On ''Project Runway,'' after a clever challenge in which the contestants updated the looks of style icons, one deserving designer finally gets noticed, while another is justly snipped
Project Runway
Credit: Project Runway: Mark Abrahams

”Project Runway”: An iconic episode

Just when some of you were beginning to grumble about inexplicable victories on this season’s Project Runway, along comes a segment that should make almost everyone happy: a great, clever challenge — each of the 10 remaining designers got to update the look of a different ”fashion icon,” from Katharine Hepburn to Madonna to Cher. A fine outcome: Fan favorite Michael, an underappreciated contender for weeks now, finally won a challenge, even though, let’s be honest, his magenta toot-toot-hey-beep-beep tribute to Pam Grier wasn’t his strongest work this season. And, finally, a dismissal with which nobody can quarrel: Going into the episode, it was already clear that of the remaining contenders, either Vincent or Bradley had to get the boot. And one of them did.

Bye-bye, Bradley. You’re going home. Home to whatever spacey-woodsprite-tree-hollow-magic-mushroomland you came from. Home to a safe place where nobody has ever heard of Cher and everybody thinks it’s perfectly okay to dress her in a top made out of Reynolds Wrap and pants that were so intent on beginning their very own vagina monologue that even the model called cameltoe on you. Home to where you can have the nap that you look like you’ve been wanting really badly.

In fairness to Vincent — whose fashion icon was Twiggy — he did try really hard to make the most hideous dress of the night, boldly choosing to use a fabric usually reserved for vinyl tablecloths in rundown diners and then adding clown pockets. And nice guy Robert, in whom we wish we had more faith, severely botched his Jackie O tribute dress by making a linen skirt that looked like it had a doggie door in the back, some kind of indescribably grim blouse that appeared to be topped with barbed wire, and a jumbo jacket belted with rope (it didn’t help that his model walked down the runway as if she’d just been given a wedgie). They’re both very lucky that Bradley clearly just wasn’t the kind of little boy who used to stand in front of a full-length mirror and pretend he was Cher.

Speaking of which: Hi, Kayne. Another strong night for the boy from Oklahoma: His Marilyn Monroe dress — a sexy, serious, daring, well-styled gown that even used leather well — showed that he’s a real competitor (this challenge was so up his alley that he managed to reference famous Marlene Dietrich and Cher dresses in his own gown without losing focus). He looked just a teensy bit frozen-faced when Michael beat him, although for my money, Uli’s expensive-looking pink-purple dazzler of a Diana Ross dress (which seemed to come with a side order of Stevie Nicks) should have made the top three, and Laura’s impeccable trousers-and-blouse Katharine Hepburn modernization (the only thing on the runway that was wearable by women who don’t look like models, and also the design that met the challenge most accurately) should have won.

In fact, Laura should have gotten some kind of immunity just for demolishing the insufferable Jeffrey with the single best bitch-slap of the season: ”If you’re so f—in’ successful and you know so much, what are you doing here, Jeff?!” (Jeff’s typically classless response, presumably made after he picked his entrails up off the floor: ”God, I wish that f—in’ bitch would have a stroke.” I assume he meant Laura, since Angela’s T-shirt clearly identified her as a biatch, which is different.)

By the way, how did Jeffrey’s Madonna dress escape the wrath of Nina Garcia, Michael Kors (welcome back!), and the mesmerizingly dry Diane Von Furstenberg? There have been beautiful dresses, bland dresses, and blecch dresses on this season of Runway, but Jeffrey’s ode to Madonna was the first outfit this year that appeared quite literally not to have been designed for a human. Maybe there’s a planet on which women are shaped like rectangles and can only attract males by disguising themselves as large red popcorn boxes. That must be the planet where neck tattoos are considered hot.

But why complain when the hour was so full of things to love? There was that moment when 10 models, showing more energy than they have in their lives, simultaneously lunged toward that table full of photographs as if Tim Gunn had just unveiled a cheeseburger-flavored diet pill. There was Michael realizing his Pam Grier dress had crossed the line from street to streetwalker, changing course, and pulling out that victory. And, of course, there was the Swiss Miss-meets-Nancy Sinatra in the Bowels of Hell dress-and-boots combination that Heidi was wearing. As Michael Kors would say (and in fact did say, twice): ”Insane.” Hours like this are why we love Project Runway.

What did you think? Isn’t it a rip-off that Michael didn’t get immunity? Couldn’t there be a superhero costume challenge in which he gets to design an outfit for Captain Save-A-Ho? And won’t Vincent’s reign of error ever end?

Episode Recaps

Project Runway

Karlie Kloss and Christian Siriano guide undiscovered designers through the harrowing rites of fashion.

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