Sunday, November 1, 2015

Project Runway Season 14 Finale Part one: No Mas Pantalones.

Greetings Project Runway Fans!

We're in the home stretch.

When last we left the designers...
Poor Edmond was convinced he was out. Then, in what was one of the WORST KEPT SECRETS IN PROJECT RUNWAY HISTORY...

Tim saves him. Yay!
If you watch any of the preview videos on Lifetime, you could have figured this out. This week's video was entitled "Almost Eliminated." Yes, my dear viewers, that feeling you feel is the feeling of being snookered. That trick was so cheap, Fabio Costa could have dumpster dived for it.

The next to last episode always features Tim visiting the designers in their homes. Four finalists meant that Tim had to go to four cities. These visits are always a highlight of every season. This year, the producers teased that this show, at 120 minutes, would be the longest show in Project Runway history!!!! And for all that, we only got about 30 minutes worth of home visits. What a rip off! 

Well, this blog doesn't have to follow the editors decisions. I think we should revisit the visits. In excruciating detail. Because, they're the best part of the penultimate show.

I visited San Diego once. It was so impossibly beautiful, I had a hard time returning home.
Ashley showed her collection to Tim, Her inspiration was Mexico City in the 1950's, which reflected her family's heritage. It would also feature a variety of styles for her plus-sized models in the form of separates and single garments.

1950's Mexico City would have been an odd juxtaposition of cosmopolitan, post-war outfits and the folk styles of the Mestizos--the mixed Spanish and indigenous people. One of these styles is the hair crown or fiesta halo. These are usually bright colored paper flowers woven into braided hair. Here, Ashley created delicate silk flower crowns designed to match and compliment the single hued dresses she was making. The whole effect would be like Frida Kahlo, only more muted and subdued.

Tim was almost concerned about how matronly flowers and traditional dresses would look and realized that's exactly what Ashley intended.

She hand dyed all of her fabrics. Most pieces appeared to be a combination of lace and another solid fabric. Prints were used sparingly. After the visit, it was time for dinner with the family.

I could have watched 15 minutes of Tim making tortillas with Ashley's mama!
Out of all four family meets, this one had the best food, hands down. I looked at that spread and wanted to reach through the TV and grab a tortilla, some fillings and all the salsas. And go for seconds.

And listen to Mr. Tipton go on and on about what he was going to do when he visited New York City for the first time.

"I want to run around Central Park naked."
Listen, Pops, you wouldn't be the first person to do that. And quite frankly, as long as you don't smoke (yes, Central Park is now a no smoking zone!) I don't think the cops would arrest you. I hope Ashley's mom and dad enjoyed their visit immensely. I can only imagine Tim giving them a laundry list of things to see and do while they were there. Ashley is also very lucky to still have her abuelita (grandmother.) Sometimes, it's the grandma who sees the talents and interests that the parents sometimes miss.

This woman is Ashley's biggest fan. I'm pretty sure, even though she didn't say it, that this entire collection is inspired by her grandma as a young woman.  

Tim proceeded to San Francisco to visit Candice Cuoco.
Where everyone wears coats to the beach....
"Mom, I hope you don't mind, but I brought up your drug addiction a bunch of times on the show. The whole nation knows about it now."
Actually, I found this visit rather comforting in that Dale Cuoco is rather frank about her past addictions and how hard Candice's childhood was. She is so proud of what Candice has been able to accomplish, not just on the runway, but in her personal life. She's raising two beautiful kids, who also joined the beachside coffee klatch with Tim.

"I thought I would be overdressed!"
No Tim. Despite what you may have heard, everybody bundles up when they go to the beach.
But Candice's son stole the show.


After the fog lifted, it was time for a trip into town to visit Candice's studio. They were greeted by a large cage skirt understructure for the final look.

Inside, there were all sorts of wooden hats and waist pieces along with a variety of rich textiles. She stayed behind after the show and saw the Metropolitan Art Museum exhibit "China Through the Looking Glass." This exhibit was also the theme of the Met Ball this year. So she showed Tim the embossed leather, laser cut leather, sequined net overlay, thick satin, thin satin. It was a fabric explosion.

We also found out that Tim could use some upper body training.
"I can't even lift this with one hand!"
"It's starting to look like you're dressing drag queens."

"Listen, Tim, as long as you see Chinese drag queens walking down the runway, I'm good."
Since Tim only had time for coffee in San Francisco, he flew east for a good meal and a visit with Kelly Dempsey. 
It isn't possible to make Springfield, MA look more beautiful.
Project Runway had us fooled all season, thinking that Kelly was from BOSTON when she was actually from SPRINGFIELD. These are TWO DIFFERENT PLACES. They are nowhere near each other and even the accent is completely different. The coastal accent all the way up from Boston to Maine drops the R in CAR and puts it back in MARIA. So "Maree-er can't parallel pahk" is a sentence commonly heard in Boston or Portland. But when you travel west from Boston, the accent starts to become more like upstate New York. The Rs come back and they don't migrate to the end of words that end in A.

The collection appeared to be a flashback of Kelly's entire experience on Project Runway. Look...there's the brown vinyl fabric she used for the Bridge dress!  Sequins and sequinned fanny packs were all there.

"I made fanny packs!"

Fanny packs? I've got a fanny pack that looks just like that...and it was ok IN 1990. I'm over them now and I'm pretty sure the rest of America is, too.

But I get it. It's your signature. Your thing. They gave you $9,000 and seven weeks, the very least you could do in exchange is make a fanny pack that doesn't look exactly like a fanny pack that I could buy at Dollar Tree.

Her inspiration was 1970's Studio 54. 

I think I liked it better when her inspiration was Wu-Tang Clan. Seriously. She didn't need to travel back in time to bring something fresh to the runway. I think her quest for glamour distracted her from what's going on all around her right now. The pieces she showed Tim looked like cheap designs made out of expensive textiles.

She also continued her practice of combining materials to form custom textile finishes.

The piping, metallic ribbon and sequins combine to look like the sort of fabric you'd use for outfits on a parade float.

And did she really need to spend hours sewing piping together? 

Tim was excited about what he saw and encouraged Kelly to do more. I would have sat her down and given her the same pep talk he gave Candice. This looks like she is still in the "I need to make cheap materials look good" mindset. This is the mindset of someone who can only afford one yard of expensive fabric and must make it stretch over an entire garment. This is someone who hunts for bargain bin trim notions so that she can build them up to use in place of more expensive materials.

It's edgy when you use zippers as trim, because they have a unique texture and it's an instance of seeing the beauty in something utilitarian. I would have prefered her to use more "hardware" as trim instead of combining trim and fabric to make embellished fabric.

That way, the show becomes a statement of seeing the beauty and glamour in the everyday rather than trying to bring glamour to the street.

But really, the studio visit was not what we wanted to see. The dinner with the family was nice, but that's not what we wanted to see, either.

In fact, there were chatroom denizens on their sickbeds who were slapping themselves to keep awake just to see this....

Expect next time you visit Bob's Italian Food on Billings Rd. in Medford, MA, to see a sign in the front window "HOME OF PROJECT RUNWAY'S KELLY DEMPSEY." 

"What? You didn't think I was going to take Tim to the deli? All he ever talked about was how hard it was to get good Italian deli in Manhattan anymore. I said, 'Ya gotta come to Massachusetts.'" 
While I peruse the olives and capers, could you slice some prosciutto for me? Also, maybe a half pound of mortatella, while you're at it. 

Even better than that...was this.

They named a sangwich after Tim Gunn!  And if you grew up around Italian Americans, you know a sangwich when you see one.  A sandwich is something you can easily hold in one hand to eat. A SANGWICH requires two hands. Bob's sangwich refuses to close on the platter! 

But wait... I need to see that sandwich again. Bob calls it a "Milanese." A Milanese is traditionally a breaded meat dish made popular in Argentina by Italian immigrants. The breaded meat is often served in sandwich form.

This looked like a sandwich with some prosciutto, but maybe some breaded chicken is added to it. A visit to the WEBSITE confirmed it!  WARNING: do not click that link on an empty stomach!

They don't serve food on airlines anymore, so I bet that Milanese came in handy for Tim's last visit to the lovely city of 

A rare portrait without bumper to bumper traffic.
A fancy, tufted couch. Chandelier. Name on the wall. 16X24 framed pictures of models wearing your clothing. I expected Nene Leakes to walk in at any moment.

Tim wore pinstripes for this shakedown. He meant business! Edmond had gotten distracted with trying to create evening wear and day looks. His heart, however, was in evening wear. Tim told him to pursue that.

Really?  So we're just tossing the whole idea of a cohesive AND a broad collection right out the window. You do remember this was THE CRITICISM of Laura Bennett.


If I hear Nina say anything about range and "one note" I'm going to HULK SMASH my remote control! Don't make me do that!

I would have at least wanted to see the day collection to see if there were any strong pieces there. But NOOO. Instead, Tim told him to focus on evening, which meant he had tons of work to do before the runway show in two weeks.

Edmond's family
The family visit was very sweet and low key. Edmond has that same cool demeanor as his dad. Speaking of cool....

Kelly, this is what street glamour looked like in the 1970's. 
I don't know what you were doing in the 70's, but whatever it was, it wasn't as fabulous as what they were doing. Clearly.

The home visits were heartwarming and insightful. The studio visits left me a bit concerned about how good the final runway was going to be.

This episode also continued the tradition of the last few years of having the designers show three looks to the judges before the show. Plus, there was a twist involving another trip to Mood and asking the designers to produce another dress in a day.

"Sometimes, designers get their best piece from the last minute look."

Not this year when Edmond brought not one, not two, but THREE LOOKS that still needed to be sewed together.

Not this year when Ashley had not been able to have a fitting with her plus-sized models.

Not this year when having blown out all their creativity in their collections, Kelly and Candice had nothing left to add with an additional piece.

No. All it did was WASTE A DAY BEFORE THE RUNWAY SHOW. Thanks, Project Runway. Thanks a lot.

If you had to do a twist, a good one would have been to ask each designer to make some pants. Now I know I haven't seen everything each designer brought in its entirety. Even though the final runway pictures from Fashion Week are available online, I don't look at them until after the final show because I want to look at how they walked first. So I can't be 100% certain of this, but it really looks like we could have a runway show without a single pair of pants.

This ranks right up there with Anya Ayoung-Chee in Season 9 who's runway show had neither pants nor sleeves. I believe that was the year I screamed my way through an entire finale runway show.

"iNo mas pantalones!"
So really, all that's left is the drama of which three looks to show. Everyone showed their "last minute" piece. And it looked like most everyone showed their weakest or most controversial pieces.

Edmond Newton

He got a little too ruffle-happy with his collection. Everyone was disappointed that the pieces weren't more sexy. He needed more a balance between the sexy and the sosphisticated. Nina asked which one was the one-day piece. Trick question with Edmond because while the one closest to him was designed and sewn in a day, the other two garments were also sewn in a day as well because he brought them to New York in pieces. I'm pretty sure you can measure his sewing speed in "ruffles per minute."

Kelly Dempsey

As expected, her one-day look added nothing to the collection. Nina went on and on about how there was nothing special here. These are clothes you can find anywhere. As for the fanny packs, if you plan to use them, they need to be styled more strategically. I would have told her to ditch them back in Springfield. But I'm not a mentor or a fashion editor. I'm just a blogger. What do I know? I still have the two I bought back in 1989.

True story....I have an aqua blue fanny pack into which I've stuffed an American flag. It hangs respectfully in my front closet--ready for any protest, march or event that calls for a portable American flag. I can strap the pack on and I'm ready to be an American, anywhere, at any time. My son and I carried it at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington in DC last year. We got to meet all the dignitaries because they wanted to pose in front of it.

But if you're trying to update the street glamour of Studio 54 for a Wu-Tang generation, maybe lose the nylon strap, at least?

Ashley Tipton

The judges zeroed in on the issues with the fit.

This should come as no surprise to the judges and if I had been Ashley, I would have delivered an epic rant.

In fashion, there is something called a "sample size." For most designers, a "sample size" is between 0-4. I probably would not have been able to fit in a sample size after the age of 16 and I have never really been what you would consider to be "overweight." Most women aren't sample sized. Sample size is something for the convenience of the designer.

So while all the other designers could target a narrow sample size range (construct to 4, tailor down as needed,) Ashley needed to prepare for possible size 16-18 models. Some of her models were 12-14, hence the fit issues, which were more noticeable.

I know these critiques are edited, but I'm thinking the editors wouldn't drop off critical issues that would come up later in the final judging. I think think of three right away weren't addressed as adequately as I would have liked.

1. The cropped bustier. Now, I'm not going to criticize a plus-sized designer for offering a midriff exposing option. That model's got a two-pack and can probably hold side planks for 10 minutes without any wobble. My issue is with the design of the top itself. It looks too much like a bra and doesn't give her the support she's going to need underneath the bust. Namely, even when fit, any vigorous activity like...say...dancing is going to cause the top to ride up in the front. That is not what you want in a garment. It could use a couple of inches of banding underneath.

2. Quilted fabric. Why would you ADD BULK to a plus-sized woman? Why would you gather a skirt in quilted fabric? For what purpose? You've just added inches to the waistline and you've removed any spin or movement in the skirt. I'm not just speaking to Ashley here. Have you been shopping for clothes lately? Everything looks upholstered. Maybe designers realize how dangerous the world is out there and believe their precious customers need to be protected with packing material.

3. The sheer lace with exposed undies. When they look back on the first two decades of fashion in the 21st century, decades from now, they will remember the exposed underwear...when ladies chose to wear underwear.  The sheer over something is so overdone.  So Ashley went there with the purple dress. Nina and Zac discussed how the open back exposed the bra but there was no discussion about how the entire garment exposed what was underneath. Perhaps there's a degree of acceptance of this that wasn't there a few seasons ago. I'm eager to see how Ashley will resolve this. She had intended to make custom undergarments for the dress, so it will be interesting to see the final result.

The controversial part is whether or not this should be an offering for plus-sized women. In a day and age of ladies like Lena Dunham and half the cast of Orange is the New Black, women are demanding more variety. Dunham, in particular, has been wearing and styling designer clothes quite questionably in the eyes of most fashion critics. Perhaps we are reading her completely wrong. It isn't that she doesn't know how to wear designer clothes. I think Dunham is trying to communicate that designers aren't addressing the issues of her body to give her the choice to push her own personal style envelope. She pushes it anyway and the result, in my opinion, is more of an indictment of their designs than it is her style of wearing them.


When I go into a store, by and large, I am a size 10. When I order a designer garment online (which I have done a time or two) I am a size 12. When I order something from Europe, I need to add two inches to my bustline in order to ensure that the waist fits. After two kids, my bust to waist ratio is a lot closer than it used to be.

I AM NOT A FREAK!!!! I was just in a fashion show three weeks ago. Who are the people in this industry to label me as "ANYTHING-SIZED?" It is 2015. We have designer chemo that targets cancers based on their DNA. You can order computers, cars, houses, all sorts of things to your customized tastes and needs. Some of the fastest growing fast food chains are designed around the custom-built order.

So why are we subject to the tyranny of such arbitrary sizing?

I have a friend with a tiny waist and a wide hips. She cannot find a pair of jeans. AT ALL. I have another friend of mine who tearfully admitted that one of the reasons she doesn't exercise is that she can't find well-fitting, supportive exercise clothes in her plus-size. AND SHOULDN'T THERE BE EXERCISE CLOTHES IN A PLUS SIZE? 

I spent an entire winter sin pantelones myself because I couldn't find a pair that didn't make me look like stuffed sausage somewhere between my waist and crotch. You should have been with me two summers ago when I tried to find shorts. Speaking of shorts, my 5'6" husband hasn't been able to find shorts that don't go past his knees for close to 20 years now!

Let's say what needs to be said. WE ARE SLAVES. Women and men are slaves to a fashion industry that does not give a rat's ass about how we look.

Tim Gunn, himself, this year has stuffed himself into more suits that strain uncomfortably around his middle and under his arms.  This isn't about gaining weight. He can afford to buy new suits every year--and he does because his lapels are stylishly narrow.  This is about the styling. Bill Maher, Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel have the same problem. Everyone looks stuffed.

Has fabric become so expensive that we cannot afford to make a garment that fits even people for whom money is no object?

So there stands Ashley, wrapped in a crazy skirt, railing against tyranny like Frida Kahlo. And like Frida, she has flowers in her hair because even crazy women want to look pretty, even if their bodies don't quite fit some arbitrary ideal.

And that is MY epic rant.

Candice Cuoco

"I was inspired by China."
"You are not Alexander McQueen. You need to be Candice Cuoco."
Ouch! I felt that one way over here in the cheap seats. I need to sit down and put my head between my legs for a minute.

Listen, Nina is right. Those three looks are a hot mess. They're a set-up to a joke. A post-apocalyptic dominatrix, a goth Holly Golightly, and a streetwalker who just stole a bunch of clothes from Vivienne Westwood's shop walk into a bar... 

Candice clearly needs to edit. Hopefully, she doesn't edit all of the interest and potential her collection had. We'll see. She, out of all of them, was the hardest for me to pin down. Her vision is fanciful and extravagant. Yet, translating that into fashion buckets is very difficult. What is "evening wear?" What is "day wear?" It's almost as if Candice should be designing for the stage. She always seems to be pursuing the drama in her clothes. Maybe she's overshot her technical capabilities. Maybe she had too many ideas at once. It's hard to know. We've seen tantalizing glimpses that hint at something completely showstopping. Does she ever get to that place? We'll certainly see next week.

Because I know a recap of a 120 minute show is not enough for you, I'm also including two bonus posts.  Six designers showed at fashion week. Two of them were decoys. I'm critiquing them all. Because there were only six, I'm running through all the designs.

Take a moment and visit my pages on Swapnil Shinde's show and Merline Labissiere's show.

This will provide an interesting contrast to the finalist runway shows to come.

Until next episode...join us in the Blogging Project Runway chatroom next Thursday at 9 pm Eastern Time for fun and camaraderie during the final show!


  1. Great and thoughtful post SusQ. All of them had good ideas and not so good ideas. I think Kelly has a line rather than a collection. How sad that Edmund seems so lost and overwhelmed. Besides the theatrical, Candices collection does not seem to be coherent to me. While Ashley's collection needs tailoring, she should be commended to give new and modern choices to plus size women. I agree with you that there are many plus size women who are totally fit and can wear crop tops – and sheer fabrics. That being said, I'm over granny pants too!

  2. you totally ARE overweight, deal with it.

    1. I have no idea what this post is supposed to mean. Maybe an attempt at stand-up comedy behind a keyboard?