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Sep 03 2012

Runway Recap: Boys Against the Girls

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.

Confidence.

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.

Project Runway Gunnar

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.

Project Runway Melissa

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.

Project Runway Melissa back

Ditto Elena.

Project Runway Elena

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.

Project Runway Elena back

Oh, and speaking of overconfidence…

Project Runway Ven

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?)

And finally:

Project Runway Christopher

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…

Project Runway Christopher back

Oh, and one more thing:

Dmitry was robbed.

Project Runway Dmitry

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.

Feh.

16 comments

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  1. 1
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    The back of that boring dress looks awefull. Hell, don’t they know how to put in a zipper? And on the front her boobs look like they were in the wrong place.

  2. 2
    Jasmyn

    Dmitri was robbed badly! My mother in law and I just knew he’d nailed it. We were so disappointed when he wasn’t even given the chance to talk about his dress.
    I was aching to see Gunnar go home. His dress looked like a cheap costume and his attitude was ridiculous. I hope this knocks him down a few pegs.

  3. 3
    NinetyEight

    Poor Dmitri is some sort of Project Runway Susan Lucci.

  4. 4
    Joey

    I didn’t watch the episode, but it seems Christopher’s dress was going for edgy and just ended up messy because he failed to pull the Miss Havisham look together. Had he developed the top a bit more and added a touch of Gothic Spinster to the skirt, it would have looked intentional, conceptual. And it could have looked fresh, even a bit transgressive, on a young person. That would have been quite the commentary on the Lord & Taylor set.

  5. 5
    zardeenah

    I agree that Dmitry should have been the winner. I took one look and just knew he would be on the top. Poor guy! But I also thought Elana was a clear last. I thought her dress looked like a poorly made garbage bag dress from a hardware store challenge. I could see some redeeming design in there somewhere, but I just don’t think enough made it in for top status.

  6. 6
    Ubi Dubium

    I would not have put Elena’s dress in the top group. I like the halter design, but the rest of the dress should have been done in a fabric that moved. With this stiff fabric, it looked like a hefty bag. It wasn’t flattering, but there was enough innovation there that I probably would have put her in the “safe” group.

    Dmitri’s was for me the clear winner, hands down. Ven? Another rose, yawn. If he hsd never done the rose before, that would have looked really innovative, but in the context of the other dresses he has done, this was nothing special. Plus, this is a dress for mass production at a reasonable price point, and how much labor would have to go into producing those roses?

    I’d have put Christoper’s gown on the bottom. Like his model, I have very pale skin, and that color does not do at all well on our skin tone. Plus the construction in the back was very clumsy, and at this level of competition that’s not excusable. And again, this is a dress for production, and how much labor will have to go into that raggedy silk effect for each dress?

    Oh, Sonjia, a peplum??! If the contest had been to echo the fashion of a previous decade, OK, but otherwise no.

    The judges said that nobody was out this week because everybody had met the challenge. I’m not buying that. Nobody was out because two designers had dropped out and only one replacement had been brought in, and so they would come up an episode short if they stayed on their elimination schedule. Also, their next challenge is a team challenge, so they need to have the expected number of designers for it.

  7. 7
    chrisj

    My immediate reaction to the dress you hated was “why is someone dressed as a ‘schoolmarm’ from a 1920s movie on the runway here?”

  8. 8
    Rebecca Hensler

    I just want to thank you for writing interesting articles with wonderful photographs and entertaining commentary about Project Runway. I’ve never watched an episode. I don’t intend to ever watch an episode. But I never miss your recap.

    Melissa’s dress is gorgeous and striking. One would have to have a quite small bosom to pull it off, and great legs, but on the model, it’s stunning.

  9. 9
    roses are red

    I agree, Dimitri was robbed. His dress was interesting, a little edgy, and well put together, and it could be easily mass-produced. I have to disagree with you about Christopher’s dress though. I really liked it. I agree with the judges that not every woman in America would look good in it. It would depend on your figure and complexion, but on the model, I thought it was quite elegant. And it gets bonus points from me for being comfortable.

    I’m glad you so ably pointed out that the real difference between the male and female contestants was their level of confidence, not ability. This kind of thing happens all the time in life. Your piece is a reminder to me that I’ve been socialized to feel insecure about my abilities and accomplishments and that I should believe in myself more.

  10. 10
    Tethys

    I also loved Dmitry’s dress, and was shocked he didn’t win. Beautiful, edgy, and well made. It currently has the top rating on the rate the runway section on the website.

    Melissa’s was number two for me. It was interesting, but not as appealing to a wide age range.

    Fabio would be my choice for number three. It was not as high fashion, but it was lovely, and perfect in its proportions.

    I do not care for Elena’s design aesthetic at all. So far she has made one thing that is wearable, the soft jacket from the team challenge. I hope that she continues to evolve, as I think she has potential to make some fabulous fashion.

    Christophers dress was ugly, boring, and the fit was so poor that I can’t believe it won. Zombie model in ragged clothing with areolas showing? Really?

    Ven can go home anytime. What an ass. I think Dmitry was absolute correct in his assessment. Ven is a one-way monkey.

  11. 11
    H-Bomb

    Mostly, at this point, I just want them to send Ven home. Especially after his complaining about normal women. Gah. And that winning dress was just horrible.

  12. 12
    Jadehawk

    forget the designers. one of the judges was wearing CHAIN MAIL! I didn’t know chain mail was fashionable. this is making me geek out.

  13. 13
    Stephen

    I am so glad you agreed with me on that dowdy gown put out by Christopher! When it went down the runway, I had a moment of sadness for the poor model who had to try to make it look good.

    I must disagree with you on Elena’s however. Yes it was innovative, but the bottom of the dress was a garbage bag moment and the top was constructed from fabric that seemed to add more weight to an already heavy design. Maybe it would have worked better in a softer material, or something other than that shiny black fabric. It was creative though, so she did deserve another chance.

    And finally, Dmitri. I am sure others have said it, but I firmly believe that if the judges have functioning eyes and some taste that in the end he will win this season. Right now I think the only thing he might be missing is a moment where he breaks a rule of fashion and finds that moment of pure inspiration that will allow the creativity to flow. As good as he is, it feels like he is waiting for something (to quote from the Matrix movie). He is not the One…yet.

    Please forgive that moment of movie geekness.

  14. 14
    One Way Monkey

    Ven is making me all homicidal and separatist. I want to gather up those frayed, frazzled women, and tell them that they are creative, and beautiful and strong.

    But far easier it seems to squeeze them until they break, belittle and condescend, and then, baffled, wonder why they’re so upset.

    And yes, Dmitry was robbed. Also, Fabio can do no wrong, I adore him and he damps down my separatist yearnings.

  15. 15
    allisondellion

    Come on people! Let’s rally together. Clearly, Greta should be a judge for Project Runway. In all seriousness, I agree with Greta here.

    Thanks Greta, now I don’t have any need to watch the show. I can just come to your blog. :) Saves me an hour.

  16. 16
    maxdwolf

    I’m just too utilitarian for things like this. I watch this and all I see are uncomfortable, impractical clothes without pockets.

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