Mar 15, 2013

Project Runway — What Did We Learn This Week? Season 11, Episode 8

Before I get started, I need to tell you about something that ACTUALLY JUST HAPPENED. I was watching this week's episode of Project Runway in the public library on my laptop when this librarian walked behind me, saw my screen, and said: "Oh Project Runway! Such a shame Amanda got kicked off."

Uh, spoiler alert much, lady?! I told her I wasn't at the end yet, and she just shrugged and walked away. You think New York City is supposed to be all "keep your head down, mind your business" but it is clearly not, my dear readers. (The same woman looked at me with great suspicion when I told her I actually wasn't Jewish. She made a huge point of telling me the cake they were serving for a special event was Kosher. My neighborhood is pretty Orthodox. I guess it's time to start wearing more bright colors?).

Anyway, there are some weeks on Project Runway that you just feel really bad for the designers. Like, if you could bake them a pie and run them a hot bath, you would. And this week, with its unfortunate male stripper challenge, was one of those weeks.

The designers were tasked with creating three performance looks for the "Thunder From Down Under," an Aussie men's revue that reads like a modern-day Village People (except I don't think the Village People ever stripped down to their Aussie-flag-emblazoned boxer shorts, did they?).

Challenges like this make me wonder: Do the Project Runway producers want the designers to fail? Because seriously: patterning, fitting and sewing three full outfits for men with unusually muscular bodies in ONE DAY? Oh, and the outfits all have to tear away easily, for stripping purposes? C'mon!

Tim Gunn warned them at the outset: "Some of the worst work to ever walk the runway on Project Runway has been menswear." And he's right. It's always terrible (but sometimes it makes for very good TV). Remember this poor guy from Season 9?


The challenge then was to create Rolling Stone cover looks for the Sheepdogs (a rock band from Saskatchewan!). Incidentally, that episode featured my favorite Michael Kor-ism of all time: "He looks like Peter Brady at a Harvest Festival!" It was also hilarious to watch odd little Olivier refer to his client (a tall man with a body much like my husband) as "plus size" repeatedly — right in front of him. And what did Olivier do? He made him look like part-owner of the feminist bookstore on Portlandia (if she soiled herself).

So what were the judges expecting, giving this week's challenge to a group of women's wear designers? The male models were the only ones who were gracious about the difficulties the poor designers faced. Heidi kept saying she just couldn't wait for them to take off those awful clothes, while Nina practically had to be resuscitated, she was laughing so hard.

Those of us who make clothes for men can learn a lot from their errors. (Or maybe they can learn from us?).

Lesson 1: MEN'S SHIRTS NEED COLLAR STANDS! (And plenty of women's shirts do too (I sewed one just this week). Is it really possible that Richard doesn't know this?  He feigned innocence over this very basic detail in men's shirt construction:


Wow. Just....wow. Why didn't anyone else step in and say, "Where's the collar stand?! You can't make a men's tailored shirt without a collar stand!" (Yes, you can make a roll or shawl collar, but that would be unusual in a tailored button-up). Maybe it's because Richard only wears tank tops...maybe he should have looked at Stanley's shirt? Layana would have!

Lesson 2: Proportion is key in menswear. Small (collars/cuffs/etc) = feminine. Witness Layana's tuxedo-style jacket:

Poor guy looks like he stole his lady's coat. Granted, he has trapezius muscles the size of yams, and I bet given another day Layana would have made some key fit adjustments. She has a good eye. Perhaps she was distracted by all the flirting?

Lesson 3: It doesn't matter what your shirt looks like when you're just going to throw a coat on top of it:


Now, like I said, I was watching this episode on my laptop at the library, and it was very low res, so I thought maybe I was missing out on some of the details. But when Nina said Daniel's trenchcoat looked like a "beauty smock" — something you would wear while getting a haircut, I realized, yep...I am seeing exactly what they're seeing. A black beauty smock. I don't actually think it's that terrible, but for an all-male Vegas revue? If some guy walked out on stage in that, I would check my ticket because clearly I'm in the wrong theater.

And underneath it was Patricia's shirt, a macrame disaster that Heidi compared to a potholder. Patricia, of course, spent the full 24 hours making this shirt, leaving her teammates to pull up the slack.

Lesson 4: Just because you CAN do everything, doesn't mean you SHOULD do everything. 

Sad Stanley did a lot of the heavy lifting for his team, making three pieces, a pants pattern and a shirt pattern. He also advised Layana on how to fix her suit coat, and constructed a men's shirt in 20 minutes. But trying to do too much may have been his downfall this challenge (or maybe it's the fact that he's kind of boring? I think maybe Stanley needs to lay off the Paxil, because his downers seem to be working a little too well. Has that guy had a single moment of levity this season?).

Wake me up when this is over:


Again, it's not terrible, and I'm sure the fit issues would have been fixed given more time. But the team was going for a business look, and this is more "Death of a Salesman" than Financial Times Bump N' Grind, amirite ladies?

So did Amanda deserve to go home this week for her pants pattern (which was somehow perfect in the hands of Samantha, but ended up too tight in her variations)? If we're at an all-male strip show, do we really care what their pants look like? And how many collar stands should Richard be forced to sew as penance for his poorly patterned men's shirts?

18 comments:

  1. i couldn't believe what i was watching last night! as it so happened, i had to dvr the show and watch it late because i was busy cutting out an archer button up. a shirt with... you guessed it... a collar stand! i watched the whole show slack-jawed for a multitude of reasons. i am certainly no designer, but to have such a basic lack of understanding of menswear is shocking. maybe it won't fit great, but at least all the pieces should be there. actually, i think nobody should have gone home. it was mean to make them create all those pieces in one day. i'm pretty sure any one of them would have rather had a 4-hour couture challenge!

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    1. I agree. It was cruel. I think they should have looked at their stuff, and then given them another day to fix it! That would be a project runway first, but it would have been interesting to see what difference another day would make.

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  2. Those were really some sad clothes going down the runway! I feel bad for the guys having to wear them. They were such good sport about it though. And I can't believe they send anybody home for this challenge, esp since its so difficult and they already sent 2 people last week. Ah well, the drama of it all is also part of what makes it interesting to watch. :)

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    1. This was one challenge where they should have said, "We made a mistake in only giving you a day." Because these people ARE talented, and everything was pretty bad across the board!

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  3. I'm enjoying your recaps. I read TLo's reviews and get a kick out of them, but I really like your perspective as a sewer (I always hate the word sewer, but don't know a better one.).

    I feel like the producers sometimes construct a challenge where anyone could be pointed out as the loser depending on the argument that you make. It would have been much more interesting to see what they really could do with more time like a 2 day challenge. Glad that they did not name a winner. No one should have won with that mess. The guys were really sweet clients and never complained about anything. I think that Richard should have gone home though. No excuse for not knowing anything about a collar stand.

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    1. Agree! Pants are so much harder than shirts. Amanda didn't deserve to go. I just can't believe Richard didn't know what a collar stand is!

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  4. "Holy Shirt!" I've been thoroughly enjoying your recaps. It's more fun for me to watch when there are at least a couple of stellar looks and maybe one bomb. It's not as much fun to see them all implode in this kind of challenge.

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    1. Totally. it's kind of stressful, isn't it? I like to see something inspiring in the end, not a pile of garbage.

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  5. I haven't seen this episode but from the pics you posted my overall impression is that the looks were creepy. When it looks like a dude is wearing his wife's coat...creepy. when a guy looks like he's in a homeless person's fashion show...creepy. when the dude is wearing an ill-fitting tear away trench coat...super creepy.

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    1. indeed! If I saw that kind of creepy trench, I wouldn't even think I was just in the wrong theater, like Suzanne, I would think I was having a terrible nightmare!! :/
      I am generally veeerrry willing to assume these designers know WAY more about sewing than I, but in this case I'm jumping on board with everyone else and wondering what Richard was thinking. buuuut, also, why did his teammates not jump in to set him straight???? sure it's menswear, but it's still clothing. Anyhoo, loved your review as usual, so funny!

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  6. Oof, these were the WORST outfits ever! They definitely didn't have enough time to make so many pieces, but to send stuff down the runway with one leg 4" shorter than the other or the placket attached with STAPLES? And I will say this-- how can you call yourself a designer, but not understand how to make something as basic as a buttondown? Awful!

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    1. Yes, that was nuts! He made three of the SAME shirt and they all looked terrible. I don't know if I can forgive Richard for those collars...ever!

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  7. Excruciating episode. I'm still reeling in pain. What are they teaching these people in fashion design school? Why doesn't ANYONE know how to design for men? My boyfriend can't stand to watch Proj Rway because it's only about womens fashion, and when they do have menswear challenges, it's always garbage. I'm definitely blaming the show itself for this monstrosity of an episode, not the designers, but I still can't believe that people who can make structured avant garde evening gowns can't make a shirt that closes with Velcro.

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  8. This episode made me simultaneously embarrassed for the contestants and incredibly angry at the producers. Every time the judges made a comment to the contestants about them underperforming I actually yelled at the TV "then GIVE THEM MORE TIME!!". I mean if one or two of the designers perform badly then it's probably down to 'poor time management' as they would call it. If EVERY SINGLE ONE does badly (which, lets face it, they did) then perhaps it's a problem with the challenge rather than a problem with the contestants?!

    This is completely anecdotal as I have no idea of the actual number, but it really feels like they're doing waaay less two day challenges and more one day ones. I really wish they would give the designers more time so that what's being judged really is their ability to design, rather than their ability to sew really fast.

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    1. Also, I'm loving your recap posts!

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  9. This is my problem, the designers should have known their abilities well enough to KNOW they couldn't pull off suits in that amount of time! They should have chosen something else to do. When Michelle tried to steer her group in another direction, they should have clung to that suggestion like the lifeline it was!

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  10. I've just installed iStripper, and now I enjoy having the best virtual strippers on my desktop.

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