I wasn’t planning for this week’s Runway Recap to be about feminism. Really, I wasn’t. Usually my Runway Recaps are my “give it a rest” happy silly fun time. But the producers of the show sort of forced it on me this week, and I’m going with it.
So here’s what I was noticing this week. Lots of designers were hammering on about the “boys against the girls” thing. Lots of designers were pointing out that the men this week were calmly moving forward with their work, and the woman were falling apart. Some designers were speculating that the top was going to be all men, and the bottom was going to be all women. And lots of designers were gassing on about how very different male and female designers are, how men designers are from Mars and women designers are from Venus. In particular, Ven “I Have For Some Reason Decided To Promote My Design Career By Making American Women Hate Me” Budhu could not shut up about how male designers are “stronger,” more edgy and innovative, and female designers are more “practical.” But he wasn’t the only one: even Sonjia was going on about how men design for what they think women should be, and women design for who women actually are.
And yet it didn’t play out that way on the runway. Not even in the slightest.
Top four? Two women, two men. Bottom two? One woman, one man. Safe in the middle? Two men, one woman. As even a split as you could get with nine designers.
As for this “male designers are edgier and more innovative” thing? Bullpucky. Especially coming from Ven “Put a Rose On It” Budhu. In a field largely devoted to perfectly adequate snooze-fests, the two women in the top had by far the artiest, most imaginative, most high-concept, most risk-taking looks of the week. Neither look was entirely successful in its execution. But with a little more time to play, to experiment with different fabrics and cuts, to toss out bad versions of good ideas — you know, like you have in the real world of fashion design, where you generally have more than one day to take an idea from “whole new concept” to “walking the runway” — both of them could be turned into stunners. Both of them had edge to spare. And both of them had ideas that I’ve never seen before — not in a cocktail dress, for damn sure — and that I would absolutely love to see again.
So was there a difference between the women and the men this week?
Yes, I think so.
This week, the men had confidence in their ideas… and the women didn’t.
Insert boilerplate feminist rant about how men in our culture are taught confidence, and women are taught self-doubt. And let’s move on.
Because there’s a weird thing about confidence. There’s a balance in any art between confidence and self-doubt. You don’t want to be so self-doubting that you’re paralyzed, that you can’t trust your instincts and pick a direction and move forward. But you don’t want to be so confident that you never question what you’re doing, never step back from it and see how it might look from an outside perspective.
Gunnar, for instance, was entirely confident in his ideas… and he was entirely shocked to be in the bottom. He was so confident, it never occurred to him to wonder if you could buy a version of his dress in every department store in the country, at every price point, from Nieman Marcus to the discount rack at Ross. He could have used a little self-doubt.
And Melissa’s doubts actually served her well. She knew what the problems with her dress were. She knew what her limitations were: she was absolutely right to decide against black, but with the fabrics she was given, she just didn’t have one with the right texture to pull off what she was trying to do. She knew she was in trouble. She knew she needed to start over. And she pulled it off. Okay, not quite. There were definitely execution problems with this dress — a little too tight, definitely too much side boob, way too over the top with the asymmetric hem, and that cantilevered strapless thing at the top was starting to sag a bit. But it had some actual ideas. The cantilevered strapless thing is something I’ve never seen, it made the dress interesting and sexy but still modest in the front (except for the unfortunate side boobage), and smokin’ hot in the back. With a little tinkering, this could be out of the park.
Elena drives me up a tree, her behavior in the team challenge was inexcusable, and she seriously needs to take a chill pill and chase it with a bottle of tequila. But give the woman credit: she takes this shit seriously. She died a thousand deaths over her dress. And in doing so, she made it her own. Again, execution problems — mostly with the fabric, it was too stiff and didn’t move well, and the skirt was a little too dirndl-ish and seemed like it was going to swallow her model. But damn if she didn’t make a kinky cocktail dress. And a fairly interesting one. (It looked better on the teevee than it does in this still. Trust me.) Again: Given a little time to screw around with it, to make a few different versions of it, to push through the self-doubt and let that questioning process come to fruition, this could be some seriously heavy artillery.
Oh, and speaking of overconfidence…
Ven. We get it. You know how to make a rose. We’re all very proud of you. Now, by all means, tell us about how slapping a rose on the front of a boring LBD makes you all edgy and designy and sophistimicated. And then tell us a little more about how crummy and inferior women are. That’s definitely your best use of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sell yourself to the American fashion-buying public.
(Side note: I have been trying for days now to write a Ven-themed song parody of Bette Midler’s “The Rose,” and am coming up short. Anyone want to try their hand?)
I don’t have any place to put this rant, so I’m just going to shoehorn it in awkwardly. I hated, hated, HATED Christopher’s dress. Ingrid keeps saying, “I don’t hate it as much as you do,” and I keep saying, “You’re wrong! You are objectively wrong! I insist that you must hate this dress! Let me give you 39,537 reasons why this dress is a boring monstrosity! Reason Number One…” I cannot freaking believe this was the winner. I especially cannot believe that they put Gunnar in the bottom for making a dress you can buy in every department store… and then gave this sleeping pill the gold medal. This “pale T-shirty thing at the top, straight black skirt at the bottom… it screams “boring society lady.” (Which, fair enough, this was the Lord & Taylor challenge…) Go to the symphony on opening night, you will see a dozen dresses exactly like this one. Except, of course, for the horribly-done cutout in the back that looked like it’d been hacked out with little-kid scissors at the last minute. And which means you can’t wear a bra with it. Which sort of undermines the “boring society lady” market you’re shooting for. Pleah. Feh. Gack. Reason Number 6,722…
Oh, and one more thing:
Dmitry was robbed.
I’m just sayin’. To me, this was the clear winner. To me, this was the only dress this week that was both interesting and well-executed. I cannot believe it wasn’t at least in the top.
And that Christopher’s was.