Sep 28, 2014

What Did We Learn From Project Runway This Week? Episode 10, Season 13

My apologies for the much-delayed post, but if you knew how glorious the weather in NYC has been this week, you wouldn't blame me for choosing to spend the day yesterday romping around with my family instead of writing. Friday, which is usually when I write my Project Runway posts, was Rosh Hashanah and a public school holiday here, so that's the other half of my rock-solid excuse. Thanks for reading and let's get to it!

Near the beginning of this week's episode of Project Runway, my friend Lizzi texted me to comment on how crazy were all the people who turned down the designers seeking makeover models in Washington Square Park. 

But by the end of the episode we both agreed: we wouldn't say yes either. After all, would you want to be on national TV in a get-up like this:

Or have your semi-private parts exposed when a zipper bursts open pre-runway:

Also, if you're a Project Runway fan, then you know the winning designer of the "real person" challenge never has a short, stumpy model. And often (though it didn't happen this time) someone plus-size ends up in tears because there's a good reason why some of these designers are not yet a success: they can't fit clothes on non-model bodies — and their people skills suck. What if, I asked Lizzi via text, someone ignored my bottom-line and put me in a miniskirt and my cellulite was on national TV? 

"Oh damn," she replied. "What if they put me in COLOR?" (She only wears black, gray and blue, bless her heart).

Thankfully for the designers of Season 13, Washington Square Park is the kind of place where you can find tall, thin actress/ballerina/yoga teachers with time to spare and low expectations. Did the producers of Project Runway seed the park with the results of a "regular lady" casting call? Or are there truly that many attractive women with no prior obligations just lounging around the West Village on a sunny summer day? You and I will never know.   

Moving on to our lessons:

Lesson 1: Tough love from Tim Gunn will only get you so far

One minute, Tim Gunn is holding your hand and telling you that you are the most talented person he's ever met — and in the next he's doing the gentleman's equivalent of smacking the stupid straight out of you. 

This week Alexander nearly sent this cropped-top-and-high-waisted skirt ensemble down the runway. 

Tim intervened, calling it the "most hideous garment he has ever seen IN HIS ENTIRE EXISTENCE." Those are strong words from a man who mentored Timothy from Season 12:

Ah, memories
Sure, it may have resembled an oozing pizza monster costume, but "hideous"? Really? (I bet if Sandyha had designed it — and came up with a good justification, the judges would have eaten it up.) And did Alexander deserve to go home for his final toned-down cropped top and skirt look? How was that look (see the first picture above) any worse than Amanda's dress?

 No lie, I saw a better version of this dress on an extra in a Payless Shoes commercial yesterday (but my phone was out of battery so I couldn't snap a pic). If you are going to do chevron stripes, you gotta match everywhere (even Forever 21 can manage that much)....though even if she had nailed that, I think this dress would have been a clunker. It's too short and chevron...well, it's kind of dated now, isn't it? This belongs on a Pinterest fail board. SO WHERE WAS TIM WITH THE TOUGH LOVE ON THIS ONE?

Lesson 2: Side zips and short shorts are not a match made in fashion heaven

It was an apparent Project Runway first when Char was given a few extra minutes to resew a busted zipper into the flaming red booty shorts she made for a preschool teacher. Everyone else conceded she should get a break lest her model be mortified on the runway with her hip hanging out. (But of course they complained behind her back after the fact.)

I don't know. I hate wearing shorts and avoid them as much as possible, but a side zip? To me, that seems weird. I know an actual fly would take longer to sew...and a center back zip on shorts is tacky and gross (like the one sewn last week by Alexander, may he rest in peace). Maybe if they had more than a day for each challenge this season's designers could sew real-world closures for their real-world women.

 The lesson here: zippers are hard to sew and falliable too — even when you're a skilled seamstress like Char.

Lesson 3: Maybe Project Runway should be called "Project Would I Wear That?"

Too often, the most important measure for Heidi, Nina and the guest judge is "Would I wear that?" — which shouldn't be the only test for fashion supremacy. Zac is the one judge who cares more for creativity and vision than whether something would show off enough of Heidi's legs. 

How else to explain the fact that Emily's interesting look...

...lost to Korina's motorcycle jacket. 

Kini's look, meanwhile, did a great job of answering the challenge; he channelled his model's personal style into something cooler than she would have chosen on her own. Heidi would never wear this though, so sorry, Kini:

Meanwhile in real NYC this week I took my daughter to Mood in search of some Halloween costume fabrics. Guess what we spotted while we were there:

That's right! Char's fabric from last week. It's $18/yard and Oscar de la Renta. You can find it with the printed cottons. You're welcome.

Also: Did anyone see the commercial for "Project Runway Threads" — the kids Project Runway? After Master Chef Junior I knew it was only a matter of time before someone developed a Junior Project Runway. Anyway, can't wait to watch it with my kid!

What did you think of this week's episode? Were any of these outfits a game-changer for you?

Sep 19, 2014

What Did We Learn From Project Runway This Week? Season 13, Episode 9

I'm breaking with form this week but don't blame me — the onus is on the producers of Project Runway for creating a challenge that not only featured children, it revolved around dolls. Dolls. Ugh. Seriously? (If you guys are running out of ideas, call me! I'm sure I can get my readers to spitball a few challenges that don't involve period-costume-clad $100 dolls).

This week's recap is not going to rehash lessons learned from the designers' struggles and successes (though let's get it out there: these people have no idea when it comes to adding closures to children's clothing, do they?). Instead we are going to do something fun, inspired by this recent Gawker ranking of Michael Kors' most biting bon mots over the many seasons in which he reigned as Project Runway's resident catty Cathy.

I know many of us have grown fond of Kors' replacement, Zac Posen, who often offers the most informed critique of all the judges. What he doesn't do, however, is sling zingers. (His best comment during this episode: "It feels like it's stuck in the shtetl in Russia").

So this week I'm inviting you to play a round of What Would Michael Kors Say? I'll start us off — with the help of my six-year-old daughter, because who better to judge clothes for children than a real, actual child? (Don't judge; she didn't stay up late to watch — we looked at the runway photos over a bowl of cereal this morning). Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

1. Korina

Me: Esther, the Wild Western jester 

Lucy: "That skirt looks like stuff you see at MoMath (the Museum of Mathmatics in Manhattan) — like, those tiles you arrange to make a pattern...I like it." 

2. Alexander

(Zoomed in so you could see the black center back zipper)

Lucy: "It looks like someone's buttcrack."
Me: What she said.

3. Amanda

Me: The cutest little girl at the couch factory
Lucy: "This has a lot of bright colors — like something (Oonabaloona) would wear."

4. Char

Me: Some reference to beheading that is totally innappropriate
Lucy: "The tannish color makes her look like a very cool American cowgirl. The little strings would go up and down while she rode her horse!"

5. Emily

Me: Frumpy goth lolita
Lucy: "She looks like a princess. I love it." (It should be noted that Emily actually has a children's line available on Etsy and it's very cute.)

The judges didn't care for Emily's look, but her model wins the keepin'-it-real award for these two runway moments:

6. Kini

Me: Eloise attending a "Yes vote" rally for Scottish independence
Lucy: "I want to be her. She looks like an American Girl. I want that jacket....(notices which designer it is) oh, it's Kini. Good. I was worried it was Sandhya."

7. Sandhya

Me: From the Shirley Temple toddler line "Lewdship Gollipop"
Lucy: "It's like a jumpsuit with a nice little tutu. (Pauses) It's a little kooky. (Sees that it's Sandhya's look) "It's hers? I hope she goes home."  

Sandhya from the back:

Me: "Snaps up the center back? How would you put this thing back on after going to the bathroom?"
Lucy: "It would take a long time....and your teacher would probably yell at you."

8. Sean

Lucy: "'s...nice. But that face looks like someone who is trying to be happy but it really uncomfortable." 
Me: "OK, but it's not Project Faceway."
Lucy: "Yeah... but I don't think she likes it." 
Me: "And it looks like you can probably see her underpants through that lightweight cotton."
Lucy: "Not good."

Did anyone take it personally when Heidi's critique of this look included a dig at homesewers? She said Sean's '70s San Francisco-inspired outfit looked like it was from a "McCall's Pattern Book...a sew-it-yourself kind of thing." Minus the vest (with its incomplete peace sign — which is actually the Mercedes logo, duh), I thought it did look like something many of us might want to make for the little girls in our lives, so maybe Heidi was right. BUT: how much would this jumpsuit have benefitted from a bright print, drapier fabric, pockets and a gathered cuff?

Got any zingers to sling? Think like Michael Kors and leave your suggestions in the comments below!

Sep 13, 2014

What Did We Learn From Project Runway This Week? Season 13, Episode 8

Sponsorships have always driven some of the challenges on Project Runway (think of the perennial HP design challenge, in which the designers use touchable tablets to create their own textile design; I always look forward to that challenge and covet the opportunity to easily make a tessellated print with a few finger swipes).

And in this episode of Project Runway the designers were tasked with creating a look to walk the "rainway" — a runway topped by a movie set-style rainmaking machine that soaks the models as they stomp the catwalk. The looks had to be avant-garde — which was somehow inspired by Samsung's new curved TV — a demand that matched the unusual runway experience they were about to create.

You want me to do WHAT?

Now, the avant garde challenge is always a toughie for Project Runway designers. Very few people seem to have a good idea of what "avant garde" actually means. It's artistic, not really wearable, forward-thinking, larger-than-life...

There are usually a number of stick-a-bunch-of-crap-on-it looks, like Char's:

And usually a number of designers interpret "forward thinking" as futuristic, such as Emily and Korina's not-very-successful looks:

Welcome to the planet Xanadu

Very few designers can actually create something truly exciting and wholly new, and I guess it's no surprise that Sean and Kini were the only designers not to get soaked by this two-day challenge (the Project Runway Fashion Week show took place this past week, and I kept myself off the Internet so I wouldn't ruin the surprise of seeing the collections. I think it's safe to say those two are in the top 3).

In his critique, Tim Gunn said Kini's look was "like Schiaparelli" — high praise that foreshadowed runway success:

Ma'am, your umbrella is dripping on the floor
Kini's look was perfection. Inspired (obviously) by an umbrella, it was also perfectly executed — those folds perfectly draping across the hip and tapering down into a point. Yes, it's literal, which the judges normally HATE. But in an avant-garde challenge, it worked. Plus, the dude made gloves. Gloves! Is there anything this guy can't do?

Sean, meanwhile, created a look that didn't just reference the rainway — it made use of the new medium in a specific, necessary way. It was, as my husband said, "some next-level shit."

Painstakingly sewing RIT dye into the seams of his white dress, he gambled on the rain activating the color as the model walked the runway. The judges were suitably blown away as his dress quickly changed from all-white to an ombre-effect pink and yellow (how did that model keep herself from looking down to check it out as she walked the runway?).

Sean didn't just sew a lovely dress. He created a theatrical experience — one that could only happen in this very specific environment. That's avant garde. Somebody better save this dress, because the Met is going to want it for their Sean Kelly retrospective in 2034:

It reminded me of this Alexander McQueen dress/runway experience, in which model Shalom Harlow spun on a turntable as two robot arms equipped with paint sprayers doused her dress:

Like Sean's rainway experiment, this McQueen moment was exceptional in its singularity and the "what the F$%^ is happening?" factor. Sean's look was perhaps even more interesting for the fact that no extra technology was needed to make it happen; the element of water provided the catalyst to transform his simple white dress into a work of art.

Kini and Sean shared the win, which was only fair considering how superlative both designers' work was. Can you tell I was excited by this week's episode?

Here's what I was not excited by:

Sandyha's big top jumpsuit topped by a pinwheel vest. Not only are her designs childlike, she's also unbelievably immature. After the judges' critique, in which a number of designers' work was compared to McQueen, she told them all she should win because she's the only true original in the group. She's lucky this is a particularly restrained bunch of Project Runway competitors. Nobody said a thing, though you can see their "bitch, please" looks on their faces:

Girl, you better sleep with one eye open tonight
Poor Fade. He seemed to get a little lost in this challenge. It was confusing: they were told to be inspired by the TV's technology. Everyone else knew to let that one slide. He put an actual play button on his bodice:

What was your favorite look this week? We're getting close to the end: any predictions?

Sep 6, 2014

What Did We Learn From Project Runway This Week? Season 13, Episode 7

Sometimes I love Project Runway so much I would probably let it put a baby in me.

And this week’s episode, with its Met Museum Charles James exhibit visit and Tim Gunn feelings, underlined all the reasons I adore this show: fashion, craft and heart.

The challenge was to create a gala look inspired by Chopard jewels. But before the designers could even get their pencils out to sketch, Tim Gunn made a surprising announcement: he would be using the Tim Gunn Save (TM) on Char —the last eliminated designer.

Tears were shed — at least as many by Tim as by Char. (He's more of a softie every season, isn't he?) I, for one, was very happy to see her return. Char is one awesome lady.

After that emotional moment, Tim took the designers to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they visited this summer's Costume Institute Exhibit on Charles James for inspiration (sorry friends; it has since closed). It's so cute how excited the designers were — like they couldn't just pay the donation/admission and see it themselves any time.

It really was an incredible exhibit though, particularly if you are interested in patternmaking and clothing construction. I took my six-year-old daughter in July. We took some photos of our favorite looks:

Yes, this IS meant to look like a vagina
And though their time was as constrained as it's been in recent weeks, nearly all of the designers created a look worthy of the jewels that inspired it. Even the worst looks of the week weren't terrible for a change, though there was one that caused me some confusion. Sean too:  

And that is Amanda's look, a strappy black jumpsuit topped with Betty Draper's organza bathrobe. The judges loved it, apparently, even though it was shockingly (or boringly?) similar to the Hot-For-Yoga-Teacher look she designed in Episode 3 (see below left):

I just....sigh...don't even. What? Are they all on crazy pills?

Moving on.

Lesson 1: Upholstery fabric — It ain't just for couches 

I don't know if this tie-in was intentional, but Mood NYC has a new upholstery store — which was perfectly highlighted in this challenge by the fact that Korina successfully used couch-weight furnishing fabric to create a beautiful structured coat. I'm not a huge fan of Korina the Person, but this week Korina the Designer did a pretty amazing job:

Quoth Korina’s model: “It’s so’s you.”

Cut to... Korina wearing a very similar coat:

She struggled with pattern-matching — as we all do. Tim Gunn had to ride her a little to take the front apart so that everything lined up properly. It was obviously a pain to do, but worth it in the end. Coincidentally, earlier this week I found a copy of  a "Sewing With Nancy" tips book on my building's free table (one of the big benefits of apartment living — since we've lived here we have taken in numerous books, a dollhouse, and even a wafflemaker from the free table). Skimming it, I found a great tip on pattern-matching: Cut one side at a time, and while you pin the first take a moment to trace the print onto the paper pattern piece. That way you can use it as a guide to perfectly line up the second piece you cut. A large-scale print like Korina's would have been easy to match with that method. (If she was using the flat-pattern method, of course).

Lesson # 2: Be judicious with the neoprene, people

One thing I've been loving this season of project Runway is the designers' use of neoprene as a fashion fabric. Here are two great examples from previous episodes that demonstrate how wetsuit fabric can be used for great effect:

As a structured shoulder detail
As a jacket with cool cutout sleeve bands

But this week Kini, a designer for whom I am totally rooting despite his giggly cattiness, attempted a bustier cut from neoprene, a highly structured fabric meant to insulate. He might have had better luck shaping a bra cup from a couple slices of stale bread:

The judges didn't totally hate it though because his overall design was at least interesting. Meanwhile, my six-year-old described Kini's dress this way: "Half is like a girl who's dressed and half is a girl who's naked." 

Since you're wondering, that wasn't her worst criticism of the week though. She described Fade's dress as "too bootyish":

Also bootyish,  Emily's dress:

And "too clumpy," inexplicable fan-favorite Alexander's molten lava dress:

What was your favorite look this week? Were you as satisfied as I was with this episode? Are Sandhya's smug looks driving you bonkers? Do you Fall sewing plans include upholstery fabric and neoprene?


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