The designers must make a luxurious cocktail dress -- and it proves too much for many of them

By Dalene Rovenstine
October 21, 2016 at 01:50 AM EDT
Credit: Barbara Nitke

Cocktail dresses are fun — but apparently, making them isn’t.

After hanging out with the judges, Tim, and random “bloggers,” the designers learn they’ll have $300 and one day to make a luxurious cocktail dress. Because there are an unusual amount of street and ready-to-wear designers this season, that means trouble is ahead.

The inspiration comes from the Absolut Elyx house — a thing which exists — so we see all sorts of speakeasy-, leather-, chandelier -, apron-, flamingo-wallpaper-inspired looks. When Tim comes around for critiques a few hours into designing, he says at least half of them aren’t understanding the challenge.

Mah-Jing is doing a weird dripping red dress; Roberi has a “Missoni meets Navajo blanket” mash-up; Cornelius’ look reminds Tim of a picnic (which prompts Cornelius to say “fudge muffins”); and Nathalia’s look reminds him of an ice skater. A good amount of the room starts from scratch once their mentor leaves.

But not Erin and Dexter. They’re best buds now and yucking it up, which makes Nathalia and Jenni very annoyed. Speaking of Jenni… She’s hand-stitching an embroidery print onto her dress; it’s a technique that looks a lot like what Erin’s been doing, but the designers this season are too nice to call her out about it.


Once on the runway, Heidi introduces guest judge Emily Ratajkowski. Following the runway show, Heidi sends Dexter, Cornelius, Brik, Mah-Jing, and Roberi away from the runway — but not before calling out Dexter for his “hoochie mama” cocktail dress. Zac says it was a bad moment and down market, so he should be thankful for that immunity. Here is what the judges say about the rest of the looks:


Nathalia drew inspiration from the chandeliers in the Elyx house, but unfortunately the judges don’t get luxury from her look. Heidi says it reminds her of a teen prom dress “from the mall” (I got all my prom dresses from the mall, am I trash?). Nina agrees it looks cheap, but Emily disagrees. She obviously can see it was rushed, but she appreciates it was at least creative. And Zac sides with Emily; he likes Nathalia’s choice of textile and approach to transparency.


Trying to step onto Laurence’s leather turf, Rik drew his inspiration from the leather apron the bartenders were wearing. It created a more masculine look the judges love. Emily says she’d wear it on a red carpet or out with friends; Nina says it’s out of the box; Heidi says it’s an “eye-catcher” and different from what a lot of women already own; and Zac says it’s smart, although he doesn’t love the zipper up the back.

NEXT: Designer “inspiration”


The true leather master, Laurence, created a heavy silk LBD with a Chesterfield leather sleeve. Zac loves it and says she can do “one sharp, mean cut shoulder.” Heidi appreciates how she played with hard and soft while Nina says it’s the most impeccable tailoring on stage. Emily has one small gripe, that black is a little too obvious, but overall she’s a fan as well.


My girl Tasha struggled this week. She was trying to mesh street and cocktail and ended up some weird place in between. Her denim LBD with an added sash feels “el cheapo,” according to Zac, and doesn’t highlight her creativity. Emily says it’s the most unfinished piece on the runway, and sadly she isn’t wrong.


Everyone’s girl Erin has fallen from grace this week. Her brocade, copper, feathered dress has the judges confused. Heidi feels like it’s a costume-y look; Zac agrees, saying it’s “Priscilla Queen of the Swamp,” and Nina says it’s straight out of The Lion King. Listen, I may be biased because I love Erin so much, but I don’t think it’s that bad?


For Jenni’s speakeasy metallic look, Heidi calls out what we all were thinking: This looks like Erin’s design. Heidi says it looks like Jenni stole a bit of her technique. Nina agrees, but says that must mean they’re all inspiring each other — which is a nice way to spin it. And it’s good “inspiration,” because the judges love it. Nina says it’s feminine and elegant, and Emily says it’s a fashion piece.

Winner: Jenni

Out: Tasha

Excuse me while I weep about never getting to hear Tim referred to as “boss man” again. As much as I love Tasha, I do believe the judges made the right call. What do y’all think? Throw your thoughts below or find me on Twitter @realdalener.

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