Aug 15, 2014

What Did We Learn From Project Runway This Week? Season 13, Episode 4

There was a lot of misplaced anxiety on Project Runway this week as the designers faced off over a tacky suit challenge that was somehow meant to evoke sponsor Red Robin's "designer hamburgers." (But really, these suits: don't they just make you think of B.O. and grease stains? Not what I would want associated with my family friendly fast food chain):

But all the worry wasn't just over how they would rework a couple yards of red velveteen or mustard corduroy as the case may be. They were also worried about Amanda. So much screen time spent worrying about Amanda.

Oh, Amanda. What kind of contract do you have with the producers of Project Runway that you somehow managed to win another challenge with yet another fringe dress? I know a little about how my reality TV sausage is made, and it looks like this:  

Looking ahead, the big question is: what will Sandyha do next week when she doesn't have immunity? And will the judges love it? (Or hate it — which could bring the Tim Gunn Save (TM) into play!) Sigh. Moving on to the lessons:

Lesson 1: Vinyl is not fabric

It's not uncommon on Project Runway for the designers to lay blame on their fabric. And those of us who sew definitely know that feeling you get when you realize you've been trying to force something stiff into a drapey design (or vice-versa). 

So what do you do when given a couple yards of suiting? I don't know exactly... though I do know what you DON'T do: stitch it to something intended for upholstery, like Hernan did:

V for vinyl...or very long vulva

You didn't even have to see Hernan's look to know just how bad it was. Just look at these faces:

He did a lot of complaining about the coat he was assigned, though in off-white it hardly seemed as significant a challenge as some of the other suits. 

That didn't stop that lying liar from telling lies about his fabric. Quoth Hernan: "My jacket was very, very old, so every time I sewed something it was like (makes cracking sound)." 

He should know better than to bullshit Zac Posen about fabric. Upon closer inspection (I LOVE how they do that now!), Zac declared Hernan's poly "strong enough to withstand a nuclear disaster." 

So why the vinyl? No one really knows — least of all Hernan. But he'll have lots of time to think about it. Bye bye.

Lesson 2: Flesh mesh is not the besh-t

Sean, the Kiwi who narrowly escaped elimination last week for his horrid Mary Poppins-meets-the-new-millenium getup, was the unlucky recipient of the aforementioned mustard corduroy suit. He hacked it and stitched it in strips to the lining, some coordinated silk and beige power mesh (thank you, Zac Posen for pointing out that Sean essentially chose something most commonly used in bras for his main fabric):

This is the face Zac made when Nina said the multi-layered bandage-colored top made the model look like she just had breast surgery:

At least the styling was good? I'm hoping Sean can dig deep for the next challenge and prove us all wrong. Otherwise, his days are numbered; three strikes usually means you're out on Project Runway.

Lesson 3: Good pants take time

I don't know about the rest of you, but the only pants I could make in two hours would have an elastic waist and a rolled hem. 

So I don't blame Kristine for choking when it came to drafting and sewing a pair of pants in a single morning:

Seeing how poorly these fit — and how the exposed zipper ran down the center back, ugh! — made me feel a little better. Drafting and sewing pants takes me a week. Meanwhile, those organza calf covers....I don't even. No. What? I just. Hmmm.

So what did you think of this week's episode of Project Runway? Whose look did you love? And did you learn anything?

Aug 8, 2014

What Did We Learn From Project Runway This Week? Season 13, Episode 3

Watching last night's episode of Project Runway, I appreciated more than ever that I can make my own clothes. Because the contestants were tasked with creating a look that could walk the runway in 2034 (the tie-in was Marie Claire's 20th anniversary), and if future fashion really is that much of a snore....I won't be buying it.

But before we get into it, one of my favorite parts of the episode was seeing TBT (that's throw-back Thursday, for the Facebook-uninitiated) pics of each judge and Tim Gunn, circa 1994:

Zac Posen is adorable (that hair!) and I love that Nina has her eyes closed in her 1994 photo — a testament to the fact that just 20 years ago we weren't documenting every day as if we were in a "celebs are just like us" photo spread (and also we used film, so we couldn't delete such imperfect pics!). This probably was the only pic she had from 1994. (In fact, I think half the photos of myself from 1994 feature me with my eyes closed.)

Anyway, on to the lessons!

Lesson 1: Grainline is next to godliness

I used to dislike Zac Posen because of what he wasn't: Michael Kors, may he rest in peace (I know he's not dead but after two seasons without him, HE MAY AS WELL BE).

But more and more I appreciate Zac for the fact that he knows his craft — and he can appreciate other points of view. Plus, he's the only judge who will call out a designer on grainline mishaps. It's something the lay-person Project Runway fan wouldn't understand, but we all know how cutting off-grain can ruin a garment.

Alexander had that issue last night, though I'm not sure staying on grain would have helped him any. It's not terrible, but sad, drab, and ... um, what else rhymes with sad?

Of course, he threw this look together quickly after his model's B-cup "chichis" (ugh!) didn't fit the pieced leather top he was creating. (Always blaming the boobs on Project Runway.... I have an idea: if you can't design for a human with breasts, MAYBE YOU SHOULD MAKE MEN'S WEAR. End rant).  

Anyway, don't cut on the fold if you want to get your grainline just right. Trace your pattern into a mirror image so that you can cut the whole thing flat, ALEXANDER.

Lesson 2: Fabric choice will make you — or break you

I think about fabric a lot. Like, every time my mind wanders, I'm thinking about fabric — what type should be used with what pattern, what construction techniques to use with a particular fabric, where can I buy more of it...

So I'm always surprised when Project Runway contestants make it onto the show and then make bad fabric choices.

My six-year-old thought Sean's look was so terrible, she told me she "couldn't even stand to look at it any longer." That's a tough critique from a kindergartener who sits on the 1 train and whispers to me all the reasons why she thinks every woman on our subway car is beautiful. (Pretty shoes, pretty hair, fancy nails, bejeweled phone case, and so on; you are all lovely in my child's eyes).

She kept looking at it though and then uttered, "Darkish....criminalish..."

Aside from the Mary Poppins hat and black turtleneck dress (which Sean justified by saying that he remembered having to wear turtlenecks a lot 20 years ago — WHEN HE WAS 4), there's this blue coat. While inspecting it closely, Zac Posen said it was the hardest fabric to sew — and that Sean probably won't touch it ever again.

Meanwhile, one of the strongest looks smartly made use of two fabrics that didn't need any finishing: neoprene and leather.

This was my favorite look (though it was not the winner but we will get to that soon enough). Zac Posen praised Kristine's choice of fabric, calling it smart and effective. Imagine finishing the raw edges of each of those cuffs? (Note to self: start sewing with neoprene!).

Lesson 3: Practical clothes won't win you any prizes

For real my friends, I just got SO distracted searching for blazers online, which proves the point I am about to make: we all need practical clothes. We just do. We have job interviews. Or court appearances...  

But when Angela said she "just likes making practical clothes" I knew she wasn't long for this world. Isn't designing practical clothes something you do to pay the bills? (Or something you do after failing at trying to design spectacular clothes?) 

And, the thing is, this isn't even practical:

Too short and sleeveless, what business exec is going to wear this — even 20 years into the future (perhaps in the future offices won't be overly air-conditioned?). 

A couple times Angela said she'd never been criticized so much as she was on Project Runway. She does work on Wall Street — and we all know how little scrutiny those people face. So maybe a little criticism would be helpful. 
Moving on, I want to know what you all think of Sandhya's winning look. My daughter said it looked like Attack of the Slinkeys. 

I thought it looked like ducting for a self-cooling system. I did, however, like Sandhya's explanation (that in the future women's wear won't have to reference men's wear to evoke a powerful image). Girlfriend knows how to make a pitch — and throw a little shade on Angela's look. Well played, Sandhya.

As for Amanda, who had immunity last night, I really missed Michael Kors' simile-packed zingers. What would he have said about this ensemble? That it looks like a goth yoga teacher at a midsummer sex party?

What do you think Michael Kors would have said about Amanda's look? What other lessons did you learn this week? Who's your current fave designer? Are the judges just trying to drive Korine crazy by giving Sandhya the win a second time?

Aug 1, 2014

What Did We Learn From Project Runway This Week? Season 13, Episode 2

You know what I wish I had? A hotline that could connect me to Tim Gunn, for self-confidence emergencies. 

I need it too, like, every Wednesday afternoon, when I realize I haven’t accomplished enough of what I had hoped that week to feel good about myself. That’s when I am most susceptible to feeling defeated. 

Or, as my semi-drunk husband said last night while watching Episode 2 of Project Runway Season 13, I could use a positivity shooter called the “Tim Gunn” (Patent pending). 

Or maybe just a video loop of Tim Gunn sincerely saying kind, supportive things, like he did with Sandhya last night when she sought him out after being bullied by her teammates in the unconventional materials challenge. (I believe this was the first time Project Runway contestants had to use unconventional materials while also in a team — a double whammy of difficulty to be sure).

"I believe in your work 1000 per cent," he said to Sandhya. "You could win this entire season." It was what she needed in that moment, and I said to my husband: "If Tim Gunn talked to me like that, I would feel like I could do anything."

So I really thought she would shake off the icky experience of being bossed by Hernan and create something super cool. But boy, is it ever hard to stand up to a man who reckons he's the boss. That brings us to our first lesson:

Lesson No. 1: Never let a man who calls you “baby” tell you what to do

Half-way into the challenge Hernan (who has shown at NYC Fashion Week twice already SO WHY DOES HE NEED PROJECT RUNWAY?) decided their theme was "The gold era of Hollywood — we have film. We have gold. We have everything!"

My husband, who was working his way through a growler of IPA I brought home to turn a bad week around, voiced some doubt: “I don’t know if that’s a concept — that’s just a list of things.

Anyway, Sandhya had immunity this week so she just fell in line behind Hernan, who told her and Carrie they had to use his film treatment. I guess his reasoning was if they used the same materials, they would have cohesion.  

They may not have had cohesion, but the judges were unanimous in hating that their team's three dresses looked so similar. I thought the brownish red sheen of the film strips looked like cockroach casings (shiver). Sandhya's indeed was the worst of all — not surprising considering how she must have felt in those few hours she had to create this look.

Nina said they looked like three girls out of a music video and Heidi asked: “At no point did anyone think, ‘dude they all look the same!'?" (I love it when Heidi talks American!).

While the judges inspected the garments more closely, Tim dished on the team's power dynamic: “He was so intractable, that they just decided if you can’t beat him join him,” to which Heidi replied,  “We can always get rid of both of them!” (At this point, my husband and I started chanting, "DO IT! DO IT! DO IT!")

Meanwhile, backstage after their rough ride on the runway, Sandhya's teammates trashed her work yet again. Tapping into her super special Tim Gunn powers, Sandhya turned the other cheek — which I think will go a long way toward earning her the Tim Gunn Save (TM). I'm calling this one. 

So the lesson here? Be gracious. And nobody puts baby in the corner.

Lesson 2: More is more

The winning team used a whole lot of materials: bold lettering held together with zip ties, several kinds of tape, film, cording, straws...I'm missing at least six things. And though each look incorporated materials used in another, all of them were totally unique:

Nina applauded their mini-collection for the fact that it contained three different shapes: A-line, flapper, and body con.

Also, it just shows that if you throw enough stuff up on the wall, some of it will stick.

Speaking of throwing stuff up on the wall:

Angela dodged a bullet with her crumpled up snowflake dress thanks to this cool Cruella Deville-inspired number made entirely from straws:

My personal favorite was Samantha's garment made from DVDs and film strips:

 I know, I know. I'm not offering up anything instructive for those of us who create our own clothing. It's hard with the unconventional materials challenge to find truly useful tips. Other than the importance of taking a step back to see how your garment looks from across the room, I'm not sure there's much that's helpful here for home sewers.

What do you think? What was your favorite look? Did you learn anything this week from Project Runway?

Jul 29, 2014

Finished Project: Wonder Woman-inspired Soma Suit

After seeing the Wonder Woman swimsuit I made for my daughter, several of you championed the idea of matching mother-daughter suits. 

I took your advice, but not to the letter. I thought the Soma swimsuit by Papercut would be the perfect pattern for an inspired-by-but-not-totally-literal adult version of a Wonder Woman bathing suit. The bikini top features a triangle-shaped panel that when cut in gold spandex references Wonder Woman's golden eagle without looking too costumey:  

OK, maybe it's a little costumey
At least I restrained myself when it came time to choose fabric for the bikini bottoms. I do after all have a half-yard of blue and white starry spandex left over...

Anyway, I'm not going to share a lot of close-up shots of this suit on my person due to modesty's sake. But I will tell you more about what I did to this pattern to make it work a little better for me. (And there are plenty of close-up pics on my dress form if you scroll to the bottom).

Jul 25, 2014

What Did We Learn From Project Runway This Week? Season 13, Episode 1

We’ve endured two successive seasons of lesser-than Project Runway iterations (Under the Gunn and All-Stars, which undermines the very premise of the show — that the winner of Project Runway will go on to be the next big American designer by bringing back previous winners who have gone on to, nothing special enough enough that they don’t still need more prize money to pay the rent?).

But now Project Runway — the real one — is finally back (albeit without our favorite simile-spewing arbiter of all things mother-of-the-bride, Michael Kors). 

So we sewers can spend the next 13 weeks dissecting fabric choice, drape, style and technique for both inspiration — and some schadenfreude. In the promo, Tim Gunn is shown calling this the “Season of the Vagina.” I can hardly wait to see what that even means. Let’s get started.


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