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Project Runway recap: Playing the Part

Costume or fashion? It isn’t clear what the designers need to go for in a challenge involving outfits for five film genres

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Louise Black
Mike Yarish/Lifetime Networks

Project Runway

TV Show
Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn, Nina Garcia, Zac Posen
Current Status:
In Season

Quick: How many times have the Project Runway judges dismissed a design for being too ”costume-y” over the years? Too many to count, right? Yet the fanciful frou-frou-ery of costume was all over last night’s episode. I’d argue it even helped one designer win. As Tim explained, this week’s Hollywood-inspired challenge was to create a look based on one of five film genres: action-adventure, science fiction, period piece, Western, and film noir (which Louise adorably kept pronouncing as ”film nu-ah”). Now, I interpreted those guidelines as: make a fashion-forward garment that pays homage to the various types of movies for which Hollywood is known. I did not take them to mean that the designers had carte blanche to play Edith Head for a day. But by the end of the episode, I was as confused as my cats are when I suddenly make the red laser pen disappear under the floorboards. Perplexed.

In any case, film genres. You’d think that all 11 artistes had spent their childhoods locked in a dank, windowless room watching an endless loop of Ronald Reagan’s worst B-movies, given how they all recoiled from the Western category. No fans of Johns Wayne or Ford? Come on — Clint Eastwood? After everyone else snatched up the ”cool” categories, the last two designers, Shirin and Epperson, had no choice but to make it work with Western. (What do the fates have against poor Epperson, by the way? He’s been selected last far too many times to chalk it up to mere coincidence.) Neither designer was happy, but they proved themselves to be good sports. Shirin decided on a saloon girl look — one that ended up looking like it came straight outta Joannie Stubb’s Chez Ami on Deadwood. And soon enough, Epperson clawed his way out of his hole of doom with an elaborate concept: A ”beautiful lady” whose husband has gone to war and is left behind to take care of the land. Moi, I’d have stretched the concept and gone for Marilyn Monroe in The Misfits. But hey, at least no one did Rhinestone. (Good lord — I saw that movie in the theaters back in the day. Thanks, mom!)

Of all the designers, Ra’mon was the most excited, throwing his fan-boy arms around science fiction and divulging that he was a ”die-hard Trekkie.” There were shots of him giddily dyeing his fabric, which he explained was for a ”human-alien hybrid.” But soon things took a bad turn. Ra’mon, did you learn nothing from your first skin-tight bodysuit — the one you replaced with the neon-green Neoprene thing that earned you a win? Tim warned him that his spandex super-hero number ”could be sublime, or it could be a big hot mess.” By the time Ra’mon realized it was looking like ”Kermit the Frog gone wrong,” he had just two hours left to start over. His model Vanessa tried to put a game face on, but it was obvious what she was really thinking: ”Holy s—. I have to walk in front of Heidi Klum in this reptilian Jazzercise thing that looks like the costume designer from the original V made it…after someone spiked her Tab with acid.” Cue lizard baby sticking out its forked tongue.

NEXT: Fun with genres