Let me just say how sad I am that this season of Project Runway, and thus these recaps, are nearly done. I actually thought this week's episode would be the finale (it was two hours long after all!), so I am happy to have one more occasion on which to hash out who's deserving of the title "America's next big fashion designer" or whatever the false promises are that Heidi makes.
After the field was narrowed to four designers (and, apparently, Layana drowned her sorrows in babymaking!), they were each given $10,000 to create a 12-look Fall collection. It's at that point they all go home to their respective cities to spend four months sketching, sewing, and planning an appropriate gathering with Tim Gunn. (This is also the point when the designers changes their hairstyles, I'm guessing because the show has begin airing and they've now seen themselves on TV. I loved Amanda's new fringe, but Stanley looked like a shorn sheep. Don't even get me started on Daniel's afro...).
I was really hoping that Tim Gunn's trip to see Michelle would be like a Portlandia sketch. (It wouldn't be much of a stretch for Carrie Brownstein to play Michelle, after all, and wouldn't Fred Armison be hysterical as Tim Gunn?). Then Michelle appeared wearing a version of the "fettucine bib" that got her slammed early on in this season, and talked about her inspiration being a woman/wolf/hunter. Woefully, her collection appeared to be quite normal, save a few steampunk details. She did not, it seems, "put a bird on it."
Meanwhile in Taos Pueblo, New Mexico, Tim was truly touched by his time with Patricia at her childhood home. Though he had the unfortunate job of telling Patricia that her work thus far looks "literal" and like “student work” — the worst possible diss in Project Runway terminology! — he seemed to be on the verge of some raw emotion: “You’ve given me an epiphany about you,” he said. I think I saw a lip quiver. (Seriously, how much would you love to host Tim Gunn? He is the most gracious guest of all time).
Stanley, of course, barely cracks a smile when Tim comes to his West Hollywood home for lunch, while Daniel (the antithesis of Stanley in almost every way) is practically beside himself with excitement. Looking at Daniel's collection, Tim Gunn invokes his monkeyhouse analogy with regards to one coat: when you first go in the monkeyhouse, he says, it stinks to high heaven. But after 40 minutes, you don't even notice the stench. What does that mean? That Daniel's coat is a shitty mess? That's what I got.
Lesson 1: Teamwork!!
It seemed Michelle actually learned something from the experience of working with others throughout this season of Project Runway, because one of the most successful garments in her three-piece mini-collection was a wolf-print sweater (seriously, how Portlandia is a wolf-print sweater?) that she collaborated on with Joe, the quirky cat sweater guy, who was eliminated many full moons ago! Was she inspired by amazon.com's Mountain Three Wolf Moon Short Sleeve Tee? (If you have never read the reviews for this shirt, please do. It's a short fiction genre unto itself). No matter, I love the ombre effect on Michelle's sweater, and the half-sleeve, and the fact that the wolves are so subtle. Yay for teamwork!
I thought the other two looks in her preview mini-collection were cohesive, and featured numerous interesting pieces. The judges mostly ragged on her hair and makeup choices, which was a good sign they found little to fault in the clothing. Except for Nina, who hated the compass on this look:
They also had some quibbles with the number of add-ons buckled to this jacket below: a messenger bag and two "saddlebags" (I would have called them panniers!). But it's easier to edit than it is to come up with new ideas, so Michelle is in a good place to win this thing (argue with me in the comments section if you disagree!):
Lesson 2: Don't blame the body!
How much time do we spend blaming our own bodies for the fact that ready-to-wear clothes don't fit or flatter our figures? (I know it's the reason many of us started sewing in the first place). But in many cases, it's not our fault: it's the designer, who creates proportions that can either slim or widen us. And sad, staid Stanley should have known better than to blame his model, whose body he claimed was not right for this silhouette:
It's a lovely bodice (which, I should note, he has made before!), but the pleating and the length of the skirt make her look bottom-heavy (and she's a model for goodness' sake, so she clearly is not!). Who then would this possibly look good on? The judges called him out on it: Zak Posen said it should be at least a foot to a foot-and-a-half shorter.
Before I saw his mini-collection in full, I was actually thinking Stanley might be the ultimate winner, mostly because there were a few interview clips in which he actually smiled:
But the other looks in his collection looked like the sort of expensive, buttoned-up, boring clothing you can always buy at Bergdorf's or Lord & Taylor or whatever:
I would love to know more about Stanley. What has him so repressed that he feels it's his job to cover up all of womankind in turtleneck shirts and calf-length skirts?
Lesson 3: Less is not more. More is more. And it's always better to have more than less.
More color. More visual interest. More cray-zay:
Patricia's criticism was much more colorful, of course: "Tina Turner Smurf.” Dr. Seuss. Nina was unimpressed, but Heidi (a producer of the show as one commenter pointed out) said she would rather see Patricia's runway show than "one of the snooze boys,” referring, of course, to Daniel and Stanley. Zing!
So who are you rooting for after last night's preview of their final collections? Is Stanley smiling for a reason? Do you think Patricia will ever learn that a single "out there" element is enough for one outfit?