Mar 1, 2013

Project Runway — What Did We Learn This Week? Season 11, Episode 6

This is the 2nd post in a new weekly feature wherein I recap all the lessons I learned from this week's episode of Project Runway. Please comment below to add any lessons you picked up that I may have missed!

The most challenging challenges on Project Runway are always the ones in which the designers have to work with real (i.e. non-model) people — a fact which we sewers should all find comfort in; non-model bodies are harder to fit and flatter (So lay off yourself a little when your pants pattern takes three fittings to get right!).

And this week's challenge was a first for Project Runway (correct me if I'm wrong) — featuring a sassy group of senior ladies in all shapes and sizes!

I would have been scared too. Designing for the mature woman is not in the wheelhouse of most of these designers. And the rest of us can learn from their mistakes when it comes to style, fabric selection and slutting it up a little.

Lesson 1: You can't create structure with drapey fabric. Someone who's got the skills to make it to Project Runway should know that, right?

So why did Amanda bring this bright print back from Mood, and then immediately bemoan its inability to hold up to her design? I don't think she said what it was (silk? rayon?), but it's clearly a rather flowy fabric — not something that can hold an older woman's bust up (nor mine!). At that point Amanda would have done well to put down the rotary cutter and rethink her design.

She didn't though, and there's no number of Glade candles that could cover up the stink of this garment. (Her model was a sweetheart and a good sport for saying she liked it.  Is that a handkerchief hem, or isn't it? Do those flutter sleeves start at center back? And when I look away from this dress, is it just me who's seeing spots?).

 Lesson 2: When you're designing a dress, picture where you would wear it. 

This sassy broad at right loves leopard — and showing off her tattoos. She also rocks a Susan Powter 'do and sexy accessories like ankle bracelets. Badass!

But the twee design features — poufy sleeves and waist-cinching bow — were at odds with the sexy straight skirt in a leopard print, according to the judges. "Where is she even going?" demanded Nina, who called it a "mixed message." Is she a slut, or isn't she? (OK, that's not what Nina said, but that's what she implied, I swear!).

The model, meanwhile, loved her dress, and I'm guessing she would wear it pretty much anywhere they'd let her in the door, so in that respect this was a win for Samantha.

Lesson 3: Don't dress an older woman up like a little doll because what's cute on Sally Draper circa 1964 is not a good look for even the sassiest senior lady.

(Though how much did you love this woman? She was so sweet. I loved when she asked for sleeves while waggling her upper arms at Benjamin:  "I don't have Michelle Obama arms!").

Another fitting (look at her poor constricted arms!) and a better executed hem may have turned out a cute frock, but not for someone who already lived through the '60s. I think this is a great dress for Kiernan Shipka to wear to the premiere of Mad Men Season 6.

Lesson 4 is basically the same as Lesson 3: Dressing your age (as opposed to wearing the same outfit Little Orphan Annie dons after moving in with Daddy Warbucks) can actually make you look younger.

Take these two pantsuits, which were the judges' faves last night:

How much flack does Hillary Clinton get for her pantsuits? But she knows: a good one looks put together and — in the case of the above two examples — even sexy.

My other fave of the night got short shrift thanks to Patricia's stinkpot. Michelle's model danced down the runway in her flattering, brightly printed dress. I would totally wear that:

Bonus Lesson: If a woman your grandma's ages suggests you need to slut it up a little (as Kate's model did within five minutes of meeting the 22-year-old who self-describes as an "old soul" and is constantly bashed by her peers for being prim), perhaps it's time to give the gathered skirts and boned bodices a rest? Oh, nope, nevermind:

The judges liked it, so what do you know!

What did I miss this week? Have at it below!


  1. I'm glad you're doing these posts 'cause a group of friends and I have weekly PR watch parties. patricia's team really saved her from getting kicked off for that monstrosity. it shows how seriously you have to take the challenge of being in teams. also, ya for sexy pantsuits!

    1. I was so on board with Michelle's the-emporer-has-no-clothes-style rant. Patricia's days are numbered!

  2. Samantha and Benjamin totally deserved to be on the bottom 2. Was surprised that they didnt boot both out, but the mistakes were even harder to miss on Benjamin's shiny outfit for the dear lady than on the printed flowy dress.. I suppose that's also why i make and wear flowy outfits!.lol. I totally cannot rock those sexy pantsuits...

    1. I know. They should have been like, "Sorry, we just couldn't bear to keep the two of you around any longer! Auf wiedersehen!

      And yes, that shiny fabric was horrifying, wasn't it?

    2. In Benjamin's defense, he said the bodice seemed to fit differently from the previous day, which made me think that his model wore a different kind of bra for the runway show. When you look at her in the fittings, the bodice fit is much better and her breasts are in the right place in relation to the bust apex of the princess seam. Adding a sleeves - albeit a tight one - didn't change the bust overnight. Yes, the sleeves were too tight and the hem on that dress is atrocious, but they kept picking on the fit of the bodice and I don't think it was entirely his fault. How do you tell a granny, "Listen, your boobs are in the right place now so make sure you wear this bra again tomorrow."?

      Also, I think that between Benjamin and Amanda there was a lot of worrying about Amanda's dress and very little consideration of Benjamin's. Of course, it may have been edited that way, but there's a lesson to be learned regarding collaboration: You can't focus the majority of your attention on your teammate's garment but at the same time you need to be honest and sometimes even blunt in your critiques. Tu and Kate are a perfect example of this; she said to him "Are you sure you can do this?" But then when Tim came to critique them she hurriedly assured Tim that Tu could finish. She's a bit afraid of stepping on people's toes, I think.

    3. You're totally right. Bras can make a big difference (so can bloat), but I'm also skeptical of his construction skills. His last dress was amazing, but he has been so uneven...i think he's used to not leaving an iota of ease (that last dress was perfectly fitted, but if the model had a glass of water it may have been too tight too!).

      I thought it was interesting that Kate keeps saying that she likes working with Tu because he's nice to her and no one else has been kind. I think she's awfully sensitive for someone who has consistently said, "I'm here to win, I'm not here to make friends. I don't care what anybody else thinks!"

  3. i have a feeling i love your series more than i might love the damn show this year. i watched one episode, rolled my eyes, and went back to sewing!

  4. I always like it when this challenge shows up because -lol - I'm maybe a decade or two away from this demographic myself. The two pantsuits were definitely the best. Kate's floral skirt was really great and illustrates an Iron Rule of Fashion, e.g. No Florals Above The Waist After Age 40 (trust me on this one). Benjamin's inability to get his act together just baffled me because in the beginning he was so full of promise and I while I love Patricia's surface embellishments and fabric manipulation her garments are too simple to make it all the way through to the end. But then again I never thought Anya would win either so we shall see.

  5. I always try to guess who will win and lose as I'm watching the runway show, and this was the first time (ever) I've been right about both. Although I have to say, I really, really hated Richard's design. I know the judges loved it, but I thought it was just a shapeless sack with a black stripe and a gathered half-waistband slapped on to make an attempt at shape. Those pantsuits were both gorgeous, but Stanley really surprised me by stepping up from mediocre and creating something really amazing.

    I'm kind of not liking the teams aspect. Patricia really just needs to go home! Any predictions of who'll win the season yet?

    1. I thought Richard's dress was terrible too. It looked like a beach cover-up to me.

      As for who will make it to the end, I think the ones to watch are Daniel, Michelle, and Tu (despite this week's poorly finished dress). What do you think?

    2. I agree about Richard's dress-- a saggy elastic waistband in a knit dress does no favors for an older figure, and the whole thing looked messy and gross.

  6. Love these recaps - and Oona's right, they're actually more entertaining than the show itself.

    I find the whole team business so contrived. These last two weeks, they were partnered up in name only - they each had a client, they each had a garment, there was no teamwork at all that I could see. Is it just a way of keeping people on the show that are good for drama, but would have been out in the first two weeks any other year *cough* Patricia *cough*

  7. I've been loving hating on this year's contestants-- Stanley is annoying as f&*k, Kate is a brat, Patricia needs to go (seriously, her shit is so unflattering and boring.. who cares if she can glue little strips of fabric to her boring rectangle outfits?!), and nearly everyone else is awful, too!

    1. I think it always takes half-way through the season until the people who don't have what it takes are all cut, and then we get to see what the real contenders can do.



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