Project Runway Recap: The Top 11 and the Attack of the Life! Sized! Women!

Oh, they tried not to freak out, but those real women freak designers out. So much so, they don't even know how to cover the "boobage."

After last week's drama-filled episode ... Casanova goes form zero to hero! Gretchen shows her not-very-well-hidden true colors! Michael C. gets thrown under the bus again, and again, again! Tim lays the smackdown on Team FauxLuxe! Swatch lives!  I'm sure all Project Runway fans were anxiously awaiting this week's episode. Would the other FauxLuxe designers shun Gretchen? Would Casanova finally escape being a Dangerfield? Would Michael C. kill all those nasty backstabbers in their sleep? 


Michael claimed he would rise above it. Although that may have been because he hadn't heard the capping continue as even April -- she of the diaper outfit, and who wasn't even on his team -- continued the "let's dis Michael" party.


Gretchen claimed she would rise above it ... even as she whimpered about how unfair it had all been, and how Tim didn't know her.


And Casnova? Well, had a new-found confidence.


Now, there's no better way to get the designers to stop being angsty over each other than to make them angtsy over their models, so it was time to trot out a "real woman" challenge. This time the angle was that these were real women in real bridesmaid dresses they had worn to real weddings. And it was the designers' job to make them over into something wearable and fashionable.


As real woman challenges go, this one seemed pretty easy. Most of them women were pretty young and fit. Not saying they were size 2s, but some of them were not too many steps away from being runway ready as they were. Only one was noticeably voluptuous, so -- of course -- she was selected last as the designers picked their "models." Throughout the entire episode, they were trying really really hard to be respectful and delicate, but it almost had the opposite effect where this one woman being fuller-figured was almost like "the c-word" or "the love that dare not speak its name" in the way they tiptoed around it.


The dresses were the expected monstrosities, although some were clearly more heinous than others. Mostly the problem with these (and all bridesmaid dresses) is that they are not made with the most rich fabrics. Instead, they use lace, synthetics, and usually pretty thin and unlined construction.


The challenge was meant to make the designers use "most" of the dress, so they got to go to Mood with only $50 to buy a mere 2 yards. 


After they thanked a Swatch-less Mood and returned, they had 30 minutes with their clients. And Christopher discovered that his client had bolted ... stage fright. Instead he got Ava. I'm sure he wasn't too bummed, given she was a hottie with a not-too-horrendous gold dress.


So, what did we learn in this episode?


-That upholstery fabric comes in wider bolts, so 2 yards of that will get you more fabric than 2 yards of normal fabric. Guess which designer decided he obviously had to go that route? Why yes, it was Michael D. with his realest of real woman

-That apparently sewing and talking isn't like patting your head and rubbing your tummy since those designers were being catty little wenches the whole time they sewed. They all cannot seem to let it go that Michael C. is even there. Hmmm. Can you smell a comeuppance coming?

-That Gretchen wants to talk to her mommy, who knows her better than anyone. Which I don't think is an unusual thing. I mean, I don't have kids, but I imagine moms everywhere were saying to their TV screen: "Of course she knows you better than anyone; she carried you for nine months; she potty-trained you; she ... " You get the picture

-That apparently Gretchen isn't as universally loathed by her fellow contestants as she is by the audience, as Christopher tried to convince us she doesn't have "a malicious bone in her body." Sorry, but I think if she had won a third challenge, they'd all be singing a different tune. How soon they forget their own Episode 3 Gretchen-hating.


Tim comes for a visit, and one great thing about the new 90 minute format is that you really do get to see him visit each designer for at least a little of his feedback. While still very much in process, we get a peek at:


-Gretchen's "shorts" look, which is appearing a bit "athletic." But worse yet, her dying job is making the top look a bit like "an open wound." That can't be good.

-Michael C. is working with both lace and puff sleeves. That also, let's be honest, cannot be good.

-Michael D. and Tim dance around the large-size issue, with Michael professing how excited he is by "the challenge." Oh, and he's going for the Madonna-lace-bra-on-the-outside look, or something. And so far, it's three strikes.

-But Tim hits Mondo and breathes a sigh of relief, as do we, to see something really being transformed from a Pepto Bismol pink nightmare to a mod dress right from Carnaby Street.

-Peach brings us back to Earth, working from a pukey green dress and noting that her model is a "little hippy, aren't we all?" So, of course, the solution is more fabric at the hips, right? Oh, just wait and see.

-Christopher has to avoid Carol Burnett/Scarlett O'Hara syndrome with his gold brocade fabric.

-Ivy has a client with no dearth of self-confidence who wants to show off her legs, her rack, her shoulders ... well, basically everything. Tim pulls off the line of the night by responding, "Make her a thong and call it a day!" Oh, Tim. I love you.

-Casanova is working on something that looks intriguing, going for a sportswear transformation rather than making a dress out of a dress. For once Tim and Casanova are speaking "exactly" the same language.

-Andy is working on a clubbing outfit, not that Tim know anything about clubbing, mind you. I don't buy it; I bet he's out there every night amongst the sweaty throngs.

-Valerie is committing the mortal sin of making "clothes, not fashion." Ouch. Tim really knows how to twist the knife!


This episode featured something a little different. Rather than go straight to the runway, the designers and their models were put on display for hundreds of other "real people," who each got a button they could throw in the bowl of their favorite design. I hope they paid these "real women" a lot to be the models this week, because it sounded like a lot of work. 


Peach was in a "Peach Panic" about not finishing her skirt, because of a "cutting error."  And here's my esoteric reference of the recap, as this constant reference to her "cutting error," which I did not understand, reminded me of the mysterious "baking accident" that killed the Baker's father in the Sondheim musical Into the Woods. Just here to make even reality TV sound a little more high-brow. You're welcome.


This showcase revived the drama as Ivy claimed to hear that Michael C. was telling people not to vote for Ivy because she was "the bitch of the show." Everybody was very concerned about this, very concerned. Although no one, apparently confronted Michael about it at the showcase. And it would seem to me that if he was, it would be very easy for the producers to produce footage of it. So, a bit of manufactured drama, no doubt.


On to the runway where, with an uncharacteristic lack of suspense Heidi lets us know that Mondo won the "real people" vote -- which will count towards what the judges do, but not determine the winner fully. 


Heidi is wearing distracting striped hose and is joined on the judging panel by MK, ninagarcia and designer Cynthia Rowley, who is coming out with a new line of bridesmaid dresses, (totally not) coincidentally enough!


As always you can click on the designer's name to see their design.


1. Andy 

Andy's "clubbing outfit" was a total transformation, as he took a bright monstrosity with a vertical bow at the chest (no, it didn't make more sense when you saw it) and dyed it black, creating a shorts and corset outfit. The pleated corset top fit absolutely like a glove and was impeccable. The shorts, with a wide waistband and silver chains hanging from one side, also seemed very well-made. The vertical lines of the hook and eye corset back and zipper on the back of the shorts came together perfectly, and the whole thing just worked. OK, so the outfit was a bit bare, but if you have the body for it (as his model did) I didn't see this as out of question for a night out ... and not just for a lady of the night.


2. April 

April created a really nice little black shirt dress, with an homage to the original purple pleated gown via a purple pleated embellishment on the front. It's cuter than it sounds, go look. The dress also seemed quite well-made, and the proportion was very nice. It made the quite slender model look curvy, and it was something different than the usual cocktail dress approach with straps. Featuring short sleeves, a high collar and a long exposed zipper down the back. I thought it was modern, sexy, a little edgy. I really liked it.


3. Casanova 

Casanova's outfit looked way better than it's going to sound. He took an electric blue satin dress and turned it into cropped pants with detailed seaming and a fabulous fit. He paired this with a gold blouson top that slipped off one shoulder and had an opening in the back. I thought it was an effortlessly sexy look.


4. Christopher 

So, as far as I can tell, Christopher cut the long skirt off this gold dress, and cut off one side of the bodice, exposing what looked like one side of a strapless bra. I am really really surprised he didn't get dinged for not doing more, and for leaving one breast looking unadorned altogether.


5. Gretchen 

This did not work for me. The wine-colored original dress survived in the form of a very short skirt. Gretchen again used tall boots in her styling, which was old the first time around. But the thing that really did not float my boat was the top. It basically looks like a stained wife-beater, with less fit. She fixed it for the runway, but at the showcase her poor model was exhibiting much side boobage because the top just didn't fit. And it's not like she was even particularly well-endowed. The shirt was short in the front and long in the back and down the center of front and back was this dark brown streak. That she dyed to be that way on purpose. I could have lived with it down the front. Down the back? Um, evocative. But not of anything appealing.


6. Ivy 

So Ivy ended up with the only white bridesmaid dress ever. Like Casanova, she turned hers into cropped pants. Very very tight cropped pants. In white. And they seemed crooked. She did add a tuxedo stripe down the outside, but they too seemed a little crooked. The top was also blousy, in a yellow-striped pattern. And then there was the styling. I'm not sure how a thin gray belt and high taupe heels pulled the outfit together, but ... oh, wait. I am sure: They did NOT pull the outfit together!


7. Michael C. 

This was every kind of black fabric mixed together into one outfit I noted looked like it belonged in a line called "Hootchie Dynasty." Some black sating, some lace, some velvet. We were only missing leather, and then we could have had a Don Henley/Stevie Nicks duet. I definitely thought Michael was safe, but I was surprised the judges liked it as much as they did. I did totally appreciate the fact that the very short length was balanced out by an almost demure top, and I suspect that all the different fabric choices gave the dress a kind of texture and depth in person that was hard to appreciate on TV. Still, color me surprised.


8. Michael D. 

Michael claimed to be honored and privileged to be making fashion for a larger woman (and really the only larger woman out of all 11 models) but he didn't show his respect by actually making much of an effort to do anything. He cut the length off the dress, encased the skirt in a bunch of black tulle. For some unknown reason decided to put black lace on her boobs, sort of like when lingerie on the outside was popular and then, just in case you thought he was done making this woman look worse than she had in her original dress, he threw in a boxy black bolero jacket. They say television adds ten pounds, but Michael D. can add 40.


9. Mondo 

Well, Mondo pull off a tough trick: He made a pink Pepto Bismol dress into something mod and cool and wearable. And then he almost totally ruined it with styling that evoked Snooki from Jersey Shore ... who is not mod and cool. I know some folks think the styling shouldn't have mattered too much, but it really detracted and cheapened the entire look. But the dress on its own? Adorable.


10. Peach 

Oh, Peach. Oh, dear. It is kind of a shame that they are not showing the back view online, given the highlight of the dress was how it featured the model's back tattoo. But other than that? This was a disaster. Let's just [spoiler alert] quote MK: "A Holly Hobbie Halter with avocado dinner napkins tucked at the waist." Yup, that nails it.


11. Valerie 

Valerie had a whole lotta lotta going on with this dress, most of it reminding me of the color-blocked clothes I had in the 80s. There was a pink skirt, and an unflattering white top that made the model's boobs look massive, and black colorblocking along the sides, and a black belt and black strappies. And exposed zippers on the side. The proportions were off, so the overall effect was to make the model look squat, broad and without a waist to speak of.


In the end, the judges deemed the Top 3 to be:

Michael C. (Thought he would be safe, but did not think he would be Top 3)

Christopher (Again, fine that he's safe, but really? Top 3)

Mondo (A shoo-in for Top 3)


I would have swapped out Michael and Christopher for April, Andy or Casanova, personally.


Mondo's bad styling killed his chances. And I think the judges wanted to stick it to all those backstabby namby pambys from the previous week, so since apparently MIchael's dress was better constructed and proportioned than we can tell from our TV screens, he got the win. And immunity. Again. Which the designers left in the green room took really really well. </sarcasm> 


And the judges deemed the following to be the Bottom 3:

Peach (no big surprise)

Michael D. (again, no big surprise)

Valerie (OK, it wasn't great, but I think I disliked Gretchen and Ivy's work more)


Peach, clearly, got and deserved the auf.


And the remaining designers' entire world views are rocked to the core by the fact that the judges don't seem to have the disdain for Michael C. that they do.


He's in the Top 10, and will be in the Top 9.


Take that Gretchen! (And Ivy, and Andy and the rest!)


But what did you think?


Elisa Camahort Page, BlogHer

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