Listening to some of these designers, you’d think you need a passport to get to the South. This week’s challenge required the contestants to make a look for a modern Southern woman, and some of them reacted in a predictable and rather ignorant way. Even as someone who left Atlanta for New York the first chance I got, I still took offense with the way Alexander, Jeremy, and Helen condescended to this challenge, as if Southerners are inherently less stylish or less worthy of their work than everyone else. I grew up in the Buckhead area in Atlanta, and there are all sorts of Southern women of all shapes and colors who love to buy clothes, and not all of them are Real Housewives.
Before Tim announced the challenge for real, the designers were treated to a traditional Southern brunch, and at this point, they all knew there’d be a catch. One of my favorite images of the night was of Ken eating his eggs. He even eats in an “over it” way. It’s a miracle he can keep his eyes open.
Helen and Alexander were first to declare that they don’t design for the modern Southern woman, although they’d love to win the challenge — the winning piece would be sold in Belk stores. Suddenly, the designers all took back the smack they’d undoubtedly been talking about the Belk Accessories Wall. Poor Belk Accessories Wall.
It was interesting to hear what the designers thought the “Modern Southern Woman” looked like. Alexander was thinking Steel Magnolias (the Julia Roberts or Queen Latifah version? Crucial distinction). Ken, who hails from the South, had his own ideas, but he wouldn’t share them with his competitors. (Didn’t he flip out on Helen not too long ago for withholding information?) But really, the designers could have used a little more direction. The Modern Southern Woman is such a vague concept. A stylish woman from Atlanta might dress like a stylish woman anywhere. They should have been more specific — what if they had to create an evening gown inspired by the ladies of Designing Women? Now that would have been a fabulous challenge.
Surprise! Alexandria didn’t know the first thing about designing for a Southern woman. Apparently, she thought women who live below the Mason-Dixon Line enjoy wearing doilies and junk scraps woven together. Tim gave her a withering critique, the harshness of which we haven’t seen in quite some time. “It’s hideous,” he said. “I’m sorry, it’s hideous.”
I was expecting a Southern icon as a guest judge this week, but instead we got Belk exec John Thomas — who looked the part of a dapper Southern gentleman — and former wrestler and current Supermarket Superstar host Stacy Keibler.
I disagreed with the judges more this week than usual — I thought Helen and Justin deserved to be in the higher scoring group, while Alexander had no business being in the top group.
NEXT: Picnic blankets are apparently all the rage in the South…