georgina Chapman's line.)
Georgina Chapman in Marchesa.

So that's what I'd be thinking about, even before I pee my pants when I find out that Mark Badgely and James Mischka round out the judge's panel.

Remember last week when Joanna Coles was saying that she felt more like a graduate student advisor than a mentor?  Well, this week it occurred to me what it is has nothing to do with being a graduate advisor.  My graduate advisor was pissed off that I didn't do the research project he suggested to me and refused to help me after that.  In retrospect, boy, was he a jerk.  Joanna is nothing like that.  She is a nervous magazine editor.  The designers are her employees.  If she's anything, she's a time and risk management coach.

Rami: I'm just not feeling very creative today.
Joanne:  It's like writer's block.  When that happens, I think of something successful that I did.  But I can only give you 15 minutes to do that.  You've got a dress to produce in a day.
Gordana: I was going to crochet a shrug out of these chains.
Joanna: better make sure you have a Plan B.
Joanne is not delivering many value judgements over the content.  She's got a magazine runway show to produce.  And she doesn't want to hear your excuses about not delivering the goods.  Sometimes things go wrong.  Sometimes things don't work.  The ones who get through that are the ones who have a backup plan.  But that backup plan can also spell disaster if too many compromises are made.

So let's look at how all those plan As and Bs came out as we salute the world of opera and those patrons that support it.

Anthony Williams: Venus and Adonis

When Anthony Williams thinks about opera patrons, he thinks about opera-length gloves.  What goes better with black opera-length gloves than a white, Grecian goddess dress....with black shoes and an opera-length necklace worn like a belt?  I don't know if your average denizen of the opera would wear a dress with a neckline that plunged to the navel.  I'm not even sure the attention-craving socialites that attend the opening night of the Met would wear this outfit.  If they did, I can assure you that they'd wear different shoes.  To make it interesting, Anthony designed an asymmetrical bodice--because asymmetry is...artistic or something.

Badgely: Her left breast looks larger than her right.
Mischka: It's the dress.
Badgely: I think it's her.  The dress just makes it worse.
Mischka: Who's the one who took biomedical engineering classes*? 
*It's true! James Mischka started off as a biomedical engineering major at Rice University and ended up with a combined degree in art history and management.

Gordana Gehlhausen:  Salome

Gordana designs classic clothes with an edge.  In this case, she paneled the skirt with veils of sheer and solid fabric, creating an unexpected edge to a very traditional silhouette.  Perhaps it's a bit too unexpected for the average Met Opera attendee.  I'm sure many of these ladies would be loathe to expose their varicose veins, bulges and stretch marks even under translucent fabric.  Leave that seductive seven-veil dance to the performers on the stage.

However the details in the back didn't drape very attractively.  The tightness around the model's hips looks unflattering and uncomfortable.  I think Gordana attempted a dropped waistline at the hip and ended up with an unattractive bulge at the waist and tightness at the hips.  Again, I find it hard to believe that even well executed, this would be a look a woman would want to wear to the Metropolitan Opera.  

Rami Kashou: The Not-So-Merry Widow

To understand this dress is to be aware of all of the compromises that went into it.  This was what Rami wanted to sew.
For some reason, he was unable to achieve the angled gathers at the hipline.  These would have blended the gathers of the bodice into the fullness of the skirt gradually and gracefully.  Had he been able to do this, there would have been no awkward tightness around the model's hips and her curves would have been more than accommodated by the fullness of the skirt.  Now that I think about it, this concept seems extremely ambitious.  Unless he's done it before, a couture-in-a-day challenge is not the time to attempt all those details.  

So, he abandoned the delicate channeling in favor of what looks like a corset.  The result was heavy and made the model look fat.  And the saggy straps look sloppy and unintentional.  

Kenley Collins: La Cenerentola
Having a plan B is nice to have, but sometimes, it's really a shame when you have to resort to it.  Perhaps Kenley didn't buy enough polka dot fabric.  Perhaps Joanne Coles sniffed at her garment in a funny way.  For whatever reason, she had to abandon plan A.

And yes, while the sketch looked like a bad stage rendition of Cinderella's ball gown (yes, there's an opera about Cinderella,) it was a lot  more visually stunning than sticking a polka dot bow on the front of a two-tiered prom dress.  The top tier on the runway dress is a bit too short.  While it adds volume, it cuts the model in thirds, which is awkward and not very flattering.

Mondo Guerra: Madame Betty (Butterfly) Draper

Mondo's inspiration was Madame Butterfly, but from the front, it was all, very chic, Betty Draper.  Any woman would love to be seen at the opera in this dress....however....

Mondo got caught up in the image of the kimono, particularly the obi that ties in the back.  The bow resembles the aiko musubi obi knot.  Even just that would have been intriguingly evocative.  But for some reason, he added a half skirt with a train.  I'm not sure opera denizens want to contend with trains and large bows, particularly when navigating those rows in the balcony.  From the front and the back, they are two different dresses.  Mondo should have picked one.

Mila Hermanovski: The Queen of Spades

Trying to prove that she can do more than manipulate bold stripes, Mila knocked out a stunning evening gown.  It was perfectly suited to the request, but perhaps not as memorable as some of the other entries.  Still, I can see a woman of any age confidently wear this dress to the opera.

Jerell Scott: Amal and the Night Visitors

Jerell's take on an easy empire waisted dress was messed up by the fluffy bodice treatment and the voluminous gathering in the back.  It's a shame because I like the idea of the sheer fabric at the top.  It's too bad that he didn't try to transition the sheer to the print in some other way and rein in the gathers a little bit. The whole thing looks like a tent.

April Johnston: Lady Macbeth

Boil, boil, toil and trouble!
April: I was going to use feathers to add volume at the shoulder.
Joanne: you have a plan B?

Joanne meant well.  And perhaps, by the time she saw the garment, April had made too many changes from her original design and her drawn Plan B.  What's the  deal with that triangular detail on the bustline?

She abandoned the radiating gathers at the bottom and went with the fuller skirt version.  She got talked out of the feathers by Joanna. She decided against the more complicated folded fabric at the shoulder and something possessed her to dye the fabric.

The final effect looks like the model singlehandedly tried to mop up the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Something wicked this way comes, indeed!

Kara Janx: The Knot Garden

I want to like this dress.  We all want to like this dress, don't we?  It has pockets, for goodness gracious sakes!  The belt draws the eye to the waist, which can be slimming against such light fabric.  But....but...but...didn't Jessica McClintock already make this dress in the 1980's?  Her version had the belt at the actual waistline, however.  There's nothing modern or innovative about this dress.  Kara Janx makes beautiful clothes, but we have yet to see her bring her design ideas to a challenge.  This is pretty generic.

Sweet P: La Traviata

Poor Sweet P.  This is her second attempt at an All-Star competition and like the first, this one went off the rails quickly.  One of the biggest critiques was that the print was just too drab.  Badgley-Mischka would have preferred the skirt fabric on the bodice and the bodice fabric for the skirt.  But Sweet P's vision was so much different.

It's too bad Mood didn't stock some incredibly big prints.  It's a shame she didn't have time to applique big flowers to the skirt.  At the very least, it would have been an improvement if she had made both the skirt and bodice from the same fabric and used the salmon fabric to execute a wide waistband--as in her sketch.  By abandoning the band, she was left with an awkward transition from the bodice to the skirt.

Should Sweet P been booted off this week?  For me, it was a toss up between her dress and April's oil spill.  April would have been sent home this week had I been puppetmaster.  But it's not up to me.  So, Sweet P, Addio del passato.

Michael Costello: La Rondine

I love this dress from the front. 

And while the feather and beaded detail is pretty exuberant

it creates a nice shape, all put together.  

Michael can ride the vulgarity line from time to time.  He skirted it with the back of this dress.

Would you wear this to an opera or a cocktail party at a cabaret?  How about wearing it to an opera about a cocktail party at a cabaret?   Isaac Mizrahi said that this dress would be perfect for Kim Kardashian to wear to the opera, if she went to an opera.  If she's not available, Angela Lindvall gladly volunteered to wear the dress.

Austin Scarlett: La Tosca

All that glittered for Austin this week was, indeed, gold.

It was stunning and cleverly designed.  I appreciated the contrast that the interwoven black tulle provided, but my only qualm was that he left the tulle dragging in the back.

It seemed stuck on and haphazardly added.  I think the effect would have been just a little more refined with a sheer black overlay, rather than the tulle.  In the real world, this dress would be in shreds just getting out of the limousine.  Still, it was perfectly fitted. While I preferred Michael's dress by the slimmest of margins, I'm ok with Austin's win this week.

Clearly, a time crunch also crunches creativity.  This batch of designers doesn't fall apart easily, but it is a shame that we never saw some of the stunning garments that they originally envisioned.  Time was certainly the enemy this week.

Next week, the enemy is Miss Piggy.  See you then!

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