Runway Recap: Shades of Mediocrity


Spoiler alert: This post contains spoilers about last Thursday’s episode of Project Runway: Season 10, Episode 3, “Welcome Back (or not) to the Runway.” If you’re a fan of the show and you haven’t seen it yet — you stand warned.

In these Runway Recaps, I’m trying to focus on the designs and not the drama. But it’s going to be tricky this week. Having spent last week gushing over the shiny happy candy challenge and what an exciting batch of designers we had this season and how much I was looking forward to the rest of the competition, I now haz a giant sad. The designs this week were so vague, my eyes were having trouble focusing on them. The good designs were boring. The bad designs were boring. Only one of the middling designs wasn’t boring — and it was badly made enough to not really be worth commenting on. (Although, of course, I’m going to anyway.) This week’s designs were almost universally executed in shades of mediocrity. Like emptiness in disharmony.

Yes, I know: team challenges are tough, and it’s hard to get that blazingly unique vision thing when you’re forced to collaborate with someone who was randomly picked for you out of a hat. But then I think about Chris and Christian in Season 4, and that giddy, exuberant, magnificently artful, “made of silky sunset clouds and the essence of pure joy” piece they teamed up on, which years later people are still talking about. And I think about Jillian and Victorya, also in Season 4, and that lavish, bad-ass, magnificently elegant, “soldier in the army of awesome and every coat I’ve ever bought since has been an echo of it in my mind” coat they teamed up on, which would have won that challenge by a mile in any other season and only lost by the bad (and yet freakishly awesome) luck of being on the BEST SEASON EVAR.


Sigh. Sorry. Nostalgia for Season 4 over (for the moment, anyway). I think I’ve made my point… which is that “Team challenges are hard!” is a pathetically weak excuse. ([cough] Elena! [cough]) So let’s get back to the pathetic weakness.

I am totally baffled by this week’s winner. Yes, it was a very pretty dress. Beautiful, even. And it was a perfect dress for Kenley. But the challenge was not, “make a pretty dress for Kenley that will make her feel like a pretty pretty princess.” (Much as Kenley would have wanted it to be.) The challenge was, “Make a beautiful outfit for Kenley to wear to the Emmys.” I don’t care how hard the judges tried to sell their whole “sure, okay, I guess you could maybe wear that dress to the Emmys, if you didn’t care too much about who was photographing you” line. This was a day dress. Maybe a cocktail dress, with the right accessories. If they’d even made it tea-length, it could maybe have worked as an Emmy dress. As it was — please.

And as for the piece that came in second — are you freaking kidding me? It was poorly made in the belly. It was poorly made in the butt. Their client loathed it (although, to be fair, Irina isn’t exactly Miss Congeniality, and as they used to say in the Life cereal commercials, she hates everything.) And even if it had been flawlessly made… it was a white column dress. Snore. If it had been flawlessly made, I would have granted it “elegant” and given it a pass for being in the Top Two… but only because the other contenders this week were so very sad. I’m starting to wonder if Tom and Lorenzo have it right, and the judges are picking the top and bottom designs less on which designers make good clothing, and more on which designers make good drama.

And speaking of good drama…

If I’m going to watch tears and recriminations and a tangled web of lies on the judging platform, I want it to be over something more interesting than a sad brown ill-fitting pageant dress with a bunchy collar and a shitty hem. Damn. Even the losers were boring this week. I want the losers to be “go big or go home” moments: “I tried to do something ambitious and bit off more than I could chew” moments, “I had a fabulous idea that would have blown everyone away if I’d known how to execute it” moments, “I have a unique vision that nobody understands except the space aliens who are talking to me through my sewing machine” moments. ([cough] Kooan! [cough]) Not, “We were inspired by this beautiful print, but we let ourselves get talked out of it, so we slapped together a sad black prom dress that you couldn’t unload from the sale rack at Ross” moments. Not, “I don’t really know how to sew, even though I’m a freaking design teacher, but it doesn’t matter since I don’t actually give a shit about this competition and don’t care if I’m screwing over my partner” moments. Not, “My partner doesn’t know how to sew, and I don’t have the moxie to snatch the freaking dress out of her hands and make it myself, so I’m going to freeze in the corner like a trapped animal and weep quietly to myself” moments. I want the drama to be about something that matters. You know… to the degree that any of this matters.

(Inescapable side note on drama: I do think Christopher needs to grow a thicker skin and pull it together… but I was totally in his corner on this one. I actually wish he’d gone after Andrea harder on the judging platform. Especially if the teasers about next week bear anything like the freaky fruit they’re promising.)

So what would I have picked for Top Two?

Hm. Tricky. Again: shades of mediocrity. But I would definitely have gone for Buffi and Elena’s piece for Laura. No, it wasn’t the most interesting dress on this beautiful green earth. And the hair styling was appalling: stiff and matronly, bringing out the worst elements of the dress instead of the best. But it was a very pretty dress — and unlike the Top Two, it was both reasonably well-executed and appropriate for the event. Which makes me well up with sadness yet agan over how sad a this week this must have been, if “reasonably well-executed and appropriate for the event” is the highest praise I can come up with.

And I think I would have gone for Dmitry and Melissa’s silver thing for April. Yes, yes, it was bunchy and weird around the boobs and the belly. But so was Gunnar and Kooan’s white column thing. And unlike the white column thing, it was bunchy and weird around the boobs and the belly… and otherwise kind of gorgeous and unusual. All shimmery and silvery and fluid, like unicorn cum. And it was perfect for April. (Well, it would have been if they’d pulled it off. Note to designers: if you’re designing for anyone other than a flat-chested 20-year-old model, you cannot go backless. Regular women need bras!). It was pretty, but also edgy and a little freaky and alien, and the silver set off her lavender hair to perfection. They took a freaking risk: they worked with a notoriously difficult fabric, and while it didn’t quite pay off, it was no worse than Bunchy Boring Column Dress That Made The Client Snarl.

So yeah. I’m trying to find a way to wrap this up that doesn’t just trail off into a vague, “yeah, this kinda sucked, and not even in an interesting way” repetition of the theme. Although I suppose that would be appropriate…

Comments

  1. kmk05 says

    All shimmery and silvery and fluid, like unicorn cum.

    This wins the Internet.

    This episode made me want to bash my head on the television. Are they joking? This is the best they could do? You have to be able to execute something boring like this in your SLEEP if you’re working with easy fabrics. What was this seam in the middle of Anya’s dress? And the idiotic length of Irina’s? There are no words to describe Mila’s. The whole thing made me sadface for about three hours afterwards.

  2. says

    Andrea really had no excuse on this one, and I think her mistake was back at MOOD. If you have only one day to create a gown, the last thing you want is fabric that’s difficult to work with. And as a fashion professor, she is supposed to know in advance which fabrics will be easy and which will be impossible. She should have used her experience, taken one look at that fabric at MOOD, said “It’s lovely, but it would take me all day just to cut out a skirt from this. Let’s dump this and look at some jersey knits”.

    Once again, I agree with the judge on who won and who was out. But this whole fashion show was a real let-down. Let’s hope for something way better next week.

  3. Jasmyn says

    I didn’t see the episode. However, looking at the dresses was sad. When you mentioned the dresses from season 4, I knew exactly what you were talking about. They were dramatic and had one hell of a wow factor. By the end of the day, I will have forgotten what these dresses look like. Boring is worse than bad.

  4. says

    “I have a unique vision that nobody understands except the space aliens who are talking to me through my sewing machine”

    You know, I’ve always suspected most of those clothing designers were designing for the wrong species.

    And in fact, a lot of the dresses pictured above might work as party dresses in a sci-fi movie: they’re different enough to be of a different century, but (unlike a lot of the clothes you see in sci-fi movies and TV shows) still plausible enough to think someone would actually wear them. (The second-to-last one in your lineup? Totally “Hunger Games.”)

    Oh, and I really liked the winning dress — it looked quite sexy (on that particular non-anorexic model at least) without showing a lot of skin.

    And yes, “All shimmery and silvery and fluid, like unicorn cum” totally wins the Internet.

  5. daenyx says

    All shimmery and silvery and fluid, like unicorn cum.

    This just made my day. Thank you so much for that mental image, Greta. xD They need to make that the official name of that shimmery sort of silver, right fucking now.

    (I do, incidentally, like that dress – at least as the top of the midden heap – though I sadface thinking what Andy South from April’s season might have made for her instead. He was so good with unusual looks and I’ve been pining for something interesting both this season and last.)

  6. Maria says

    Now you’ve gone and done it!!! You’ve made me watch Project Runway! :-D

    I had no idea what this program was about, but as you wrote about it several times I finally got curious enough to check it out, and now I’m hooked. I’ve been watching old seasons though, and versions from other countries, since the latest season is not showing on TV here yet.

    I’m having mixed feelings about it. On one hand if often makes me feel a bit stupid. I like clothes, especially now since I’ve lost a lot of weight, and enjoy wearing fun things, but this show often makes it painfully clear that I obviously know nothing about what to wear, and what’s suitable in different situations. It happens often enough that the outfits I like gets called tacky and trashy by the judges (or similar things) to make me feel trashy too :-D I often don’t have a clue what the judges talk about either. I wouldn’t know what a ‘day dress’ is suppose to look like, or a cocktail dress, or what ‘tea lenght’ is. I haven’t got a clue, and so yeah… the show often makes me feel my “Hillbilly roots” all the more :-D

    What I like about it (apart from how they of course manipulate you into follow the competition part, and the elimination process in excitement – gotta know who wins!!!) is the energetic creativity! People create, with their own hands. I create, with my own hands. Not fashion… obviously, but I draw, paint and do mixed media art as a hobby, and if you create you’re often very interested in watching others create, and the process they go through, even if they create something completely different from you, or are in a whole nother league than you. So, as soon as I understood what the premise of the show was, it piqued my interest.

    So, no matter that I’m a total disaster when it comes to fashion, I love outrageous clothing, and it’s very inspiring to watch people create. I like to look at the show Work of Art for the same reason, which uses the same format (and might be a bit closer to what I do as well)

    The drama I could often do without, and it does dampen the enthusiasm over the creative energy to watch some peoples’ behavior (though who knows how much some things are a product of editing to make it look worse?). Sometimes it’s depressing, as when the contestants were to make plus sized clothing in one challenge and some could hardly conceal their disgust :-( (That was in Project Runway Canada, by the way). Though I do know just how much drama there can be after I spent two year in art school, so… yeah, it’s there!

    Anyway, glad you made me discover this show.

  7. scott says

    #6- I also know basically nothing about fashion except what I’ve learned watching PR. I’ve gotten better at predicting what these judges will like, but it hasn’t affected which ones I myself like best. (Part of the problem is that you can’t see a lot of the details on TV, even HD- it takes a closer examination of recaps here or T&L to really see what the judges see.)

    What I watch the show for most is what I call ‘competence porn’. I think the phrase originates with John Rogers. At its best the show is about watching people who are really good at something do it well, even though I’m not that interested in the specifics of the task. The pattern fumbles a bit when they let the drama dictate the competition like they have in the last few seasons.

    Work of Art has the same idea, but I like it less because art doesn’t have the absolute measure of quality that clothes construction does. You can say you meant your painting to be a little wobbly and get away with it, but sew a crappy hem or pucker some satin and Nina will have your head.

  8. Maria says

    Work of Art has the same idea, but I like it less because art doesn’t have the absolute measure of quality that clothes construction does. You can say you meant your painting to be a little wobbly and get away with it, but sew a crappy hem or pucker some satin and Nina will have your head.

    I agree with this, though I’d argue that there are subjective elements of fashion as well, which makes that too, in some ways, a tricky thing to compete in. Often it seems to me that the judges also judge on attitude and similar things, and I often think they contradict themselves in both shows, saying in one episode they want simplicity if the contestants do something over the top, and then that they want them to go all out more if they make something very minimalistic in another… things like that. So, yeah, it’s tricky… and a lot of opportunity to disagree with the judges :-)

    But, yes, for me it’s watching the designers’ and the artists’ process from being presented with a challenge to finished product, what’s inspiring them, how they reason around what they are doing, how they practically go about it, and so on, that interests me the most.

  9. Char James-Tanny says

    I had no idea that you were writing Project Runway recaps! Now I have to find time to go back and read the others, because this was spot on. When the designers send dresses down the runway that *I* could have designed, it’s time for a change. (Note: I don’t design. Because I can’t. I have trouble just buying my own clothes.)

    And I thought the “safe” designers were right when they said, “the best dresses are right here!” I couldn’t believe that Kenley’s dress won…it was nice enough, but we’re talking the Emmy’s!

    Can’t wait to see what happens now that Andrea’s bugged out in the middle of the night. (The editors were very good at making sure that we saw both of Andrea’s comments…saying “I don’t care if I go home” in the back and then saying “I never said I don’t care” to the judges.)

  10. Greta Christina says

    I’m having mixed feelings about it. On one hand if often makes me feel a bit stupid. I like clothes, especially now since I’ve lost a lot of weight, and enjoy wearing fun things, but this show often makes it painfully clear that I obviously know nothing about what to wear, and what’s suitable in different situations. It happens often enough that the outfits I like gets called tacky and trashy by the judges (or similar things) to make me feel trashy too :-D I often don’t have a clue what the judges talk about either. I wouldn’t know what a ‘day dress’ is suppose to look like, or a cocktail dress, or what ‘tea lenght’ is. I haven’t got a clue, and so yeah… the show often makes me feel my “Hillbilly roots” all the more :-D

    Maria @ #6: Yes. The judges on the show are often very classist. I hate the way they use “expensive” or “it looks expensive” as a universal compliment, and “cheap” as a universal insult. It’s fucked-up. (I’m actually working now on a piece about fashion and money, and this attitude is definitely going to be critiqued.)

    As for the language of fashion… I didn’t know a lot of it either, until I started watching shows like Project Runway and What Not to Wear. I still don’t understand half of what they’re talking about sometimes.

  11. Quinapalus says

    All shimmery and silvery and fluid, like unicorn cum.

    Hey, you should hold on to this image, maybe use it in something else. >.>

  12. lorimakesquilts says

    Bleah, what a bore this episode was. Same old rehashing of how hard it is to work with others, blah, blah, blah. I’m in total agreement with your assessment. Kenley’s dress was beautiful — for the “ladies who lunch” set or a cocktail party at your husband’s boss’s place — but not for the Emmy’s. I liked April’s best, the fit didn’t really bother me and Laura’s dress lost me with the weird shoulders/cap sleeve thing.

    What struck me most was the poor construction skills of some of them. It’s season 10 for cripes sake, haven’t you watched the shows, don’t you know you’re going to have to do some sewing that takes major skills and you will not have time to learn? I don’t make apparel anymore but can if I must. It’s like any skill, pretty easy to learn the basics and a helluva a lot of practice to master. Too many of these folks need more practice.

  13. gwen says

    Oooooh, I can’t wait to see you Fri to gossip about PR! I was not impressed by any of the dresses last week.

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