The designers all manage their frustrations when they're presented with an unexpected challenge, but only three are deemed up to the task and ready to go to Fashion Week
Credit: Barbara Nitke/Bravo

‘Project Runway’ recap: And then there were three

Anticipating (and, honestly, hoping) that Kenley would royally screw up during part one of Project Runway‘s finale last night, I had the opening line of this TV Watch already written in my head: “Ding-dong, the witch is dead!” But alas, the show’s resident beast did a 180 this week with an inspired wedding gown (even if, as the judges pointed out, that inspiration might have been a bit Alexander McQueen) and the cutest bridesmaid dress ever. And as for that heinous ‘tude she’s been sharpening up the past few weeks? For the most part, even it was tolerable. She apologized to the other designers and even joked around with them a bit. Those eight weeks away obviously did Kenley a lot of good.

Let me just start by letting you know what may seem obvious by this point: I’m filling in for my colleague Kate Ward, who was filling in for your usual TV Watcher, Missy Schwartz, who’s off gallivanting around Asia as we speak. And just so you know, here’s another preface: I went to the Project Runway finale show in Bryant Park a few weeks back, so I’ve seen the entire collections for each of the designers. However, as you all also probably know, because of the timing of the show, six designers — the three now left, plus Jerell, Joe, and Suede — showed collections then.

My point is that from seeing those collections all those weeks ago, it was virtually crystal clear then who’d be in the top three — and that never ever included Jerell’s overwrought fashions. Granted, you got a glimpse of what he did overall tonight with a few flashes of his collection, but check out Jerell’s entire line, which was too much mixing, too much messy, and too much bling. You’ll likely never see the collection otherwise. On the other hand, Korto, Kenley, and especially Leanne rocked the runway, so it’s no surprise that they’re they ones left standing. You go, girls!

But back to tonight’s episode. I always love when we get to this part of the season. Seeing a bit of the designers’ home lives is always so revealing. Now if we could just get some more time with their parents, family, and friends, it’d really be a window into their souls, don’t you think? Korto, whose backstory made me a tad misty, and Jerell brought out the whole shebang in terms of family and friends, which was sweet, while Leanne awkwardly introduced us briefly to her cuteish boyfriend, Nathan.

And Kenley, in what was no surprise at all, didn’t bring any friends around when Tim visited her tiny apartment in Brooklyn. Does she even have any? Honestly, that could be the case for this gal. Maybe all those tragic years on board that blasted tugboat didn’t allow her to make any good friends? Okay, now I’m just being mean like Kenley herself. Another very revealing part of Tim’s visit to Kenley’s apartment was when she pointed out the photo of her grandma, who she said was a calendar girl in the ’40s. Bingo! There’s where her obsession with Bettie Page-esque looks comes from!

NEXT: Always a bridesmaid

So let’s get to the nitty-gritty of what happened last night. The designers — who’d been working for weeks on 12-piece collections — were refreshed but nervous, and then found out what they should have known was coming all along: They’d have to create one more piece to be judged before they were pared down to three. “I was really pissed off,” Kenley said. “We were all pissed.” But honestly, they had to see the twist coming from a mile away! Haven’t they watched Runway before? In their collections, they were required to create a wedding dress — a nearly standard part of any fashion show — so Tim revealed that they’d need to put together a complementary bridesmaid dress. This could have gone so wrong because, as we all know, bridesmaid dresses are usually heinous concoctions created so all the focus is solely on an often equally heinous bride. But honestly, I thought on average all the designers did a decent job with the gowns they concocted. Obviously, as judges Heidi, Michael, and Nina decided, Leanne and Kenley rose above, while Korto and Jerell fell short.

There really are no words for Leanne’s designs. Okay, scratch that, there definitely are: Michael called her dresses “so chic, beautifully crafted,” while Nina said they were “modern and dreamy.” Well put, but they were so seamless and, frankly, stunning that it’s hard to describe. Last night, her colors were so refreshing — that aqua-tinged bridesmaid dress was both amazing and so representative of her line, as was the wedding dress. Sure, Leanne can’t pull her own self together — there was one point tonight where girlfriend was doing an interview and needed more than a couple of strokes with a hairbrush — but she knows how to sew a mean structural dress. Kenley, despite her obvious flaws and her irritating fist pumping on the runway this week, was also superior. The judges were in love with her again. That short, feathery wedding dress was just so her, and that bridesmaid dress, while it worked perfectly in the context presented, would be beautiful for nearly any occasion — cocktail party, glam night out, fancy dinner, whatever.

Jerell and Korto were, frankly, disappointing. I guess I expected it from Jerell, who actually won three challenges this season but could never seem to come up with anything cohesive. Despite his obvious creative streak, how’d he get this far in the competition? I saw that wedding dress in person, and he deserved to be auf’d just for it. The explosive breast cups (Tim called those out first) and too-too jewels sent it over the edge for me. The thing, while outlandish in that Sarah Jessica Parker-in-Sex and the City way, just didn’t jell. And that branch of flowers growing out of his bride’s head! Kill me. One thing to note is that during Tim’s visit four weeks before Fashion Week, Jerell said he still had six looks to make. Does that seem odd to anyone else? Maybe it’s just poor planning or lack of inspiration on his part, but it seems like when half of his work time was up — especially with such a long deadline — he should have been well into all of his designs by that point. Maybe that lack of early planning was part of his downfall.

As for Korto, didn’t she basically make this dress last week? The girl’s all about a deep V lately, which the judges have repeatedly shot down. And, frankly, there was just no soul to that bridesmaid dress. It looked like it came off the rack somewhere. When did the designers decide that they could just phone it in?

So it’s goodbye to Jerell this week. While Tim got misty-eyed with all the designers before the runway show — and seemed especially upset to see Jerell go — I’m not too sad or surprised. The three rightful ladies made it to the finale.

But what did you think of last night’s episode, TV Watchers? Do you think Kenley has changed? Are you satisfied with the top three? And, most importantly, who’s gonna take it all home next week?

Episode Recaps

Project Runway

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

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