The designers get the near-impossible task of creating red carpet-ready couture evening gowns in just 24 hours.

By Stephan Lee
Updated January 13, 2012 at 06:30 AM EST
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Credit: David M. Russell/Lifetime
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Quick poll about our host — Angela Lindvall: robot or marionette? Is she more metallic or wooden? She didn’t bother me as much this episode. Maybe it’s because she had fewer hosting duties. She still spoke so slooooooowly and almost dozed off mid-sentence a few times, but I think she may be getting better. In any case, she got the job done introducing the challenge, which was to create a glamorous, high-end evening gown designed for a night at the opera. I like straightforward challenges like this because it frees the designers to do what they do best. But of course, there was an “All-Star twist”: They only had 24 hours to create their gowns.

I have a problem with this kind of Project Runway twist — the kind that hurts the designers’ ability to make good clothes but doesn’t make the challenge any more fun to watch. Austin, the All-Star best known for making couture gowns, explained that couture can’t be made in a day; it typically means months of work. Mondo, Rami, and Kara all admitted that couture evening wear was their fashion blindspot. I love how Kara calls it “evening-WAY.” If an actress spoke like Kara in a movie, I’d think she was overdoing the accent. (Speaking of accents, I enjoy imagining Arnold Schwarzenegger saying “couture.” “Kah-TOO-wah.”)

It’s off to Mood, where April and Michael once against bumped heads over materials. Last week, they went head-to-head over mopheads; this week, they both wanted to use red, which as a color and concept apparently wasn’t big enough for the both of them. Michael bitched and moaned a little bit and switched to black matte jersey. April stuck with the red because it was a big deal for her to do something that wasn’t black, gray, or diaper-like.

I wish Joanna were on hand for the Mood visits as a fabric consultant, but she met the designers back at the workroom with a big SMILE on her face! First she set her sights on Michael and noted that his dress didn’t have cups for a woman’s breasts. “I’m always thinking, ‘How is my body going to look in this?” said Joanna. I’m always wondering how Joanna’s body will look, too. When Michael admitted he didn’t think about women’s bodies enough, Joanna had an visceral, full-bodied reaction, as if someone had offered her a free session at a tanning salon. “Shock! Horror!” she sputtered while accurately conveying pure shock and horror on her face:

Joanna, please start mentoring acting workshops as well. Also, love the whole Austin Powers look.

NEXT: Are we going to the Metropolitan Opera House or The Phantom of the Opera? Not all the All-Stars seemed sure.For the runway show, Badgley Mischka, known for their “red carpet-destined evening wear,” were guest-judging. In case you had difficulty remembering who was Badgley and who was Mischka, remember that B stands for “bronzer” and Badgley. After the strong showing on last week’s runway, I was disappointed by the number of lackluster designs this week — but then I remembered the insane time constraints.

SAFE GROUP

Kenley

Of course the pink polka-dotted organza spoke to Kenley. Kenley’s aesthetic and personal style resemble Katy Perry’s back when she tried to look like a watermelon. Who other than Kim Zolciak from The Real Housewives of Atlanta would wear this to the opera?

Gordana

I didn’t hate this one, but it was like a Charlize Theron red carpet look gone awry. It wasn’t a terrible idea but the dress came out lop-sided and ill-fitting, and the jersey and chiffon weren’t melded together well — you could see all the seams.

Rami

Okay, close but not really. Parts of this dress were really lovely — I liked the triangle idea, and the model generally looked beautiful. It just didn’t look like high-end evening wear to me. Maybe in a different color, Rami’s look could have been stunning. As is, it looked too much like a dinner theater costume. It seemed as though Rami let himself get too intimidated by this challenge when actually he could have done a lot better.

NEXT: Jerrell, stop patting yourself on the back. Right now.Mila

It was cleanly executed and maybe had a bit of a cleaned-up Lisbeth Salander vibe, but it straddled the line between evening gown and LBD.

Mondo

If Audrey Hepburn and a Hershey’s Kiss had a love child. I appreciate that Mondo can always articulate the inspiration behind his looks — he cited Cleopatra and Madame Butterfly, and he was going for a 60s vibe that still felt futuristic and modern. I got all of that from one glance, and I even liked the weird back-pillow. If this were in the top group, I wouldn’t have complained.

Jerrell

And why wasn’t this one in the bottom? Jerrell was totally satisfied with his “gown,” even patting himself on the back, but this looked more like a hippy maternity outfit made by Gretchen. A woman wearing this dress shouldn’t go to the opera. She should weave a basket and then give birth into it.

NEXT: Is it just me, or was Michael’s dress a million times better than Austin Scarlett’s?TOP

Anthony

Before talking about the dress, let me just say that Anthony is hilarious. I was writing down his quotes all night only to realize that the words he was saying weren’t all that funny. Even when he was saying something like “that Grecian thing with little rope sandals on,” it was funny just because it was coming out of his mouth. As for the dress, it was stunning in an uneasy way. You really had to keep looking at it to figure it out. Isaac loved that it was white but not bridal, which Joanna rightly warned against. Mischka called it a “showstopper,” while Georgina wondered if the jewelry and gloves made it too vampy. I understood the type of woman who’d wear this to the opera. She’d be the slightly eccentric yet fiercely confident socialite that the other more conventional socialites would whisper about but secretly be jealous of.

Michael

While I’m not a fan of Michael as a character on the show, when I saw this dress, I immediately wrote down “winner.” I loved the soft criss-cross draping in the front combined with the flashier crystal-and-feather elements. Isaac called the dress “shockingly good” and not modest in the least — it’s something Kim Kardashian would wear to the opera, which I don’t agree with. Georgina noted that the girl wearing this dress wouldn’t be going home alone. I thought it was way more exciting than …

Austin Scarlett — WINNER

I blame Isaac for single-handedly propelling this dress to the win. He called it “fresh and classic,” but I didn’t see that. The first words I wrote when I saw this look was “old and dated.” I thought the tulle made her look old and the lamé made her look cheap. The judges seemed to all like it fine, but Isaac was the only one over the moon about it. He was thrilled that Austin Scarlett’s look brought modesty and tastefulness back.

NEXT: It’s becoming clearer and clearer that there are about five people in this competition who absolutely won’t win. They’re just biding their time before they’re eliminated.BOTTOM

Kara

This could pass for an evening dress maybe in the dead of summer. It was a perfectly pretty dress — Mischka adored it — but I agreed with Georgina, who couldn’t find any of Kara’s personality in it. There was really just nothing design-wise to discuss. Angela said she wouldn’t wear it, and I can see why. It was utterly lacking in cool factor.

April

What exactly was April going for here? She said she was going for Corpse Bride, but her model looked more like a witch who fell off her broomstick into a mud puddle. It didn’t help that April probably directed her model to limp across the runway like a wet, injured cat. Badgley noted that the whole look appeared rushed, and he’s always hated black and red together. I have to agree — that color combo brings to mind bordellos and Hot Topic. Georgina warned April that mixing dull and reflective fabrics could be tricky — another specific, helpful comment. Thanks, Georgie! Everything looked thrown-together and messy. The whole dress looked like an accident.

Sweet P — OUT

This dress actually made me angry when I saw it. If there’s such thing as an anti-evening gown, this is it. It only reinforced my opinion that Sweet P deserved to go home last week instead of Elisa. Both of her looks so far have been totally devoid of thought or vision, and any designer who thinks this is an evening gown is clearly off her game. The judges pretty much all agreed that this dress was a disaster; Georgina compared the bodice to a bathing suit, and Badgley compared it to a dirndl. April may not be long for this competition, but the right person went home tonight.

So fashionistas, what were the high and low points of the runway show? Did Sweet P deserve to go home, or did April for her ombre-dipped red dress? Did Austin Scarlett deserve to win? Did the judges overall go too soft on the designers? Was 24 hours too little time? Sound off below!

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Project Runway All Stars

Past Runway designers compete for the top prize.
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