Nineteen forties glamour didn't come easy to some of the designers, like Stella and Joe, as they all went after a chance to add an outfit to Diane von Furstenberg's fall collection
Stella Project Runway
Credit: Barbara Nitke

‘Project Runway’ recap: It’s a wrap

Raise your hand if you saw this one coming! And by this, of course, I mean Stella getting the heave-ho on the Diane von Furstenberg challenge on last night’s Project Runway. I’m not sure there are two designers more diametrically opposed than Lady Leathah and the elegant creator of the iconic wrap dress. Stella seemed to understand this, saying at one point that she wanted to show DVF how their two aesthetics could complement each other. But guess what? They don’t. Still…wow. What a hoot it would have been if Stella had actually nailed this one.

I almost wrote that we all could have predicted Stella’s auf’ing from the moment von Furstenberg made her grand movie-star (even slightly Norma Desmond-ish) entrance from atop an impressive set of stairs. But looking over my notes, I think the key to her demise happened earlier in the episode, when Stella stood in the kitchen, puzzled about how many scoops of coffee to put in the machine. Later, in DVF’s sample room (her very own Mood!), she turned into Don Quixote in front of the windmills, failing to conquer her fabric on those dastardly shelves. Now, if we all think back to the essence-of-New York episode, when the intricacies of a digital camera nearly gave her a nervous breakdown, I must ask you: Is there anything this woman can do? Anything, that is, that does not involve hammering grommets into oblivion? To quote guest judge Fern Mallis (IMG Fashion), “Stella was not stellar.” But I’m sure Ratbones still loves her.

I was pretty excited about this episode, being a big ol’ DVF fan. The stakes were also among the highest in Runway history. Getting your outfit sold at Banana Republic or Macy’s? Pffft! Silly trifles compared to a true créatrice de mode producing and selling your design. No one understood this more viscerally than Kenley, who spent the entire episode alternately weeping, tearing up, and wiping away tears. Even those of you who aren’t such Kenley fans have to admit that was pretty touching, no?

The first thing that popped into my head as DVF explained the challenge was that Blayne “What’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band?” Walsh had most likely never heard of A Foreign Affair or its legendary star, Marlene Dietrich. I mean, the guy was walking around the couture-ized Meatpacking District, where Stella McCartney, Marc Jacobs, and Christian Louboutin are among the many chic shops, and he was hoping to run into Mary-Kate Olsen? If he was serious, he’s a fool. If he was joking, he’s an unfunny fool. Somebody page Mr. T.

Last night was the first time I actually started doubting Terri. Don’t get me wrong: The gal can sew. But how many times have we watched her bust out the same look, week after week? Trousers. Shirt. Vest. Jacket. It’s beyond impressive that she can whip up that many pieces in a handful of hours, but I think that Joe and (shudder) Blayne had a point in calling the routine a tad tired. The pants fit well, the top turned out chicer than the fireworks fabric had any right to be, but that heavy black overcoat was as out of place in a DVF collection as a vegan at a steakhouse.

NEXT: Tim throws Kenley a life cropped jacket

Of course, Terri wasn’t the only one who didn’t quite nail the DVF look. Jerell sent yet another schizoid get-up down the runway, this time topped off with a boogie-woogie bugle boy hat that looked a helluva lot like the one he himself wore to judging some episodes back. What is this guy on? And did he even bother to look at the DVF look book? The pinched expression on DVF’s face as Jerell’s design turned the corner was all the commentary we needed. As for Blayne, what to say? The pants were actually kind of fun…in a Pirates of Penzance kind of way.

Other than the usual cattiness about which designer was effing up — the group had lots to say about Kenley opting to make just a single piece — no big drama happened in the workroom last night. By the time Tim came around to offer his two cents, most people were pretty far along. Suede, for instance, had already nearly completed his steaming batch of ill-conceived camouflage ugly. Tim rightly suggested he make the waistline of his dress less bulky and also reconsider the vest. But did he? Of course not. And he paid for it on the runway, inspiring Kors to bust out the old “dressed in the dark” chestnut.

After Leanne engaged in a play-acting spy routine that was pure cringe-worthy embarrassment (nowthere’s a “what was she thinking?!” moment for you), Tim stopped by her station and admired her lovely plum-colored gown but suggested she turn the droopy jacket into a shrunken blazer. The specificity of his advice surprised me. Was it fair? It certainly helped her come judging time. The panel unanimously praised Leanne and handed her a second victory in a row. Immunity be damned!

The judges also had kind words for Korto’s elegant black and white frock with yellow accents and black shrug-bolero thingy. Of all the designs, this is the one that struck me as most evocative of the DVF spirit — perhaps a little too much so. Anyone else do a double take during the DVF AmEx commercial, which featured a dress not only in the exact same print but with a very similar cut?

Kenley’s dress also got a series of approvals. The judges lauded its chic simplicity and classy restraint with respect to the Asian influence. DVF loved it, and Mallis seemed to think it could have edged out Leanne’s if only she’d paired it with just one other garment. Heidi, however, was not convinced. If the supermodel’s two main criteria for judging clothing are things that look expensive and things that look difficult, then surely she must have deemed Kenley a slacker on the second point. Kenley, though, was quick to defend herself, interrupting Heidi, apologizing for it, and then interrupting her again! Yet even more hilariously awkward was the sight of Kenley telling DVF that her fall collection needed a bright, colorful, simple dress. A less gracious judge might have told the presumptuous wannabe where to stick it. But DVF, bless her, seemed in on the joke and laughingly thanked Kenley for figuring that out for her.

NEXT: Stella’s unique sales pitch

Speaking of how other judges might have reacted last night, I miss Nina! No offense to Mallis, but Señora Garcia would have ripped apart Joe and his hideous Little Sparkly Black Riding Hood-meets Lady From Shanghai monstrosity. Considering the relative sophistication Joe has displayed in other challenges, I was surprised how badly he tanked here. And oh, just imagine the bons mots Nina would have delivered to nail him on taste level, poor construction, and overall inappropriateness. As Heidi remarked, whoever wore this open-backed, uneven thing would have to walk out of the room backwards, which she simulated while adorably uttering, “Ting, ting, ting!”

Still, even if Nina had been there, there’s no way Joe would have found his way to the chopping block before Lady Leathah. In a night low on zingers even from Kors (maybe he misses Nina too!), he finally delivered one after homing in on his favorite area. “The crotch is every woman’s nightmare,” he said, eyeing the bulge in Stella’s drab khaki pants. “I mean, hello! She’s got something missing, if you know what I mean!” Stella, honey. Did you think this was still the drag queen challenge? And speaking of crotches, who else caught that studded action going on down there on her leather pants? Now that was insane.

While Stella’s cluelessness has been a hoot, I won’t miss her stubborn, “this is what I do” attitude — especially not after that snotty eye roll she performed after Heidi told her she was out. “My ego was too big to be here anyway,” she said. Apparently. In the post-auf’ing confessional, she proclaimed: “I’m a rock star. That’s who I design for. If you like my stuff, come buy it. If you don’t, keep walking. I don’t care.” Hey, great slogan! That’ll bring in the customers by the droves!

Okay, it’s time for me to finish packing and get to bed. I’ll be at the Toronto film festival next week, but my colleague Kate Ward will be filling in for me.

In the meantime, you can hash it out below. Did the right person win last night? Were Tim’s pointers to Leanne too specific? Do you agree Heidi’s spy name should indeed be Venus Schnitzel? (Brilliant!) And are you starting to think that this season could be an all-female trip to Bryant Park, a showdown among Kenley, Korto, Terri and Leanne? I’ll know by next Friday, when the fashion show takes place, and will report back. Don’t worry. I won’t post any spoilers here. They’ll all be over at your friendly neighborhood PopWatch.

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

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