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Project Runway S9 E3: Go Big or Go Home

I have watched every episode of Project Runway, from the first season on, and absolutely love this show. Somewhere in my fantasies, I can do more than use a sewing machine to sew a straight line. In that fantasy world, I would love to design clothing.

So, here is my totally amateur couch-critic take on last night’s episode. Yes, there are spoilers.

Looking at the “previously on” introduction, I wonder how Bert felt looking at the runway. He had said that he wasn’t going to make a “costume” during the pet store challenge. After he saw the better outfits, perhaps he realized the possibilities? The previews of this episode don’t bode well for Bert learning his lesson.

Heidi comes out on stilts! I wish they hadn’t included so much of this in the previews but I guess with the public runway show it would have been hard to hide.

Frankly, I’m not sure how I feel about this challenge. It is more of a technical challenge for a costumer than a fashion design challenge. Playing with the proportions is somewhat relevant and the designers can take that back to their work.  For the most part, though, this is basically a “design something pretty” challenge…but then make the skirt or pants really long.

Before we can all process the stilts, here’s another twist! Heidi announces there will be randomly chosen teams of two.  As a student, I hated group projects. As a teacher, though, I assigned them.  I do think group work is reflective of “real life” and it also allows functional groups to make something that is greater than the sum of its parts.  I do wish they held off for at least one more challenge so the judges have a better idea of what each designer is bringing to the table–especially if only one person gets the win and one person gets the auf.

Bert and Viktor are the first to be paired up and this is not looking good from the start.  Bert has a bad attitude in general and Viktor has a bad attitude about Bert.

Next up is Anthony Ryan and Laura. Anthony Ryan has been in the top 3 the first two times and is looking for his first win.  Laura’s outfits have been surprisingly adequate and fortunately she seems to have dropped the out-of-touch rich ditz act (or they’ve stopped editing her that way).  At first this seems like a match made in fashion hell with Anthony’s propensity to overdo things and Laura’s self-proclaimed sophisticated aesthetic. But over-the-top Tony and Privileged Barbie actually seem to balance out the other’s worst instincts and get along really well.

Joshua and Julie are together and Joshua is “nervous”. Danielle and Cecelia are paired, which is perfect for me because I can’t seem to remember much about either of them. When Anya and Olivier are drawn as a team, everyone gives a little jealous gasp.  Anya modestly says, “I totally lucked out”. Kimberly and Becky are matched together. That leaves Bryce and Fallene.

Uh, oh.

If Anya and Olivier are the “dream team”, Bryce and Fallene are the Bad News Bears…but with less talent and confidence.

Tim helpfully suggests they think about “Paris Couture week” and play with the idea of illusion (“what’s real and what isn’t”). These are “fashion illustrations come to life”. In my mind’s eye, I’m seeing a spidery, avant-garde garment that mixed shiny and matte black fabrics to allude to arachnid-like grace and proportions, or possibly a sleek, minimalist, metallic that pays homage to the mechanical gait of a stilt walker.

And they are off to Mood–yay, Mood! That’s right, there will be real fabric for this challenge! And a $500 budget (you need a lot of fabric for stilt walkers)! But only one day! Wait. What? Why only one day? Yes, I know there will be a public show but couldn’t they have had more time? That’s not going to encourage innovation!

Anthony Ryan and Laura are talking about a plantation girl with a hoop skirt because hoop skirts just scream modern and fashionable, right? Fortunately, the time crunch works to their advantage as the cage for the hoop skirt just isn’t happening and they scrap that bad idea. At least they have color! Red! A very bright, fire engine red!

Meanwhile, Joshua and Julie have an interesting striped fabric for the pants are are going with a Matador look for the top. Joshua tells Tim their disparate styles will “collide”.  Tim helpfully prompts him with, “collide or converge?” “Converge!” We’ll see.

Grateful to have actual fabric in their hands, Danielle with Cecelia have decided upon taffeta and chiffon. They are hoping to wow the judges with their virtuosity on these difficult materials.

Kimberly and Becky don’t seem to be ready to start braiding each other’s hair or write mash notes to their crushes but they are trying to work together and, apparently, succeeding.  Having agreed on a design and fabric choices, they divide and conquer.  Kimberly tries to infuse the garment with some “drama” but Becky nixes the gold lamé.  A girl’s gotta have standards and that is where Becky puts her foot down: gold lamé. Not a bad place to draw a line in the sand.

When I saw Bryce and Fallene’s sketch, I knew there was going to be trouble. I thought, ugh, this look’s like a wedding dress a middle school girl doodled in her notebook. Then I hear that they are going for “Black Swan”. Before a single piece has been cut or stitched, I can tell this is not going to be pretty. Bryce is worried that Fallene has no training and Bryce is obsessing with grain. And there is a lot of talking behind people’s backs. Bryce thinks he needs to pull back. Both look nervous.

At this point, I have to wonder: if Bryce is so knowledgeable about cutting on the grain, why doesn’t he do the freakin’ bodice and let Fallene drape the tulle. Seriously? My fiveyear old can make a tulle tutu.

They may yet be saved if Viktor and Bert tear out each other’s throats. It is hard to finish a garment when you or your partner is bleeding out on the ground.  These two are just sniping at each other.  Bert is acting bloated and gassy and Viktor is just poking at him with a stick.  Both are being petty.  Viktor is thinking old Hollywood and Bert’s helpful contribution is that, “Mae West never wore pants…” Now Viktor is talking about a “Victorian” collar and Bert points out, “Queen Victoria has been in mourning for 50 years…I don’t think that is a sexy direction I would go in.” And then corrects Viktor, “That’s Elizabethan, not Victorian.” Yes, Bert. Bert is absolutely right. There is a way to gently correct terminology without sounding like a jerk. Bert decides to go the jerk route.

Viktor is no innocent, though, and seems to take delight in poking at Bert rather than trying to work with him.  He storms off and then, claiming he is back to try again, calls Bert, “Bertzilla”. Really? REALLY?

The dream team aren’t getting much air time and what I do see concerns me.  Anya’s funky and colorful prints don’t seem to pair well with Olivier’s minimalist aesthetic.  I’m concerned. So is Tim.

The next day, Fallene is crying and apologizing already and it isn’t even judging time yet. I am sure at this point she is going home.  She just doesn’t seem to have the will to compete. One thing I do have to say for Fallene: she is perceptive and honest in her self-assessment.  There is no attempt to blame anything on anyone else. After giving up on trying to cut the bodice correctly under Bryce’s “guidance” (ie: his demeaning and belittling criticism masquerading as helpful advice), Fallene wanders off to make a headdress.  I half expect her to say, “I can’t do anything right. I’m going to go eat some worms.”

Josh is busy bedazzling and goodness gracious…talk about “taste issues”.

Time for the runway show!

Josh and Julie have put together a Bedazzled Spanish Matador that is way too literal in its design and way too tacky in its execution. Ick.  The stripe is too wide.  A narrower stripe would have created an interesting illusion as she walked. As it is, she just looks like a cartoon drawing of a circus ringleader. At least there was an idea here. A bad idea, perhaps.

Bert and Viktor have created a costume out of drape fabric. The heavy brocade with the iridescent wall-paper could not have been anything but a nightmare. Bert, seriously? You think this is young and fresh looking?

Fallene and Bryce’s stiltwalker looks like she is at ballet rehearsal.

Becky and Kimberly have put together a very sharp, military-style, tailored jacket and pants.

Anya and Olivier have meshed their styles better than I anticipated but neither produced their best work.  It should be enough to keep them in.

Oh, my, what is up with the 70s pill-popping housefrau that Danielle and Cecelia sent down the runway.  And why didn’t they undo that awful hair? Anything would have been better than that!

Laura and Anthony made a decent looking gown that moves well but we’ve seen it before.  And it looks a bit cheap–like the downscale knock-off or high school theater rented costume version. Was that embellishment left over from the pet store challenge???


When we get to the judging, we learn Anya and Olivier are safe…though I would have liked at least two minutes of assessment of their look since they are the only ones who escape the judging.

Top 3: House Frau, Gucci Girl, and Sergeant Chic

I am SHOCKED that the blue chiffon blouse and baby-poo colored pants are on top.  It looks like something that Judy Garland wore in her later years.

Nina thinks Anthony is, once again, too referential.  He’s been watching the runways and letting it influence him too much.  So far, though, originality is not required to be in the top 3.  Michael thinks the dress would be still fabulous scaled down.  Anthony graciously credits Laura and says she should get the win if it is the top garment.

Cecilia and Danielle are getting praised by all three judges. Heidi likes the color combination of the teal with the brown and the sheerness. KK likes the bling and detailing at the neck…really? It looks like bad costume jewelry to me. Nina thinks it is too quiet–thank you, Nina! Even if this is well-made, it still looks like department store clothing for elderly ladies. Michael is impressed with the chiffon skill, which is really the only thing this outfit has going for it. Finally, Michael gets to the hair. The Hair is Ca-Ra-Zy! Yes, it is!

Kimberly and Becky say they wanted to be edgy. Honestly, this is the only look I can get behind.  Becky did the jacket, Kim made the pants.  They both worked with their strengths to produce a cohesive garment. It is tailored and chic. Heidi says it is sharp.  Michael says they cut a mean pant and are kick-ass tailors…but everyone will want the tattoo to go with the outfit. Nina loves the pant but wants to edit the collar, which she deems circus-y.

Bottom Three: A Problem Like Maria/Marie, Ugly Duckling, and Torrid Toreador

Bert and Viktor scramble to throw one another under the bus. Bert claims Viktor refused to sketch out his ideas. Fortunately for Bert, Heidi and KK sense that Viktor is being a weasel and the question of who is more of a baby leads to them giving Bert another chance. KK calls it “The Sound of Music” in Marie Antoinette days, for which she is getting some Internet-flack. Honestly, I can’t stand the Kardashians’ “fame” for doing nothing but being tacky.  However, she didn’t say anything horribly stupid as a judge.  And yes, Maria took down the curtains to make the kids’ play clothes in “The Sound of Music”.  And, yes, the fabric did have a certain French Baroque feel to it.

Bryce and Fallene are just so terribly bad that they are distracting the judges from the other failed efforts. Bryce admits it is “half done” to which Nina replies it is “none done”. KK says there is no effort, it is a tank top she wears to bed and a tie wrapped around the waist. The one shining spot is the headpiece, which Fallene did.  Instead of proudly taking credit for her taste and skill, though, Fallene says, “I’m glad I at least I did something!” Fallene takes the fall for this one and Bryce makes no effort to stop her.

Moving onto torrid toreador, Julie takes repsonsibility for concept…which Heidi guesses was “circus”. Michael explains that “drama doesn’t mean tacky” and Nina calls them out for the bizarre proportions. Julie says she wouldn’t throw Josh under the bus while Josh happily says Julie should go home because doesn’t want to.

Laura Wins

In the end the derivative red gown with an extra 10 feet of fabric (Anthony Ryan and Laura) wins and Privileged Barbie gets the immunity. Two ladies who I have trouble remembering–you were robbed!

Fallene is Out

Fallene curls into a fetal position and is rolled off the stage.  I don’t think this terrible garment was Fallene’s fault but she has failed, twice, to defend herself.  Honestly, the pet shop challenge was not so horrible but Fallene was clearly in over her head in terms of technical skills and was not emotionally ready for this. She was going sooner or later.  She has interesting aesthetics and seems like a sweetheart.  I hope she opens a hat and hair accessories store on Etsy.

Watch Project Runway on Lifetime, Thursdays at 9/8c

Photo Credits: Barbara Nitke © 2011 Lifetime Entertainment Services, LLC, All Rights Reserved

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Candace is the co-editor and co-founder of Mamanista. She is an educational consultant and writer.

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2 Responses to "Project Runway S9 E3: Go Big or Go Home"

  1. Kathy Murphy says:

    Loved the recap – I love this show too. Every time I watch it I dream a little dream of owning my own design house haha.

  2. Well, I have to confess: I’m a bit, uh, new to Project Runway. But I honestly found your recap compelling — and I’d love to see some of those “dream sewing projects” you’ve been thinking about!

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