Sunday, March 17, 2013

Project Runway, Season 11, Episode 8: It's Reigning Men! Hallelujah!!

Greetings, Project Runway Watchers!

I'm no longer assuming that you're all fans and after this week's fiasco and who could blame you?  This week's challenge was "menswear."  If you were anything like me, you were having flashbacks to the Project Runway Opera, Carmen,

It's about a young seamstress in Season 4 named who is asked to produce a suitable on-air look for then, NBC on-air personality, Tiki Barber.  Things ended miserably.
This is Project Runway, however, and we don't dwell in the past, right?  For this week's challenge, Tim had a twist of...universal proportions!

Tim: "Designers, we have a very special challenge this week.  Here's Angelo Cardinal Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals to tell you more about it."

Cardinal Sodano: "The Roman Catholic Church is over 2,000 years old.  As you may be aware, it has been a rough few years for our Cardinals.  We were thinking that an image makeover is exactly what we need."
Tim: "Designers, you will be divided into two teams.  You four on the left and you four on the right.  You have 30 hours and $300.  Use the Lord and Taylor Accessory Wall most thoughtfully.  Good luck!"
Right away, things got off to a rough start.

Team Prematurely Grey had Cardinal Arinze of Nigeria.

Cardinal Arinze: "I've seen this show.  You're going to make me wear something shiny, short and too tight, aren't you?"
Team Hip Replacement didn't do much better.  They had Cardinal Dolan of New York and had to work around his 24-7 lecture and interview schedule.

But Amanda refused to be deterred.
Hip Replacment argued over fabric.

Samantha: "Men of a certain age look so much better in tweed."
Richard: "Time's a-wastin.  We less than 24 hours now and let's face it, we're not the best sewers.  Let's get flannel."
Back in the workroom, Richard struggled to make sense of Amanda's hasty, on-the-fly measurements.

"I work out.  My arm has GOT to be bigger than some old Nigerian guy...."
Team Prematurely Grey struggled with their design.

Daniel: "We're thinking of modernizing the robe to the point of being post-modern."
Tim: "What does that mean?"
Daniel: "A robe with clean lines."
Tim: "How is that modern?"
Daniel: "Think...Thom Browne..."
Tim: "With your team's skills, I'm dubious.  Whatever you do, don't feminize the Cardinals!"
Designers struggled for another few hours until Tim came in with another announcement.

"Designers, something completely unexpected has happened.  Pope Benedict VI just resigned.  I wasn't even aware a Pope could resign.  It's something that hasn't happened in 600 years.  Nevertheless, we must carry on.  We are replacing the Cardinals with male strippers from Australia.  Make it work!"
"You realize, Amanda, that none of your bad measurements on the Cardinal are going to work on this guy, don't you?"
Not everyone was unhappy about the model change.

"It's so much more fun fitting you than some old, fat Cardinal!"
With the impossibly tight times for menswear and refitting, Stan resorted to prayer.

And others had nervous breakdowns.

So how did our designers do?

The Romans in St. Peter's Square looked on in horror, outrage and disbelief.

Since the judges couldn't decide who to kick off, the Cardinals who had arrived in Rome met for an emergency conclave....

and voted Amanda off.

Oh, Amanda, don't feel sad.  You managed to get the boot on THE MOST RIDICULOUS CHALLENGE IN PROJECT RUNWAY HISTORY.  

You didn't think I was going to spend a moment of time critiquing hastily produced, poorly fitting garments did you?  But since I don't want to disappoint my readers, I'll simply say that they were all crap.

See you next week for what I hope is a better challenge.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Project Runway Season 11, Episode 7: What the Duck?

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!

"We've got something quite fowl for you this week!"
Duck Brand Duct Tape (because people never pronounce the second "t" in ducT tape) sponsors a Duct Tape prom dress competition every year.  Hey, prom goers, there's still time to enter the competition for 2013!

"There are so many different colors, it's hard to choose..."
Let's take a look at last year's winner.

Wait--is this for a prom or for sneaking drinks into the after-Prom "cocktail party"?
I always pictured Prom something like this...

Tasteful dresses, still feminine, but not so short that you can't even sit down without exposing yourself.

How about one of the runners-up?

Yikes.  Clearly, they're trying to get attention.
OK!  Now, we're talking.  Each individual rose was made out of duct tape.  They chose the traditional grey for the body of the dress and suit.  It took 45 hours to you won't be seeing anything close to this on the Project Runway catwalk!
Our guest judge this week was was Chris Benz, designer for Anthropolgie.  How would he dress today's modern prom-goer?

Not bad, Chris, not bad.

So the design contestants were allowed to pick their own partners.  They had about a day to make the dresses, after which they would show them before high school kids, who whose vote, theoretically, would contribute to the final score...somehow.

"OK, students.  You'll have some time to look at the dresses and talk to the designers.  Then you'll have an opportunity to vote for the one you like best.  Pay no attention to fact that the ballot box sits right over the trash can."
This is what the students saw.

"So like, ok, like, how long did it take to, like, make her look totally like a washed-up Vegas showgirl?"
After the kids interviewed the designers, they cast votes for the dress they liked the best.


After they cast their votes, the designers returned back to the studio and had a few additional hours to make changes based on the feedback.

Say what?

Let me get this straight...the teens judged one set of dresses.  The designers went back and made changes and the judges's panel saw modified dresses.  Why bother to have votes?

Because the producers needed a plausible alibi for keeping a designer on.  Either that, or we as a people, have completely lost all semblance of taste.

Daniel & Richard

"I wanted it to look gold lamé" 

"Oh, it's lame alright."
Heidi and Nina, neither of whom went to prom in any decade, pegged this as a 1980's dress.  I don't know about that, but I do know that those ruffles are extremely tortured.  They are hovering between trying to be symmetrical but poorly constructed and trying to be asymmetrical and falling short.  To my eyes, this was the losing look.  But as we know on Project Runway, one day you're in, on account of your over-the-top personality.

Stanley and Layana

It's an amazing miracle that Stanley and Layana managed to get a dress down the runway this week.  For starters, they had to wrestle a Dalek who was trying to exterminate their model.

She almost didn't make it.

This could have plausibly won this week's challenge.  It was fun and fresh and it moved nicely down the runway.   

Michelle & Amanda

Oh, you could smell this one a mile away.  The two girls who get picked last for dodgeball.  The nerds.  The bad luck tiki charm who always joins the losing team meets the gal who gets blamed for the failure of others. 

Even when they went to the gym, none of the cool kids wanted to look at their dress.  Granted, they returned to the studio and fixed the wonky bodice, so the presentation to the panel was way stronger.

This week's winning look!  

The thing about this challenge is that the judges were looking for something fun with a distinct point-of-view.  Their vision was to make a dress for the punk girl to wear to prom.  She's unconventional, probably hated by half the student body.  Yes, they're likely channelling their own high school experiences.  The result was very fresh and modern.

The judges appreciated the print, which was in-scale and very skillfully pieced.   It gave Nina the excuse to go full geek and use the word, tessellation.

This is, like, totally a Nerdland dress!

 Patricia & Samantha

Every season, one designer manages to overstay their welcome.  Patricia is that designer.  We are told by Heidi that implausibly, because some girl said, "Oh my God, that's so totally Angelina Jolie!" that this won the vote at the high school.

I mean, I didn't see Jimmy Carter and UN observers overseeing the election.  I didn't see auditors from Price Waterhouse guarding the ballot box, either.  So I'm calling the whole high school vote completely bogus right here.

And on the other bogus part, when they got back, Patricia insisted that the back of this dress needed to flare out.  Daniel was right.

It was starting to look like Jiffy Pop.

"We designed a special print, then engineered a gradation effect..."
"We don't usually like short in the front, long in the back dresses, but our producers are telling us that we simply adore everything about this look."

Kate & Tu

Fowl!  I'm crying fowl!
"We just went to prom...I mean, we didn't exactly go together..."

This is not the most perfect dress, by any means, but did this deserve to be the losing look?  No way.  Yes, it was a bit boring and expected.  Using the denim tape didn't do it any favors. (This season, we have the curse of the denim, am I right, Amanda?)

Nina: "I grew up in Columbia and didn't go to prom, but I can tell you that girls don't wear prom dresses like that any more.
Heidi: "We do not have 'prom' in Germany, but I can plainly see that there is nothing modern about this dress."
Zac: "Did you two take too much AMBIEN last night?  What's wrong with you?  This is a standard prom dress!"
Nina/Heidi: "It is not."
Zac is right.  It is a standard prom dress, albeit, not in a standard color.  The closest I could come to was this.

I think had the color been different, the dress might have been more safe.  Anyway, yes, Zac Posen designed a line of prom dresses for Target.  So not only did he have to dabble in making a teenage girl look elegant, he had to do it on a price point.

This is how it's done, people.

Now for the fowl part.  Seriously, this was for the birds.

BOTH Tu and Kate were auf this week.  There was no previous mention of a double elimination.  In fact, they made each couple go through the kabuki of "who is to blame/who deserves credit."  There was just one winner this week.   So when Heidi said that Kate was gone, she said "thank you" as if she had been prepared to hear she was safe.  This was designed to add DRAMA and TENSION.  Even Tim walked in and matter-of-factly said "get out."  Tim didn't even give them his maudlin tone of voice.

Even if the color had been different.  Even if it had been the PERFECT DRESS, do you remember anything Kate or Tu ever said or did?  Project Runway is NOT FOR INTROVERTS.  And apparently, the franchise can't waste any more time on them.  Auf Weidersehn!

Next week, male strippers.  The network that brings us Jennifer Love-Hewitt as a hooker with a heart of gold, two southern belles who fit bras for a living and The Virgin Diaries, knows how to keep straight girls watching.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Project Runway, Season 11, Episode 6: Senior Moments

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!

[Can you hear me?  Are you still with me?  Is this thing on?]

Last week the teams were split up into partnerships and this week, those partnerships carried on with Michelle joining Layana and Patricia.  This week was also the first week that the team element of the competition had a direct influence on the final result and Heidi helpfully called it out.  I appreciate her candor here--the designer in question needed to know.  But the designer who left had a complete right to feel really cheated out.  You'll see in a minute.

This week, the designers met a group of vivacious elderly women.  They were active, funny, feisty and opinionated.  They all had really good hearts and were very good sports about their Project Runway experience.  In turn, the designers were very supportive of their clients and worked hard to please them.  However good their intentions might have been, the results fell short.

If you've watched more than one Project Runway, you know that the producers like to heighten the tension with the "real woman" challenge.  Bring the mothers of designers in and watch the sparks fly.  Bring women who used to be heavy with serious body image issues in who will argue with designers over hem length and shape.   This time, the challenge was time.  They only had a day to produce a dress and only one fitting.  There was no time to work out issues of fit or appropriateness--things you can usually fudge when working with super thin runway models.

The designers faced an interesting panel of judges this week.  Rachel Roy subbed for Zac Posen and Joan and Melissa Rivers were the guest judges.  Withering criticism abounded.

The designers gave them plenty of opportunity.

First things first--the safe team....

Michelle, Layana and Patricia

"I am totally not going to make you look fat and matronly."
"I am, however, capable of making you look flat-out ridiculous."

Poor woman!  She reminds me of a young Ella Fitzgerald.  Ella would have cold cocked a designer who dared to dress her in frayed hunks of fabric.  This was a lazy, tacked-on mess and, as Heidi pointed out, it got the lowest score.

The. Lowest. Score.

So low, it dragged two strong designs down into "safe," not that they ever would have contended....  It gave Layana and Michelle an excuse to feel put-upon.  They should have felt sorry for the designer who got kicked off instead!

Patricia lumbered off into the back room and gave us her thousand-mile stare.  Perhaps it sunk in.  She's been coasting along throughout this competition on everyone else's coat-tails.  She's a marked woman for the next competition.

 Layana continued her streak of producing another fashionable garment.  Rachel Roy called out another design as being "youthful."  I'll have my thoughts on that later.  This, to me, was a very youthful design but never crossed over into juvenile. The fit in the bodice could have been a bit more precise, but   the sophisticated print and the piping in the midsection helped to elevate the design.

 Michelle's model shimmied down the runway, clearly having the most fun with her dress and her experience.  While the dress was very well fitted and perfect for a woman who dances, that print was giving me an ice-cream headache.  I think the waist could have been either a little lower or a little wider, too.

Tu and Samantha

Tu would have been in contention for the heave ho this week had it not been for Samantha's strong design.

The back has some clever seaming but it appears that he ran out of time when he got to the front. It looks like he only had time to stitch the front and wrap a belt around everything to keep it together.  He didn't even have time to hem the front. 

Kate's look was highly praised by the judges.  What you don't see is that the skirt is boned and fitted to her midsection, girdling her in subtly.  The top also has seams to tuck her in the torso.  The double girdling in the midsection seemed a bit too heavy handed to me.
In every "real woman" challenge on Project Runway, a disturbing trend has emerged: the designer who picks the person who has the body closest to that of a model wins the challenge. It makes sense because that designer does not have to spend time on fit and can concentrate on style.  This time, there was more than one woman with a perfect body and it did come down to skill level here.  Still, my dream is that someone wins this challenge with a model who is less than perfect.  I will give them a Siriano for their troubles....

The next three designers had close to perfect models.  How did they do?

Samantha and Daniel

Could designers look anymore awkward and overpowering with their clients?  Who staged this shot?
Samantha's model had a rockin' body and killer personal style.  She sports a tattoo on her ankle and a hipster haircut.  Unfortunately, Samantha squandered her chances at a win by choosing such a shiny satin for the top.  The punch of color was completely appropriate, but that fabric exposed every bad seam.  The finish around the neckline was incredibly sloppy.  The pouffy sleeves were too juvenile--as both Heidi and Nina pointed out.  Joan stuck up for the beautiful animal print skirt.  Why not, when one has such strong, personal style?  If the top had been in a bright jersey, Samantha could have been in strong contention for the win....instead of...

....Daniel's "first wife" suit.  Thank you, Joan Rivers!  He attempted to produce an interesting collar and closure treatment for his almost-model body client.   I'm all for innovative jackets, but this one is a mess.  The pleating just expanded her midsection and the collar looks uneven and sloppy, not asymmetrical.  Furthermore, if you're going to do all this work, why do it in black and have it lost on the poorly lit Project Runway catwalk?  This woman had gorgeous coloring and could have handled more color in the fabric.   The pants are just a bit too tight, too.

Let's see how a stronger designer attacked this challenge...

Stanley and Richard

What's left to say?  This look is more sophisticated than any other outfit on the runway.  It's steel grey, so you can see all the work that went into it--good and bad, for what it's worth.  Heidi would have liked to see a longer pant and Nina wasn't pleased with the fit in the crotch.  Still, Rachel pointed out that the back was fitted perfectly and Joan scored the ultimate compliment by saying, "This is a second wife's outfit."  Congratulations, Stanley!

"Hmm....32 inch do I fit that?  I know, drawstring!"

From the Richard Hallmarq collection for Lane Bryant....
This woman started off with a normal body, no?  How did she end up looking like the Hindenburg with a racing stripe?

"Oh my God, that's fugly....but we're not ready to toss him this week. Judges, we need to say something nice about it."
"We call it, 'youthful.'  That word polled well with the focus group."
"'Effortless polled well too.  Use that!"

Heidi: "I like how...effortless this is."
Rachel: "It's the most youthful outfit on the runway."
Joan: "It's chic, easy and shows off her legs."
Nina: "I'm not fond of the silhouette.  Why did you use a drawstring?  You're not designing for a toddler!"[EDITED]
My theory is that the judges wanted to give Stanley a clear win this week, so they scored Richard's look a little higher.  I would have loved to see Richard standing there for the possible auf, but I guess you can't do that when you're paired with the winning look.

Amanda and Benjamin


Amanda's dress has way too much going on...keyhole neckline, winged sleeves, way too much skirt...  Melissa pin-pointed the problem when she said that the keyhole neckline was just too much design for a flowing dress.  Furthermore a full skirt wasn't the best idea for her body type, either.

And then, there was the tack in the back.  "It look like she sat in some glue," Nina said.  Clearly, it was an effort to tame the fullness of the skirt at the last minute.  It ended up making the hem completely uneven and a little hiked up in the back.  Amanda's been skirting with elimination week after week.  She came very close this week.  Maybe this should have been her week.  Since the judges were "forced" to keep Patricia on, Amanda was very lucky she got to stay.

 What is worse, a bad design or a good design with bad ideas?  

The judges choose the latter this week.  Ben just couldn't compensate for his model's huge bustline that overpowered the rest of her body.  On a taller woman, there's room to work with proportions but she is not that tall.  It's hard to see exactly what he had planned to do.  It looks as if he wanted to give her an empire waist, but on a short-waisted woman, that is not a good look.  If the waistband had been just a little longer and the bust a little looser....oh, who are we kidding?  With one day and one fitting, Ben was doomed.   He picked the wrong fabric.  Something this shiny is way too unforgiving of bad seaming and there's no stretch to accommodate a fuller figure.  It's a completely wrinkled mess, too.  The collar looks like something Mamie Eisenhower would have worn.   This woman probably remembers Mamie Eisenhower.  Why give her a throw-back collar?  Why is the hem on the bottom so wide?  What cinched the auf for Ben this week was choosing to add some tulle under the skirt to make it fuller.  Perhaps the idea was to have it balance out the top, but this woman did not need more inches.

"She looks like she's hiding the Liberty Bell," said Joan Rivers, thus sealing the deal.  Good bye, Gentle Ben.  We'll miss your fabulous hair and dapper bow ties.  

See you next week!