Mar 8, 2013

Project Runway — What Did We Learn This Week? Season 11, Episode 7

This post is part of 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!

Each season of Project Runway has featured one "unconventional materials challenge," in which the designers must create a stunning garment out of, for example, hardware, candy, Christmas decorations or their own underpants (That happened, right?).

This season, however, has already thrown all our expectations out the window with the weekly teams challenge motif. So why wouldn't they also do a second unconventional materials challenge, this one involving the use of duct tape (I just had a GREAT idea: how about a whole season of unconventional materials challenges? Producers, if you run out of ideas, here are a few suggestions: bottle caps, unfinished knitting projects, leftovers (food, not fabric), and the entire contents of my purse. Call me!).

Before we get to the lessons we can learn from this week's episode, "A Sticky Situation, " let's talk about how our Project Runway sausage gets made.

I’m always obsessed with the interviews that are cut into each episode — and the fact that they are often shot well after the moment at hand. You can tell by what they are wearing and how their hair is styled in the interviews whether they are shot that same day...or perhaps the next...or maybe even after they were eliminated (look for red rings around the eyes)! Yet the producers/editors need to maintain a certain level of suspense, so the clips they choose are often vague...or kind of red-herring-like in that they lead you to believe a certain designer is in danger of being eliminated when, in fact, he/she just won.

And they do a good job of it. Rarely can I tell who was eliminated by the content of the interviews smattered throughout the show (the exception being poor Matthew, whose sad "You can achieve anything if you believe in yourself" refrain was a dead giveaway he was getting auf wiedersened).

However, it seemed clear from Kate's ceaseless tirade of cattiness that the 22-year-old Midwesterner was speaking in white-hot seething hindsight.  

“It's a Queen of Hearts costume. Nobody wore a costume to prom!” 

"Nobody at my school would have been caught dead in zebra print and flourescent pink at prom!!"

"Layana gets her way with everything!!"

"Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!!"

Poor Kate. Her offense was clearly after-elimination defensiveness. But I think the producers gave us that one because this episode did have a major surprise in store: a double elimination! 

It was truly sad that Tu went down with Kate because if you look at his portfolio on the Project Runway website (don't judge me for the amount of time I spend on that web page; I am performing a public service here!), you will see he is so much more than Kate's happy sidekick, which brings us to ...

Lesson 1:  Just because someone speaks louder doesn't mean they know better. 

This lesson has nothing to do with design, garment construction or sewing, but I think it's an important reminder. Tu is from Thailand, and has never been to a prom, so he acquiesced completely to Kate's whims. She did, after all, go to prom, like, yesterday — as she reminded us all a dozen times throughout the episode. However, though she's the youngest contestant, who presumably should know what it is teen girls want to wear, she made something floor-length — and in navy (seriously, what is up with all the navy this season?):

The judges, Nina in particular, hated it. And she was baffled: “You had 38 colors and prints to choose from... and you chose navy??!" (Did you know duct tape came in 38 colors and prints now? Product placement!).

I wish we could have seen what Tu would have done. I think the fact that he has no reference for American prom culture would probably have made for a much more interesting take on it. (And therein lies the major drawback of this "team challenge" concept!).

I still can't decide what dress I disliked more, the above Oscar-don't, or this drop-waist disaster by the two eldest contestants, Daniel and Richard:

Truly Outrageous? (Truly, truly, truly outrageous?)
Which brings us to...

Lesson 2: Quit while you're ahead.

Tim Gunn called this number a winner during his midday critique — before the randomly placed ruffles were added to the bottom third of this dress.

Poor Daniel and Richard: it seems they really brought out the worst in each other, and they proceeded to stink up what could have been a sexy little dress any 17-year-old would love to sneak out of the house in.

I only mentioned their ages above because Heidi jumped on it: she asked Richard when he went to prom and he mumbled under his breath, "20 years ago." (In response, Kate was probably thinking "I was in diapers 20 years ago! I'M THE ONLY COOK IN THIS KITCHEN!! Why does everybody hate meeeeeeeeeeee???")

"Well, it looks like it's from 20 years ago," Heidi replied. In his defense, Richard said their design inspiration was John Hughes' movie "Sixteen Candles." (Though we see them earlier saying they wanted a Beyonce look. Hmmm).

But for teens born in 1996, "Sixteen Candles" may as well be "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers." And anyway, this dress is more Jem and the Holograms than Molly Ringwald.

Now that's an awesome prom dress
Nina Garcia, meanwhile, said the uneven pair went from "heroes to zeroes." (Isn't it great that Nina Garcia has stepped up the similes to fill the Michael Kors-sized hole in this season of Project Runway? Her observation that this gold dress looked like "la mariachi prom" made me laugh out loud.)

Lesson 3: If you can't find a print you like, make one!

Unfortunately for Michelle and Amanda, who wanted to make a punk-inspired prom dress, there was nothing that fit their aesthetic among the 38 different types of duct tape (at one point the camera panned to show us the rolls upon rolls of duct tape, including some printed with smiley faces and hearts. Seriously, Project Runway. Smileys and hearts?).

So Michelle busted out her mad math skills and made an oversized houndstooth pattern in two variations using three colors of duct tape. Did I mention that Sour Grapes Kate hated it? So did the teenagers who voted on their favorite garment at an awkward gathering in a highschool gymnasium.

But what do they know of fashion? The judges (and I!) loved it. They were also mad for Patricia and Samantha's ombre-effect print, which Patricia painstakingly created using three colors of duct tape:

But what of Stanley and Layana's dress? I couldn't make sense of this: 

The judges loved it. I can't wrap my head around what looks like a weird breastplate with an armscye that nearly dips to her waist, making it look oddly apron-like, with a bow that looks like it was squashed at the bottom of your Christmas wrapping stash. The lesson here: there's no telling what the judges will like.

What did you think? Did you learn anything this week from Project Runway? 


  1. I don't get why tu and kate got eliminated. The dress is stunning imo. Esp compared to the gold one by daniel and richard. Sure shorter and popping color and prints may be cooler, kooky and fun, what we associate with youth, and it seems what us older ones wished.we.would have worn to our own proms many years down the line. But i also think that a lot of girls would instead want to look elegant/sleek on that one night, much like what most would want to look in their wedding dress or some such time. Not everybody are hip, punk rock chic, or artsy. So that is catered by the one designed by kate. Tu is just being a nice tu :) if i am one of those going to a prom, i would wear either one of them in a heartbeat, but stanley and layana's maybe just to my sweet 16 or some cool part, and i will not go near the golden horror at all. Unless i am bribed with some mood fabric vouchers. No duck tapes thank you very much!

    1. I agree that some girls want to dress older, and wear something sophisticated they might see on the red carpet. Oh poor Tu. I felt like we barely got to know him...

  2. The judges are always so temperamental. I always think oh surely they will hate this, then they love it. its madness, madness I tell ya.
    if the contestants are are confused as me, they must be havin a hard time every week too

    1. Absolutely. I feel like 50 % of the time I have no idea what they will say!

  3. I love your recaps! I've been saving it all day until AFTER I'd seen the episode. I really liked the houndstooth dress, and don't understand the ombre one. I like the ombre texture, but I don't *get* the shape of the whole dress! :)

    1. Yes, I agree! I thought Daniel's description of it as a "Jiffy Pop bag" was a good one!

  4. I hated the gold thing, but you can tell by the way the Nina and Hedi spoke to and about Kate that they didn't like her, Tu was just an easy toss in. It was too bad because other than being nice seamstresses the two older gentlemen have aweful taste.

    1. I was so surprised by the double elimination! Usually you can tell there's some production reason for a double elimination (or the opposite: nobody goes home). Like, for example, after someone chooses to leave the show, a couple episodes down the road they don't eliminate anyone — which seems like such a surprise, but they signed on for XX number of episodes, so they have to keep an extra person around for a week.

  5. I just started watching this program, so I am really liking this feature :)
    The biggest problem I had with this was the conflict in the high schoolers' opinions and the judges. Obviously the nature of the competition is entirely subjective but I think it's pretty hard on the contestants when they're being judged by two different standards. I haven't been to prom as recently as Kate, but like her I have trouble believing that more students want to wear short dresses than want to wear long?? The navy I can agree was a dubious choice, but the length to me seems appropriate. But I do realize I am in between being in high school and having high school age children, so maybe I have no idea hahahha! (But at least I have this opinion as someone who went to high school dances, unlike nina and heidi, right?!)
    I think there were a lot of subtle teamwork lessons this week. Like you say, Richard and Daniel definitely brought out the worst in each other! To a lesser extent that also happened with Tu and Kate. Then on the other hand I think Michelle and Amanda really empowered each other.

    1. Yeah, I think you're on to something: please the teens or please the judges — you can't do both!

      I remember lots of girls in long dresses, but my prom was in 1996!

  6. I love reading your recaps about this show! More or less I do agree with you - I loved Michelle and Amanda's dress. But I don't understand at all the fenomen about the ombre dress - it is weird and futuristic in a way. I wouldn't see myself in it :) I liked Layana and Stanley's dress - it's simple but not too simple. And I really liked the pettyskirt (is it a pettyskirt?) under it - it gave the dress nice movement. I would totally wear something like that (if it's made of fabric, not duck tape :D). I'm sorry for Tu but not sorry for Kate - I think she is oldfasinoned and not fashion forward at all. She is so into being "old soul" and not young and hip at all. It quite scares me, when people act so much different to their age...

    /And I apologize about grammatical errors, I don't speak English daily./ Until the next episode! :)

  7. Ha ha ha!!! I haven't watched Project Runway for years - I'm still piiiissed that Anya(?) won. Maybe I'll start watching again? Or I'll just read your hilarious recaps.

    I love the houndstooth dress.

  8. I love your recaps! This was kind of a strange episode, huh? I sort of liked the ombre-effect dress, although it looked remarkably like a deflated balloon. And I really liked Michelle and Amanda's dress-- it's an unusual, but fun, shape. Stanley and Layana, however... I'm with you. It's totally confusing and cheesy. I did like the way the pleats moved, but the duct tape underskirt thing was gross and the armscyes annoyed me. I really wish Stanley would get kicked off soon so I wouldn't have to hear any more of his smug interviews-- blech!



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