Project Runway recap: Say No to the Dress
Guten tag! Oktoberfest 2009 ended last Sunday in Munich, but I’m taking it upon myself to officially extend it through this weekend. ‘Cause after last night’s maddening outcome, all I feel like doing is diving into a super-sized Steinkrugand drinking myself into a Bavarian oblivion. Das ist some serious bullScheiße you pulled last night, judges. Nein, nein and nein!
Okay, fine. It wasn’t all bad. It actually started off pretty great. My favorite challenges are the ones that push the designers to the limits of their creativity, so I gave a big ole thumbs up to this week’s task of turning nine divorcées’ wedding dresses into something fabulous. Plus, Gordana made a funny. ”Hi, I’m Leah,” said the first single lady. ”And I’ve been divorced for three months.” To which Our Lady of Spoons replied: ”Congratulations.” Ba-dum-bum. Another reason to be pro-wedding dress? It gave Tim Gunn an excuse to sprinkle these words throughout the episode: ”Designers, I’m sending in your divorcées!”
After the contestants selected their gowns, they hit up Mood for 25 bucks worth of extra fabric. By that time, Shirin was in full-on freak-out mode, since she — not Epperson! — was the last to pick and got stuck with the worst dress: 100 percent polyester, no beading, no appliqué, and the least amount of yardage. She also got a pill of a client named Charlie, who rambled on about wanting a Cher ”Half-Breed” get-up, complete with feathers and a headdress. Don’t know what kind of post-divorce life Charlie has in mind, but it obviously involves sitting barefoot astride a horse while lamenting a childhood filled with loneliness brought on by her complicated biracial ethnicity. Hey, thanks a bunch, Charlie. Now I won’t be able to write this recap without hearing ”Half-breed! That’s all I ever heard! Half-breed! How I learned to hate the word!” blaring in my head.
Shirin’s meltdown continued into the workroom until Tim, once more clad in his customary suit, swept in to save the day. As she wept tears of frustration, he gave her a hug (sweet, adorable) and some advice (genius, generous): lose the feathers but not her identity as a designer. ”Clear this table top off, take each of these textiles out and just play, like it’s a big giant paper doll” Tim said. With that, Shirin managed to get her head back on straight. Next thing we knew, she’d ditched the ”bad Vegas outfit” (”HALF-BREED!”) and streamlined her design into a smart white frock snazzed up with some contrast stitching. ”I’m happy there aren’t peacock feathers coming out of her butt,” she said. And like a pint-sized cheerleader blessed with the determination of Tracy Flick, Shirin pumped herself up, telling the camera: ”I’m not going home for this. I refuse to go home for this.”
As the day wore on, Gordana went from cracking jokes with divorcées to breaking down while dialoguing with her husband’s voicemail. She explained that she’d been divorced before, and this week’s broken-marriage theme, combined with being separated from her family, just did the poor gal in. There she sat, sobbing into an electronic device that wouldn’t, couldn’t assuage her hurt. That her hand was stained with dark fabric dye only amplified the woe.
NEXT: Epperson just didn’t get it
Carol Hannah might have joked that the challenge was sacrilegious — ”I make most of my living making wedding dresses, so to chop one up is kind of like running into a church and swearing at the top of your lungs!” — but she hunkered down and produced a gorgeous little frayed-tulle number that, come runway time, inexplicably got short shrift. (Boo!) Althea also worked steadily sans freak-outs, but with considerably less stellar results. I like you a lot, Althea, but that two-toned blue dress with the gold belt was fug. And do I even need to mention that Irina’s confidence continues to forge ahead like Napoleon crossing into wintry Russia? Irina does seem to be aware that she’s becoming persona non grata among her colleagues. ”The rest of group isn’t too happy that I won two challenges,” said the queen of ruthless gossip. ”They’re all smiling to my face. I don’t know what happens when I turn around.” Oh yes you do, Irina. You know better than anyone in this game.
As for the boys, shockingly, Nicolas wasn’t the one stirring up the most drama. Though maybe if he had, he wouldn’t have created what he himself admitted was ”one of the most hideous things I’ve ever made.” (Blech! That dumpy ensemble looked like it walked straight out of Hemps R Us. No animals were harmed in the making of it, but what about the unnecessary pain inflicted on good taste?) Nor was last night’s biggest drama queen Christopher, who glided through the episode amped up on the same false confidence that got him into trouble last week. He is strong, but inconsistently so, and he really does have a hard time gauging the quality of his work. ”I’m worried,” said Tim, sizing up the black ”infrastructure” hanging on Christopher’s dress form. ”You don’t want her to look like a cougar.” Bless you, Tim.
No, when it came to creative crises, Logan and Epperson had the competition beat. Logan seemed nonplussed from the beginning, confessing that he’d been dreading the wedding dress task all season. Then, just like he did during the models-as-clients challenge, he kowtowed to Leah, allowing his personal esthetic to get swallowed up in her demands. She doesn’t like dresses, he learned. Okay. Fair enough. But his solution was to make some staid wool trousers? When Tim got a load of what would become that hideous vesty thing and those sack-of-dung pants, all he could say was: ”Logan, just figure this out!”
Epperson, meanwhile, set out on the wrong foot altogether. Misunderstanding the challenge, he announced that he was incorporating as little of the original wedding dress as possible. Ooops. Tim set him straight, but poor Epp never seemed to recover from the goof. When I saw his revised sketches, of a poufy dress with what looked like a sailor’s tie, I feared that no good could come of this for Epp.
But then I saw the finished product on the runway and thought, Well okay, it’s on the blah side, could use some color, and the geometric-print cinched waist is a bit weird. But it seems to be well made and next to the twin atrocities that Nicolas and Logan gave birth to, it’s the second coming of Armani! Imagine my shock, then, when Nicolas earned a ticket to the safety zone. First major WTF!?!? moment of the night.On what planet could his b.s.b. (baby s— brown) outfit not inspire mass vomiting? I asked myself. I guess the same planet that would reward a dime-store Ice Queen Halloween costume with a win, I replied to myself. Or did I? Maybe it was Cher. (”HALF-BREED!”)
NEXT: The bubble space suit debacle
The judges — Heidi, Michael, Marie Claire‘s Zanna Roberts and Halston ”Board Member” Tamara Mellon — quickly laid waste to Christopher’s crinkly organza bubble dress, which bunched in all the wrong places on his aspiring-actress divorcée, Beverly. ”Do not go to an industry function in that,” Michael Kors ordered her. ”She looks like tin foil… It’s like a metallic Hefty bag, just cinched.” (Again, thank you, Michael, for returning to our show.) Indeed it did, but the judges deemed Logan and Epperson to be guilty of even more serious offenses — namely Oktoberfest.
Huh? Sure, there is something slightly wench-ish about a dress with an attention-grabbing cinched waist. But let’s not get carried away here. It’s not as if Epp copied the St. Pauli Girl look, corset a-crushin’ and bosoms a-poppin’. Logan’s didn’t scream Oktoberfest to me, either, but that might be because I could hear nothing over all its shouts of ”I AM THE INCARNATION OF UGLY!” (Also: ”HALF-BREED!”) Nothing, not a thing about his fetid horse apple of an outfit worked — not the design, not the color scheme, not the Nicolas-taunting ruffles around the collar, and certainly not the construction. Like a crooked smile of rotten teeth, the top sat lopsided on her chest, while those pants…! What to say? What to say? They made the poor woman look lumpy. Married, divorced, or some combination of both, no woman wants that. Even Logan said he wanted to put his head in a hole in the ground to hide from the wretchedness of his own making.
Ah, but the producers would never let him do that! If they did, there’d be no pretty face to look at! Because truly, Logan’s looks are the only possible justification to keeping him around. The guy has made a few decent designs, but none of them have generated the kind of heat that would earn him a pass like this. He’s certainly not getting by on his (lack of) personality. So the judges chose telegenic over talent and auf’d Epp, offering the dubious rationalization that the soft-spoken dad failed to make something “fabulous” or understand the instructions. Um, what? He admitted he’d misunderstood at first, but then he switched gears and did exactly what they asked for. Logan’s the one who seemed to be making up his own rules, cause the only wedding gown in his outfit was up top. Second major WTF?!?! moment of the night.
Glug, glug, glug… Oh, don’t mind me, TV Watchers. I’m just getting starting on my Oktoberfest stupor here. Prost!
Anyway…at least the judges did right by Shirin and commended her for standing up for herself in the face of an off-the-wall client who demanded plumage. (”HALF-BREED!”) They also wisely declined to feed the Gremlin that is Irina’s ego with a third win — even though Heidi’s lavish praise made it seem like the age-appropriate, lacey bronze wonder was a shoo-in for first place. Ultimately, it was Gordana’s moment of glory. The judges have dinged her over and over, but she finally got some love (and the season’s last dose of immunity) for a dress that Michael called ”edgy and chic” and did wonders for her model’s figure. And for the love of shiny tableware, people, earlier in the episode, she cried! She cried! Gordana, your tears were not in vain! And your client did not throw you on [sic] the bus!
I’ll be posting the latest episode of Runway Talk (featuring Epperson!) later, but in the meantime, click on the video below to watch the debut installment, with the one and only Louise Black. Laters!
What did you think, Runway addicts? Were you as ticked off by the looks-based favoritism this week as I was? Epperson got the boot, but wow, was he ever gracious about it, right? There are just three boys left, so are we looking at a lady-filled finale? What did you think of the funny look Nicolas shot the camera when his nutty client told him she wanted to have his child? (If ever a contestant was conscious of being filmed!) And most important of all, are you OUT OF YOUR MIND excited about THE RETURN OF NINA GARCIA next week, when she’ll dismiss something as ”taste-less”? (Bummer, though, that Michael won’t be there to bounce around bons mots.) What’s more enthralling: Nina’s return or the arrival of ”five-time Grammy-winning, multi-platinum-selling artist” Christina Aguilera as guest judge? Holler if you said Nina!