Sunday, September 28, 2014

Project Runway, Season 13, Episode 10, Oh Make Me Over...

I'm all I want to be.

Sorry, I'm having a Courtney Love moment.

Seriously. I think she would have been a fantastic judge for this challenge. Unlike the model and the actress who were featured on the judges' panel this week, she is not a conventional beauty. Yet, she underwent one of the most amazing transformations in her career. I bet she has a lot to say about the whole concept.

This week, everyone missed the whole point of the challenge.

"Please, don't be tempted to go for the pretty woman who looks like a model."
So what did the designers do? Alexander literally pushed a woman who was interested away because she was TOO SHORT. Amanda chose her woman because she "looked like a model." The makeover part turned out to be an afterthought. The designers were more fixated on their outfits and the most dramatic transformations involved the Phillip B hair people. Poor Mary Kay guy! He didn't even get to sit on the judges' panel.

So off to Washington Square Park went our designers to search for their muses.

Like every park in New York, Washington Square has quite a storied past. 

Along with many other parks in the city, it was embroiled in a tug of war between Robert Moses, New York Parks Commissioner, and New Yorkers who used the parks every day. Moses' makeover for the park included extending 5th Avenue right through the center.  It took a coalition of citizen activists, including Jane Jacobs, Shirley Hayes and even Eleanor Roosevelt to stop it.

A second makeover ended up tied up in litigation for the past ten years.  Finally, the Parks Commission undertook their plan to align the fountain with the Washington Arch, cutting down a number of mature elms in the process, much to the chagrin of local residents.

Most of the park is now open to the public.  In the middle of the summer, without any tree shade, some of the granite benches that were installed heat up to 125 degrees.

Not the best makeover.

I'd like to think that producers had all of these transformations in mind when they picked the park as a location for the muse search, but I'm not sure they did. 


After some difficulty and a pep talk from Tim, Sean found his model.

She was just the right size and shape to wear one of his standard issue evening gowns. I hope she has somewhere nice to go!

All you need to know about that garment was that he was safe this week.


Who knew Amanda was so shallow?

She chose her model because she was so pretty. Words like "young" and "funky" were tossed about. Her inspiration, however, came from her trip to Mood where she fell in love with some striped fabric and thought it would be clever to piece something together.

It didn't exactly work very well.

The judges all pointed out that the vest was too long and the skirt was too short. If one thing had to be changed, I'd lower the hem. The hem hits her leg at the widest part of her thigh and defeats the purpose of having a flare. This is not a dress for a windy day. A little more length would have solved one of the worst problems with the dress.

She added a panel to the back to give it more volume so that it would fit around her model's waist. She didn't give it enough length to hang gracefully all the way around. This was poorly constructed and designed and it almost ended her run on the show.


Char's muse is a pre-school teacher whose husband performs in a rock band. She commented that she never has anything to wear when she goes to see him play.

I'm not sure Char has a solid handle on a rock and roll aesthetic, because this is what she designed.

While the tomato red is very flattering, the peplum jacket is completely unnecessary. The shorts are uneven and poorly constructed. To make matters worse, Char held up the entire runway show when her model accidentally ripped the zipper off.

If I were a Project Runway model, I'd be insisting that I get to wear underwear under the garment. I don't care if it busts your zipper. You measured me with underwear on, after all. But this poor woman busted a zipper without underwear underneath. Char knew she wasn't dressing a professional model and should have taken that under consideration when she constructed the garment. At the very least, have some spare velcro tape on hand.

Other designers had issues with broken zippers at the last minute and solved the problem by sewing the model into the garment. For some reason not completely explained, this couldn't be done and Tim had to ask the designers if they would agree to more time for Char FOR THE FIRST TIME IN PROJECT RUNWAY HISTORY.

"Where are the designers? Why are they so late?"

Despite the fact that Char pulled out all of her usual stops, including the back cut-out, this was remarkable only for how unflattering it was on the model. She was spared this week, but her reward is the collective disdain of her fellow models for not being able to stick to her time and for relying on Tim Gunn to save her once again.


You know someone like this. I know a bunch of people like this. These are women who have a very strong personal style. Her hair is cut distinctively. Her make-up is already attention-getting. She has eyebrows for days. She likes swingy skirts and 1950's style. She probably shops at thrift stores, consignment shops and scours estate sales for vintage clothing. Wait, that's me...well not the make-up and eyebrow part.

Thing is, Alexander thinks he understands her but he really only understands himself.

He goes to Mood and chooses two of the ugliest houndstooth fabrics I've ever seen--in two colors: yellow and green. One side of the fabric has plain houndstooth and the other has houndstooth with large dots.

I'm not making this up.

"My model loves vintage clothing and I wanted to give her a modern version of that."
"That is the most hideous garment I've ever seen."
There are so many things wrong with this outfit.  For starters, why do a two-piece, sleeveless, midriff baring garment in suiting material?  Second, why choose such unusual patterns for your pieced-together, "melting dress" look?  Why choose a "melting dress" motif at all? This isn't an avant garde challenge (although, hasn't the time come for a "real woman avant garde challenge?")

The top is too loose. The skirt is completely uneven. Despite having two days and $200, this looks like an Etsy upcycle. There was nothing well designed about this garment and Alexander was shown the door this week.

He gets to go to Fashion Week as one of the decoys so not all is lost. Anyway, he's only 21 and still in design school. He has years (and Project Runway All-Stars)  to work things out. 


In a park filled with hundreds of people, Kini managed to find the "anti-Kini." She has a boho-hippie style and doesn't like dressing up. This flustered Kini for awhile until he decided to make a dress in denim. But just to hedge bets, he made one in white as well.

In the end, the dress/jacket combination was perfect for his model. Using demin allowed him to present something that satisfied her casual nature while giving him a platform to showcase his finishing skills.

He almost got the win this week.  This was not without problems, however. Kini continues to finish fast and not go back and fix the details.

That was one wonky hem.


Emily has taken several doses of "Bore no More" and now that she's found her aesthetic voice, hear her ROAR!

"You like Theirry Mugler?  I like Theirry Mugler!"
Theirry Mugler was the real muse this week, not Emily's lovely model

Theirry Mugler
They both like Mugler's "out there" style, so Emily swung for the fences.

It was exuberant and beautifully detailed.

But why pull out all the stops for the muse model challenge?  It's not the model who is your muse, but the judges who are musing about where your ordinary woman would ever wear an outfit like this.

Correct answer: "I have tickets to the Met Ball, bitches!"

"And I'll be a hit at the Tango competition."
Had it been just a little more believable as a wearable dress, Emily would have had this wrapped up.


Korina can sew a jacket out of anything for anybody in no time flat.

Shelby is a ballerina.  Of course she is. But her style is rather bland.  Hers was one of the most dramatic transformations.

From ballerina to bad-ass in three days.

What looks like fringe in the picture is actually silk chiffon, pleated and stitched together. In many ways, leather and suiting materials are very easy to work with and hide a lot of seaming problems. But to be able to produce a well constructed garment in leather AND chiffon is quite a feat. When your sewing mindset is on one material, it's often hard to switch gears and go to another. Most people would take a day off to clear their heads. She only had two days, so she had to switch gears (and needles and thread and machine settings) fast.  She was the winner this week.

So we're down to six.  Next week's challenge features two-person teams, lots of drama and huge twist that makes everyone drop their jaws.  See you then!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Project Runway, Season 13, Episode 9: Well She Was an American Girl....

....raised on promises....

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!

Excuse me while I have a Tom Petty moment. This week's challenge was pretty complex. American Girl dolls are very popular with the kids who love them.  The company also produces a line of girls clothes designed to match the dolls.  

In fact, look closely: the girls are wearing the American Girl clothes that match their dolls.  In this challenge, each designer was matched up with a girl and her doll and was to design an outfit for the girl that was inspired by the doll's story. This might be the FIRST TIME IN PROJECT RUNWAY HISTORY that designers were asked to design clothes inspired from a line of existing clothes.

Designers had a small budget to go to Mood but they also had access to the same material that American Girl used for each doll's outfit. While the design brief seemed simple, this week, there were subtle pressures. Would you be rewarded for holding close to the original dress design or chastised for not using the given material?  I found the instructions to be sort of ambiguous. At this stage of the competition, that's the whole point.

The buzz was strong for this episode. Girls have a lot of passion for their American Girl dolls. I can only imagine that tens of thousands of girls stayed up late on a school night to watch this episode. What they saw were some interesting designs and personalities. They also saw a spirited group of girls, all of whom must be fashion models or very quick learners. When they've done girl challenges in the past, we got a little inside information on how they honed their runway skills. We didn't get that this time, which leads me to think that they're already pros.

The guest judges for the episode were Heather Northrup, from American Girl and Elizabeth Moss, who plays Peggy on Mad Men. Both had some interesting insights. In keeping with the real theme of this episode, Heather mentioned each time when a designer used the company's fabric.


Amanda's model had Addy Walker, a doll that was based on a real person. She grew up in slavery and escaped with her mother. There's a whole exhibit on her in he National Museum of American History. 
 Although you really can't see it, Amanda pieced together two prints to make the jacket as a throwback to the quilt that Addy recalled her grandmother had on her bed. It was a nice, updated look for her model, but if the quilt was really the inspiration, I wanted to see more piecework on the jacket. It fit the brief, but this week, there were better examples.


To me, Alexander was inexplicably safe.

I don't even recall the doll that his model had or how this outfit related to it. I think his model had "Kit" a girl who grew up during the Great Depression. He did use some of the American Girl fabric, so big points for that....but.... The fit on those pants is unconscionable. Seriously. This girl has no meaningful curves and he couldn't make a pair of pants that didn't pooch out on the midsection and ride up her butt. Alex has scooted by, challenge after challenge, with some suspect fit and construction issues.  Sticking to the company fabric kept him safe this week.


Char is BACK, BABY and this week, she really came close to winning. Her model's doll was Kaya'aton'my, who was a member of the Nez Perce tribe. Char focused in on making an updated party dress and knocked it out of the park.

As you can see, she made a vest with the American Girl vest material, but she shaped the fringe and paired it with a colorful dress. In this way, Char intelligently updated the outfit and kept it from becoming an inappropriate cultural appropriation. This was a fun, southwest styled look and not a costume. The boots were a nice styling touch.


This was my pick for the win.

Korina's model had Josephina Montoya, who grew up in New Mexico during Mexican rule. Josephina's mother died when she was just eight. She keeps a memory box to remind her of her mother. Her mother's favorite color was yellow and that color is important to her. 

Korina reinterpreted the idea of memory box and made fabric cards that she attached to the skirt with metal rings. On the underside of some of the cards was a yellow card, signifying her secret memory of her mother. American Girl dolls are about the story as much as they are about their culture or background. By focusing on the story, Korina created a sentimental piece that was also fun and clever.


Kini had the one of the most popular dolls in the Historic Collection: Samantha Parkington. In fact, Korina had that doll when she was a girl. Samantha lives with her grandmother and has a penchant for nice clothes. Kini produced some kid versions of two, iconic, high fashion looks.

Chanel for the top and Westwood for the dress. Perfect for a girl who probably knows her way around Saks Fifth Avenue. Speedy Kini couldn't find time to line the coat, but that didn't bother the judges one bit. Kini gets the win this week, all by himself.

Would a kid actually want to wear this? I'm sure that somewhere for someone, little versions of Prada and Dior are being made. I just wonder if American Girl would desire to produce something so obviously derivative for their line. I'm not so sure about that. But again, don't be confused. This challenge was not about what American Girl would or should produce.


What happened? Sean's model had Julie Albright, who grew up in the 70's. She would be about the same age as the child that Peggy Olsen had on Mad Men but gave to her sister to raise. I was a child of the 70's and my favorite outfit was a pair of tomato red, hip hugger, bell bottom, wide wale corduroy pants. I paired them with a white turtleneck. I looked like something out of The Brady Bunch and that was the whole point. So where, oh where, did this come from?

I do not believe I owned a jumpsuit in the 70's. It would have been too much fuss to wriggle out of the top just to pee. I think I went through that phase in the 80's. I do recall the calico fabric. It was HUGE in 1976 when the nation was celebrating its bicentennial. Girls everywhere dressed like Laura Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie. But this is not a prairie dress. The choice of fabric and simplicity of the fabric (literally, Simplicity)

befuddled the judges. Sean ended up being safe by the skin of his teeth this week. It's too bad that immunity is over precisely at the time his magic has worn off on the judges.


Emily has been putting me to sleep for weeks now. I just didn't want to see her go at the exact time she finally put something over the top on the runway.

Emily's model had Rebecca Rubin, who grew up in New York City in 1910, part of the Jewish immigration around the turn of the last century. According to Zac Posen, Rebecca is his favorite doll. Zac likely has relatives with Rebecca's same backstory.

So, yes, this outfit is clearly way too over-the-top for a young girl to wear. However, the ideas are spot on. The colors are period-perfect. The sweater is evocative of an afghan knitted by Grandma. It needed major editing, however.

Lose the tulle, make the skirt a little less full, use less bulky material for the sweater and this outfit is in contention for a win.

Here's the thing: Emily has a children's line on Etsy! One of the garments featured is a "Parisian Tulle Skirt."  Her Etsy version is longer with a less stiff material and it is paired with a top that isn't as bulky.

The sweater was my favorite part.  My friend, Laura Kluvo, who co-hosts the Blogging Project Runway blog, makes sweater coats and dresses for little girls. Here's an example of her work, which is much brighter and more fun:

I instantly thought of this when I saw Emily's outfit. Perhaps if she had just concentrated on one thing instead of a handful, she could have been spared from almost being kicked off.


Sandhya as driven me absolutely batty from the first. There has been a lot of talk and criticism about how people treat Sandhya. Yes, she's Indian. I happen to love Indian style. But that's not her design inspiration. She is inspired by stories and symbolism. I thought, at first, with each doll's backstory, she would eat this challenge up with a spoon.  

Her model had Caroline Abbott. She grew up near a shipyard, where her father works. She likes to embroider. She's also dressed in pink. Sandhya picked up on all of that and began to make a pink outfit that would be decorated with cheesy nautical appliques. I guess Mood only has cheesy nautical appliques. 

Upon seeing the dismal selections, I would have looked at nautical fabric, instead. I just think that trip to Mood totally put Sandhya in a design box that she could not escape.  Tim managed to talk her out of the appliques, but even though he said it looked like a onesie, Sandhya insisted on making the jumpsuit.

With peplum.

In pink.

It reminded Nina of Foofa on Yo Gabba Gabba.

The straps were too thin, the neckline was too low. The shrug was too fussy. The whole thing was too pink and the worst part was that the back was closed by snaps!

She made a onesie!

So it was Sandhya's turn to say goodbye. She had a good run in Season 13 and she got to show a decoy show at Fashion Week. Not bad. We'll certainly never forget her!

See you next week as we are down to seven designers!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Project Runway Season 13, Episode 8: Raindrops Keep Falling

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!

I'm still a week behind, but fast catching up.  This week was a return to the fun Project Runway shows we used to know and love.  Any runway that can make Heidi do this

And Zac do this

is a good runway. This week's runway was an avant garde challenge....with a twist. Rain would come down on the runway. Not theoretical, make-believe rain, but real H2O. So, the smart designers began to conjure up ways to interact with the rain. Each had $200 and one day to produce the outfit.

Before we dive in, let's have a word from our sponsor.

"It's the innovative Samsung Curve television!"
"Just look at that super high definition picture."
Seemless product placement is the hallmark of every Emmy-nominated reality TV competition show, wouldn't you say?

This week's judge was Caitlin Fitzgerald, star of Showtime's Masters of Sex. In the show, she plays Dr. Master's wife and she gets to wear fantastic clothes from the 50's and 60's. She had a keen eye and some pointed commentary for the designers.
And now, another word from our sponsors.
"I like how you don't have open all the doors to get what you want in this Samsung refrigerator."
That wasn't awkward or staged at all, was it?
I think Samsung was hoping that their innovative product line would serve as the model for the level of innovation in the avant garde challenge...or something. Why showcase the products if they weren't supposed to be inspiration of a sort?   Poor Samsung.  The one designer who was inspired by'll see. 
It was a very pretty rain dress with purple flowery things stuck to it.  He went on and on about how it all looked like glass.  It was a fan favorite.  Avant garde?  As a child, I had a clear rain coat with white daisies tacked on to the outside.  From the cheap seats, this does read a little Dale Chihuly but only if you're thinking about it.  To be really avant garde, it needed something way more exuberant. Once again, this week, he was safe.


Ms. Valentine was inspired by a vision of Cleopatra, weeping as the rains flood her beloved city. This sure isn't anything like Katy Perry's version of Cleopatra. It looks more like someone painted the Venezuelan flag on a pagoda.
But hey, it's striking.

Despite the fact that the part of back collapsed on her, she was safe this week. What a hideous outfit. Out there, but hideous.
If I could wave a magic wand on this outfit, I would get rid of the green and find a way to get the cones to stick out more.
Char's heart was in the right place.  She wanted to make a dramatic, sculptural statement.  Her drawing had a real flow and energy to it.  You could envision rivulets of water flowing down from it.

Instead, we got a tree fungus.
The pillbox hat and Grace Jones styling was fantastic, but I thought this look was more than a little clichéd.

Sean's look wasn't exactly avant garde and it wasn't what he had planned originally.
He meant for the dress to be more angular and sleek. It was supposed to have dye pockets all over that would burst forth with color in the rain. Quite brilliant, actually.  Unfortunately, he changed his mind about the shape of the dress, sewing something extremely conventional.  Instead of color pockets all over, he built them into obvious areas like the neckline, waistline and hem.  Finally, his color palate was very limited and safe.

The white dress that spun nicely on the runway

until the dye soaked in.

and the dress slowly transformed.

As clever and whimsical as it was, it was not avant garde. Sean was so smug about figuring out how to insert dye into a white, cotton dress that he totally forget about pushing design boundaries. In his favor, it was interactive and well executed and had the "wow" factor everyone wanted. Still, had Tim talked him out of it, or pushed him to a design breaking point, we would have missed out on all the fun.  People will remember this entry for years, long after we've forgotten what the design brief was.
If you're going to interpret avant garde in terms of shape, you've got to go big or go home. Kini is capable of going big and he had to for this challenge.
I'm still not impressed at his attention to detail.  It's a weakness with him.  He has plenty of time to finish a garment.  Could he not have found a way to resolve the floppy nature of the skirt?  What happened to the huge hat he was supposed to make?  Also I wish he had managed to do the scorpion back that he had originally planned.  The look could have used another pop of color.

It was a very well executed and bold sculptural statement.  Kini was the clear winner here, but the judges had so much fun with Sean's that they awarded a double win. Whatever.  Award a triple win. There's no immunity!

Well, this just pissed me off to no end.

I want to believe in Sandhya's talents.  I really, really do but she makes it so hard. 

The above drawing is an excellent example of a strong, graphic element underneath what should have been a strong sculptural element. I see a clear, plastic garment draped over a multicolored body suit. On the plastic are bold white stripes, painted or fashioned from cut-out vinyl. Did she not have enough money to do this?  It would have played with positive and negative space.  It would have been quite visually beautiful.

Look at what she has there. There's a wide, white belt around the middle. That's not in the drawing.  Where did that come from?  By the time she returned from Mood, she abandoned her drawing and began telling wide tales of spinners and geegaws.  Tim was dubious.

Gone were the bold stripes overlaid on the clear fabric. Gone were the dynamic diagonal lines. In their place was a folded, metallic grating over a wide metallic belt. Hanging from the belt and plastered on the back were metallic pinwheels. It made Zac giggle, but both Nina and Caitlin wanted more sophistication. Nina is over the whimsical tales of yore. Caitlin is just passing through and recognizes an emperor with no clothes when she sees one. This was a child's toy with very little to say aesthetically. It didn't challenge or assault.  It delighted, a bit.  Well, it delighted Zac and Heidi. But those of us who saw that original drawing were left disappointed in what could have been.

Speaking of disappointment, never let someone talk you out of your design vision who doesn't know what R2D2 looks like. Here was Emily's drawing.

For me, it conjured up visions of Metropolis.

"I'm concerned that it looks too much like R2D2."
Tim, R2D2 is on the left.

Emily worried so much about how robotic her outfit was becoming and totally lost her vision of what she wanted, which was a take on armor as protection from the rain.

If you're going to wear armor in the rain, why would you wear it upside down?

Maybe if you lived in California and were trying to contain every precious drop that fell from the sky you'd wear a rain catcher. Caitlin wondered about the long-term wearability of an outfit that actually retained water that fell.  Nina thought it looked to "space age/futuristic."  Oh, what she could have done if she had just concentrated on her original design and not held back.


fäde was lost this week.  He didn't have a drawing.  He seemed super confident that he tends to be an avant garde designer as a matter of course and that he would come up with an idea.  He considered avant garde not necessarily to be "things sticking out all over the place. 
And maybe that's true, but what it isn't is a literal interpretation of an inspiration least not one that's so mundane.

fäde was inspired by the Samsung TV and the presence of technology in our lives.  Press play and current runs through the circuitry.  Only YOUR MODEL IS WALKING IN THE RAIN.  HELLO?  ELECTROCUTION? At least his model was wearing goggles, right? Did he get those from the Aldo accessory wall?

No fäde, YOU be that way!

No, really, I'm gonna miss you, fäde. You marched to the beat of a different drummer and nobody really understood or appreciated you. We were so caught up in Sandhya's creativity and Sean's dreamy eyes. Your intellectual approach to design was wasted on us, I'm afraid. Still, I wish you could have had it within you to have gone for it. Embrace the rain. Play with it.

If I could wave a magic wand at you and go back in time, I would have suggested the ultimate wet t-shirt experience.  Underneath, the model would wear a white wetsuit that says "DRY." On top would be a long, flimsy, white, jersey t-shirt.  Make it really androgynous and amorphous.  As she walked through the rain, the shirt would become see-through exposing the words "DRY" underneath. Tongue, firmly in cheek.  Joke on the judges. Wet clothes on the outside. Dry clothes underneath. THAT'S quiet intellectualism meets avant garde. But then again, I'm not the one who is sleep deprived and missing my family, so it's easy for me to toss out bright ideas, isn't it?

Well, all this rain and no fäde makes me sad. I'm going to go take my sad and spend some double time catching up with this week's episode.