'Project Runway' recap: The Ivy Tower of Babble
After last week’s juicy blowout, during which Gretchen committed unintentional hari kari in front of the judges and saw her ego get chopped into tattered little swatches by Tim Gunn, we were all waiting with bated breath to see how the aftermath would play out. Would the designers realize they’d been mere pawns in Gretchen’s scheme to rule the world with an iron seam ripper? Would Ivy stop playing flying monkey to Gretchen’s Wicked Witch of the West? Would Michael C. finally rid himself of the flashing neon PARIAH sign hanging on his forehead?
In a word, no.
Little seems to have changed since Tim Gunn’s Takedown that Heard Round the World. At the top of the hour, we watched April, Peach, Ivy and Valerie sing the same “Michael C. can’t sew” tune, while Gretchen sputtered about in her fog of denial: “I’m not a manipulative person. It really hurt my feelings to have Tim say that to me. It kind of clouds my vision a little bit.” Clouds her vision of what, exactly? Her opinion of Tim Gunn? (Blasphemy!) I do not know. But I do suspect there’s something else impairing her vision: the bucket load of makeup she once again troweled on her face like cake frosting. Why does she do this on runway day? Why? Does she not realize we all know what she looks like without the Halloween mask? It reminds me of high school when classmates would slather on gobs of makeup for prom, then revert to their normal, 17-year-old selves on Monday morning. Puzzling.
The challenge this week was to take a nasty old bridesmaid’s dress, as worn and modeled by non-Amazonian human beings, and turn it into something chic. Oh, the “real women” challenge! Here we go. Naturally, all the designers moaned and groaned about the gowns, most of which seemed to come straight out of the Jessica McClintock collection. Mondo picked a rosy pink dress, then made a hilarious face when he saw the back had a giant panel of ghastly white. Casanova, who had whined that he was “getting fat” last week, picked the skinniest model. Go figure. (No pun intended.)
With $50 worth of Mood fabric to offset the awfulness of the bridesmaid’s gowns, the gang got down to business in the workroom and returned to their favorite pastime: ragging on Michael C. Even Valerie — levelheaded, fan-of-random-monograms Valerie! — broke out her claws when she said she hoped this would be the challenge that would send Michael C. home. Almost everyone had a negative opinion on the guy — everyone except the increasingly likable Casanova. “You are very talented,” he told Michael C., backing up his words with a friendly pat. Is Casanova the only contestant who can rise above the catty schoolyard fray? As he might say, exaaaaactly.
Up until now, the complaints against Michael C. all followed the same script: He’s incompetent. But oh, how the wind changed when the gang stepped into that lofty space for their “designer showcase.” Suddenly, the guy in the Gunn-inspired “Thank You Mood” T-shirt went from disrespected interloper to devious saboteur. The accuser? Ivy. “He’s been telling people not to vote for me because I’m the bitch of the show,” she said to Valerie. “He’s such a snake.” But she wouldn’t confront him, she said, because “that’s what he wants me to do.” Riiiiight. (She also said he “wants to pick my buttons.”) Michael, on the other hand, made a point of talking to Ivy about the rumor. In the Brother Zone the next day, he vehemently denied the charge against him. As he spoke to Ivy, she refused to make eye contact. Later, she told the cameras: “I choose not to believe Michael C. I only judge a person by their character. And Michael C.’s character and track record have proven otherwise.”
First of all: Ivy as a judge of character? Hilarious. (How’s your best-bud Gretchen doing?) And second: what track record? Unless I’m suffering a spontaneous blackout of the five previous episodes, we’ve witnessed no shady behavior from Michael C. And Runway friends, we know that if he had done anything questionable on camera, the editors would have delivered it to us on a silver platter. So that leaves us with two possibilities: Michael C. is a reality show genius who outwits the producers and performs all his dastardly acts when the cameras aren’t looking. Or: Ivy wanted to prove to the world that she can be her own Beyotch, not just Gretchen’s, and made the whole thing up. (I mean, she never actually denied being “the bitch of the show,” did she?)
“Why did he say that in front of all of us?” Gretchen asked after Michael C. left the room. “’Cause he’s an idiot,” Michael D. replied. Well, that’s rich, coming from the guy who thought adding black mosquito netting would class up his bargain basement red prom dress. Which brings us to the runway show. Casanova had immunity, so he was safe. Good thing, because his Smurf-blue pants and gold blouse hinted at his inner trashy diva. Joining him were Andy (confusing, cuffed, almost-hot pants and bustier that could be worn nowhere but on Club MTV, if it still existed), Ivy (tacky white pants and decent yellow blouse), April (edgy black dress that incorporated a laughably small amount of the original fabric) and Gretchen (red skirt and messy-looking ombré top whose unflattering boob leakage she wisely fixed after “designer showcase” day).
Valerie had wondered early on if it would be her turn to land in the bottom. Indeed it was. She turned the “Jolly Rancher” hot pink gown into a disjointed color-blocked nightmare that was unflattering to her model and an embarrassment for a designer of her caliber. And she has such great personal style! Sir Quips A Lot (who was on fie-yah last night) likened it to a “nursing grandmother dress.” But she made it through to safety, thanks to the even more egregious insults to humanity from Michael D. and Peach.
Though he was careful in his wording, Michael D. was obviously nervous about designing for a full-figured gal. And no amount of Tim telling him it was “an honor and privilege to design for someone who’s not a size six” would change that. I don’t necessarily agree with the judges that he turned a bad dress into an even worse one, but I do concur with MK that he went from “bridesmaid to bat mitzvah.” How could he possibly think this Filene’s Basement Juniors Department ball of tacky was suitable for a grown woman? Ugh.
And yet! Michael D. still wasn’t the worst of all. Oh, Peach. Peach, Peach, Peach. As soon as I saw that odd, multi-patterned sheer fabric she’d selected to spend her 50 bucks on, my Sartorial Spidey Sense went berserk. Then, when the final outfit slumped into view, my SSS started smoking and clanging like a jalopy on the fritz. I thought I just might pass out from the commotion. There was nothing pleasing about anything in her outfit, but those green ruffles? Oh, my. Bed skirt? Avocado goiters? Lettuce leaves? Indefensible. And so out of step with Peach’s clean, buttoned-up esthetic. The self-described “fairy drag mother” (hee hee) might have claimed she could “sell ice in Ice-land [sic],” but not this time. There was no way to spin this Home Wreck crapsterpiece that was the fashion equivalent of birth control. It might even make the top five worst outfits ever to walk the runway on this show. So we wish you a fond farewell, Peach. You really were a ball to have around and I’ll miss your spirit.
Now for the top three. Christopher could have been at a disadvantage, seeing as his original model fled the competition on her cold feet. But the handsome fellow whipped up a pretty mini-dress with that upholstery-like fabric whose print reminded him of herpes. (Ha!) It didn’t hurt that his model was smokin’ hot.
Stronger still were Mondo, who received the greatest number of buttons from guests at the “designer showcase,” and Michael C. I thought Mondo might finally be looking at a win with his modern, impeccably tailored, black-and-pink frock that brilliantly stamped out any trace of dowdy bridal wear. But the judges (including guest Cynthia Rowley) weren’t fans of his client’s hair. Nina called it Jersey Shore. MK one-upped her (of course) and called it “Snooki in The Flinstones.” That seemed a bit harsh to me, but then again, I’m no fan of this constant harping on the styling this season. We get it, Runway. L’Oréal writes you a big fat check. But let’s not pretend hair and makeup are the deciding factors in this race, okay?
So the win went to the much despised Michael C. for his super-short black cocktail dress. Now, I was pretty shocked that the judges were so taken with the lace action on the bodice and sleeves. To me, it looked like an inferior dress was trying to wrest control. But there is no way you could look at the craftsmanship of the sleek black satin and argue that Michael C. has shoddy technical skills.
But of course, his enemies did. Just knowing that Michael C. was in the top sent Gretchen into a tailspin. Perched on the couch backstage, she angrily ticked off all the mistakes he supposedly made in his design. “What show are we f***ing on?!” she yelled, dialing her rage up to 11. “I don’t even know why I’m here, man!” When Michael C. finally came backstage and quietly shared the news that he won, Ivy snapped, “Of course you did.” Meanwhile, her partner in sour grapes was looking like a frowny emoticon. At this point, Gretchen’s attitude is just comical to me. In confessional earlier on, she claimed she was ready to move on from her hurt feelings over last week’s snafu because “a scar can turn into an open wound if you don’t let it heal.” Well, sister, bitterness can singe your soul — assuming you have one.
That’s all I’ve got. What about you? You had me in stitches last week with your comments. And that’s no joke — I was laughing so hard the intern who sits outside my office came by to ask me what was so funny. So let loose!
What did you think of this week’s action? Why do the designers hate Michael C. with such a burning passion? Were you sad to see Peach go, even if it was her time? Did you love seeing her give her client lessons in catwalking? (Watch out Miss J!) What do you think of Christopher’s claim that Gretchen doesn’t have “a malicious bone in her body”? Should April wear her hair down more often? And do you loath Gretchen’s straw fedora as much as I do?
Karlie Kloss and Christian Siriano guide undiscovered designers through the harrowing rites of fashion.