Sunday, February 24, 2013

Project Runway, Season 11, Episode 5: Fringe Benefits

Greetings, Project Runway fans!

This week started off with a tragedy that it will take some time to get over.

"Oh, tell me about it..."
No, no, not THAT tragedy.  The OTHER one.

"Designers, we've tired of the teams.  We're breaking you up....into partners!"
And this week, the designers had a very special client.

"We have this crazy cousin who doesn't know how to dress.  She is such a disgrace...these young people today."
"Who are you calling 'crazy'?"

No, no, not THAT one.

"Our cousin, Miranda, is a....singer.  We're not happy about that, but what can we do?  She simply doesn't wear clothes that are flattering...."

"At award shows....she makes the most dreadful choices.  On stage...."

"It's even worse."

"Her wardrobe is bringing dishonor to the Crawley family.  Yes, she is a Lambert, but anyone who dresses like that is a scandal to us all.  Surely you can help us, can't you? Maybe you could use that modern styling detail all the young people love so much....fringe."
Miranda Lambert is an award winning country music star.  Her personal style is less Dolly Parton and more Lita Ford.  Her figure is quite curvy and her weight fluctuates, which poses some challenges for our design teams, each of which must produce a performance look and a red carpet look.  Let's see how our teams of two did this week.

Layana and Patricia

When the going gets tough, the tough make fringe.
Patricia went on and on about how her Native American family had to make their own clothes for pow wows.  "They don't sell this stuff in stores."  So she managed to whip out some fringe for an onstage look....

...which would turn Miranda into Pocahantas.  The cross straps have little holsters for bullets, so maybe she's really Pancho Villa.  I realize that Miranda had a big hit with "Gunpowder and Lead" but the protagonist of that song didn't need more than one or two bullets.  This is overkill in so many ways.

Layana made a mullet dress.

Tight around the torso, flaring out at the thighs....did she take a close look at the woman for which she was designing?

Daniel and Samantha

"You realize I have immunity this week, so chances are, I'm going to slack off.  Don't pick this week to make a fugly outfit."

While not exactly "slacking off," this outfit did not impress the judges.  They found the skirt too cutesy and vest rather dull.  

I, on the other hand, thought this outfit was completely in Miranda's wheelhouse.  The skirt could have been a bit longer, however.  All the protestations about the ruffles making her bottom look bigger...please refer to the blue and orange performance dresses above.  This would be a huge improvement.  Also, note, this is how you extend a garment to lengthen the torso for a big gal.  Don't wrap the butt completely in leather.  Just extend down toward it.  I think it was a very smart design.

Daniel, on the other way too impressed with his own technical skill.

The bodice is finished with soutache, which is a braided, ruffled treatment of strips of fabric.
He ran around telling everyone about his amazing soutache finish.

"I'm doing a 'soutache'!"
I don't know about you, but 'soutache' reminds me of something Ethel tried to make for Lady Isobel.

"Ethel, it is to be a simple picnic luncheon.  It hardly calls for something as complex as a soutache.  Perhaps a nice salad and some sliced cheese, instead."
Perhaps Daniel should have spent a little bit of that time making sure that the shape of the skirt wasn't so unsightly.  The fit in the hips was too tight and the skirt flared out at an awkward position.  He distressed and fringed the slit and hem of the skirt in an attempt to give it texture and ended up just making it look cheap.

Kate and Tu

"I don't know any country music.  Why don't we just dress her up like Lady Gaga?"
I loved the idea of Kate's red carpet look way more than I loved the execution.  The front is fine...but the back?  Could you imagine what Miranda's bottom would look like in this dress?  The corset look was the right way to go, but please, for the love of all that is holy, don't continue on to the keister.  This is an outfit designed to make anyone, even an emaciated Jessica Chastain look-alike, look fat.
Also, the skirt puddles aukwardly.

Tu toned down the Gaga elements after Tim expressed concern.  He originally had fins on the chest and hips.  Tim was concerned about how it would look on Miranda.  I was thinking that Miranda has to strap on a guitar.  You don't want to make that too difficult.  Gaga sits at a piano and can do that in all sorts of get-ups.

Ben and Amanda

"Last week, we were both in the bottom.  We've got to step it up!"  "I know...let's use FRINGE!"
And they did just that this week. 

Amanda's dress was black with a chevron-patterned, leather fringe all around.  The dress moved beautifully.  Somehow, she managed to make it look funky without making it look like a flapper dress.  She also designed it so that YOU COULD WEAR A REGULAR BRA!  Miranda loved the dress.

In an effort to be cohesive, Ben added a fringe element to the bodice.  I thought it was completely unnecessary, but the judges seemed to understand why it was there.  This week, unlike two weeks ago, he carefully made an effective understructure for the dress so the bodice was supported appropriately.
"I don't know if I could wear such a flimsy dress.  Look at me."
"Oh no.  We beg to differ.  Miranda should be wearing more dresses like these."
I agree.  When she's in a flowing dress that does not add volume, she looks spectacular.

The key is good bodice support.

Stanley and Richard

What a team they made.

"Let's see...what crazy thing can I do to make Stanley completely nervous.  Oh yeah...FRINGE!"
"See, this is the dress you really want, Miranda. My fringe has chains!"
"We can't decide which fringe dress we like best."
"When I have a tough decision to make, I simply inform the staff and they consult their Ouija board."
"R-I-C....You're moving it!"  "No I'm not!"
So Richard's dress won the battle of the fringe.  Not everyone is happy with this decision, however.

"You are NOT going to wear a fringed dress with chains when you play me!  How dare you even think of scratching me up like that?"
In case you thought I forgot about Stan....I did not, nor did the judges.  Stan's dress lacked support in the bodice and flared out much too much at the hips.   Just a bit more attention to the details on his garment and a little less worrying about Richard's crazy ideas could have put him in contention this week.
Melissa and Matt

There were so many bad decisions here, it's hard to know where to start.  Melissa knew the fringed necklace was a bad idea.  She made fun of it for being a bad idea.  But still, she included it.  Then, despite protestations of everyone in the room, including Tim, she soldiered on with a denim skirt for the red carpet.  The skirt was heavy and hard for the emaciated model to walk in.  Let's not even begin to think of what this would look like on Miranda Lambert.  Still, the vest was a gorgeous piece of workmanship, which she covered up with a pointless piece of jewelry.  She was nearly given the boot this week for letting her styling get in the way of her workmanship.  

Which turned out to be better than having no style at all.

This is not a bad dress.  It's certainly not the worst dress to walk the runway this week, in my opinion.  It was weakly justified, however, and all you could see was Matt's insecurities.  The judges really hate that.  It does look a little too much like a "goth cheerleader."  If the skirt had been a tad longer and the top had had some visual interest of some sort, coupled with a stronger point of view he would have been safe.  But poor, meek Matt was given the heave ho this week.

"Well, thanks for the opportunity to showcase my work."
"That's the spirit, old chap!  The sun is shining.  You have your whole life before you.  Let's go for a drive, shall we?"
See you next week for more team drama.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Project Runway Season 11, Episode 4: Hardware and Hydrangeas

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!

 This week was the unconventional materials challenge.  Because they've been trying to mix things up with the format a bit this year, they put every element into this to make it impossible to go wrong.

We're going to a hardware store...
...and we're going to a flower market! 

And Bette Midler is on the panel!
The each team had two days and a generous budget to produce at least six looks.  No one look had to use both flowers and hardware, but don't you think the winner would be the one that did?  Nothing was said about cohesiveness, but each team knew going in, from experience, that the judges liked cohesiveness.

The teams got mixed up this week.  Dream Team was able to pick two members from Keeping it Real and Keeping it Real got to pick one member from Dream Team.  Stan and Layana went over to Dream Team and Michelle went over to Keeping it Real.   We learned some things through this transaction.

  • Benjamin has been paying closer attention to interpersonal dynamics than anyone else.  He knew that Dream needed organization and Stan was the key to that.
  • The judges may not have noticed Michelle's talents, but the other designers have.
  • Keeping it Real thought that their "ace in the hole" was Daniel.  Turned out, maybe it was Stan!

The effect of the trade-off was noticed immediately.

Stan quickly unified the Dream Team around a theme--1950's Dior.   Without their real leader, Keeping it Real designers just volunteered their ideas for looks, each acting in their own individual interest.  Well into the second day, when they realized they had no cohesive factor,  they scrambled a story about "decades" together.  The force-fit theme didn't work with the judges.  Let's see how they did.

Dream Team

Tu once again, quietly and without drama, turned out a strong, graphic look.  He used rope for the vest and belt.  He wrapped the rope around a plumbing connector and left the connector exposed for the necklace.  
Matthew produced the top from mop components and the bottom from flowers.  The judges praised this look, but had it not been on the winning team, I think it was open to some real criticism.  The top and bottom are just two disjointed to me.  It is the weakest piece in the winning collection, as far as I'm concerned.

Benjamin continues to worry me a bit as a designer.  He built a huge loom with which he wove a textile out of rope.  Was this really necessary or did this consume time better spent on perfecting his design elements?

Adding flowers to only one side of the bodice threw off the symmetry.  The strapping in the back seemed chaotic and messy.  He needs to make sure that the little details don't detract from the look of the whole piece.  Still, his main contribution this week was getting his team to pick Stan, so that's a plus in his column. 

Once again, Stan's look was impeccable.  I didn't catch the story on the exposed hem.  If it's some sort of hardware material, I understand why he would keep it exposed.  Still, I think the exposure detracts from the look, but the judges didn't see anything wrong with it.

Layana's dress was delicate and beautiful.  I think the cage material was from the floral market, so despite its beauty, it was not in the running for winner.
 Samantha was the surprise winner this week.  She used contact paper to create a lattice-like bodice.  She used screen material to make the peplum.  Then, she wrestled with what to do next.  After a day of struggle--and several offers from others to help--she decided that folding leaves underneath the screen.  Turned out to be a winning decision.  

Keeping it Real

Team Keeping it Real has bigger problems than losing its organizer.  The personalities on this team are somewhat delusional.  Amanda is too self-conscious.

Despite her protestations before the judges, she did whine the entire time about whether her moss was going to work.  Several people gave her advice about keeping the moss moist, whether or not to add flowers, and finally, how to make a disjointed front and back look more unified.  The team ended up being over involved in her garment and maybe they were just a little annoyed about once again, taking time from their own work to help her out.  Unfortunately, the result was too successful for them to get away with trying to toss her under the bus for elimination.

 A garment that started out with cotter pins on the top, moss in the front and flowers in the back became rearranged into a dress with flowers on the top in the front and bottom in the back.  The design was quite beautiful and it was one of the best looks on the team.

As annoying as Amanda might seem to others, this season is a team competition.  If she works better in teams than she does on her own, she may be long on the show this season.  She isn't breaking any rules by taking advantage of the format.  So what's beef here?  Perhaps Keeping it Real should have turned their attentions to two weaker members, in my opinion.

Joseph had a questionable plan and vision from the start.  His attitude was too nonchalant for proper teamwork.  He didn't care whether his look elevated the team or not.

Somehow, this netting was supposed to hold flowers...he abandoned it halfway into day one.
Despite everything the judges said, I didn't think this was the worst look on the runway this week.  Perhaps it was not the best fitted, but he was using screening material, for goodness sakes. His story about it being an "oversized sweater from the future" or a coat or something, totally revealed him as a designer with no real strategy for winning the out with him this week.

My very least favorite came from the person on this team who will undermine it now that Stan has crossed over.  Melissa was right.  Patricia is trouble.  She waits until everyone is more than halfway through there designs and begins giving them the "I told you so" comments.  She never thinks of the whole team and rarely encourages the other designers.  All of this would be forgiven if her designs were outstanding.

 Patricia described this as a "hippy" look.  Zac Posen totally got it.  I think he started smoking the skirt material and sharing it with the other judges. The model looks like she collided with a float in Tournament of Roses Parade.  This isn't designed as much as it is compiled.  I think Nina reminded us last week that this was a design competition. If Nina had any criticisms at all, they were edited out or she forgot them once she started smoking the skirt along with Zac.

Yeah, Kate, we get that it's pretty and you worked so hard to make the skirt HUGE with your chicken wire dress form.  I think she lined the bottom with garbage least that's what it looks like to me.  This was never going to win because it's way too derivative.  Also, when you're on a team full of people who think they're going to win, no one works together, so you'll lose!
Melissa is a worrier.  She teamed up with Richard because they both had the same bad idea to make a stand-up collar.  At this point in the competition, they abandoned that bad idea and Richard came up with a more brilliant cage design with blinds.  Melissa later figured out how to incorporate the flowers.  They were a perfect partnership.
The judges gave this quite a few compliments.  To me, it was in the running with Samantha's for getting the balance of the challenge right.  Unfortunately, the team was unfocused so this wasn't in the running.
Lastly, for all of you who are so convinced that Daniel is going to sweep this competition...I present you this.....

 Yes, it's a pretty dress.  Yes, Daniel used Lamb's Ears and green material instead of flowers and the effect is very pretty. The only thing you see are two huge bulges in the front...but not where you would expect to see them.   the model looks unsupported in the bodice and the peplum in the front is out of proportion.  

Still, it was one of the most beautiful unconventional materials challenges in recent Project Runway seasons.  I think the biggest factor here was time and budget.  Given sufficient amounts of both, the only limitation was the designer's vision and skill.  We saw lots of examples of the design process at work, from fixing a failed design idea to overcoming problems with materials.  At this point, the team element is throwing a huge monkey wrench into designer ambitions.  Still, the strongest designers seem to be winning and the weak ones keep getting the boot.

See you next week!