The designers create looks for the modern Southern belle. For the first time in Runway history, the bottom designers get a second chance

By Stephan Lee
Updated September 13, 2013 at 05:30 AM EDT
Barbara Nitke

Listening to some of these designers, you’d think you need a passport to get to the South. This week’s challenge required the contestants to make a look for a modern Southern woman, and some of them reacted in a predictable and rather ignorant way. Even as someone who left Atlanta for New York the first chance I got, I still took offense with the way Alexander, Jeremy, and Helen condescended to this challenge, as if Southerners are inherently less stylish or less worthy of their work than everyone else. I grew up in the Buckhead area in Atlanta, and there are all sorts of Southern women of all shapes and colors who love to buy clothes, and not all of them are Real Housewives.

Before Tim announced the challenge for real, the designers were treated to a traditional Southern brunch, and at this point, they all knew there’d be a catch. One of my favorite images of the night was of Ken eating his eggs. He even eats in an “over it” way. It’s a miracle he can keep his eyes open.

Helen and Alexander were first to declare that they don’t design for the modern Southern woman, although they’d love to win the challenge — the winning piece would be sold in Belk stores. Suddenly, the designers all took back the smack they’d undoubtedly been talking about the Belk Accessories Wall. Poor Belk Accessories Wall.

It was interesting to hear what the designers thought the “Modern Southern Woman” looked like. Alexander was thinking Steel Magnolias (the Julia Roberts or Queen Latifah version? Crucial distinction). Ken, who hails from the South, had his own ideas, but he wouldn’t share them with his competitors. (Didn’t he flip out on Helen not too long ago for withholding information?) But really, the designers could have used a little more direction. The Modern Southern Woman is such a vague concept. A stylish woman from Atlanta might dress like a stylish woman anywhere. They should have been more specific — what if they had to create an evening gown inspired by the ladies of Designing Women? Now that would have been a fabulous challenge.

Surprise! Alexandria didn’t know the first thing about designing for a Southern woman. Apparently, she thought women who live below the Mason-Dixon Line enjoy wearing doilies and junk scraps woven together. Tim gave her a withering critique, the harshness of which we haven’t seen in quite some time. “It’s hideous,” he said. “I’m sorry, it’s hideous.”

I was expecting a Southern icon as a guest judge this week, but instead we got Belk exec John Thomas — who looked the part of a dapper Southern gentleman — and former wrestler and current Supermarket Superstar host Stacy Keibler.

I disagreed with the judges more this week than usual — I thought Helen and Justin deserved to be in the higher scoring group, while Alexander had no business being in the top group.

NEXT: Picnic blankets are apparently all the rage in the South…



Alexander once again engaged in a plaid-off with a fellow designer. This time, though, he didn’t come out victorious. The fabric moved beautifully, but it looked cheap. It looked as though the model got drunk and naked and wrapped herself in a table cloth. I didn’t get “beautiful and sophisticated” like the judges did.


For the second week in a row, Heidi stood apart from the rest of the judges with her opinion. This playful little day dress read most Southern to me out of the top looks. Heidi thought the model looked pregnant in the dress, although Zac and Mr. Belk thought it was ready for the store.

Bradon — WINNER

Bradon was named the “clear winner” of this challenge, but I have to agree with Ken (never thought I’d say that) — some of the designers seem to erroneously associate plaid with the South. I feel as though you’d just as likely see this dress with its ’50s collar in Brooklyn as in Mississippi.

NEXT: Second chances…



I didn’t think this was nearly as bad as the judges said. Nina compared the color blocks to “hospital scrubs,” and Zac said the whole look lacked “oomph.” I find it interesting that two of the bottom designers are the ones with the strongest ties to the South, and those same two are the only African-Americans. I’m not crying racial bias or anything like that, but it’s possible that the judges are just as ignorant to the full spectrum and diversity of Southern fashion as some of the designers.


Again, I didn’t think this deep purple gown was all that bad, but Ken is living proof that a stank attitude just makes everything worse. Nina was ready to eliminate him based on his eye-rolls and shade-throwing alone, and I wouldn’t have complained.


Oh, come on! Even though Jeremy defended his look on the runway, there’s NO WAY he thought the judges would let this fly. It’s as if he ran down the list of every criteria that would get him eliminated. Matronly? Check. Boring? Check. Hideous colors? Check. This shapeless frock had zero design, and Jeremy had to know that. It’s a shame because Jeremy started out with such promise, but his fire got extinguished somewhere along the way. As much as I hate to say this while Ken is still around, Jeremy was the clear choice to be sent packing. However…


I still don’t understand why the producers decided to give the bottom three a second chance, but it did give Jeremy an opportunity to show that he still had his old spark. They had just one hour to revise their low-scoring looks using any of the leftover materials in the workroom, and they were allowed to choose a helper. Dom and Jeremy decided to throw their old looks out completely and start with brand new fabrics, while Ken chose to edit his existing purple dress.


I think Runway set a dangerous precedent this week — the designers are already under crazy time constraints as it is, but now that the producers know that the designers can produce presentable looks in just one hour, they might start imposing even harsher deadlines in the future. Mr. Belk loved Dom’s second look so much that he promised her look would be sold at Belk alongside Bradon’s. Seriously, the back was lovely.


At first I thought Ken might be penalized for not changing his look enough, but the judges thought this Housewife-ified version was a big improvement. Ken’s assistant Kate was right that the new hem was too short, but of course Ken thought his own vision was perfect.


I think this second-chance flash challenge was mostly for Jeremy’s benefit, but unfortunately he couldn’t capitalize on it. The judges liked his new look, but it really just looks like a poorly constructed slip. He really made the decision to send him home easier than it should have been.

What do you think, Runway lovers? Did anyone — the designers or the judges — really embrace the Southern theme? Was it Jeremy’s time to go?

Episode Recaps

Project Runway

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

  • TV Show
  • 16
  • 186
  • In Season
stream service