Project Runway Post-Show Chat, Week 5

Slate's Culture Blog
Feb. 12 2010 12:46 AM

Project Runway Post-Show Chat, Week 5

After each episode of Project Runway's seventh season, a gaggle of Slatesters will gather to dish about the show. This week the challenge was to design an outfit for Heidi Klum to wear on the cover of Marie Claire magazine. Anthony Williams was the winner; Anna Lynett was sent home.

David Plotz: I always thought those stories about the viciousness of fashion magazine editors were just self-serving industry propaganda, but apparently not: Guest judge and Marie Claire editor Joanna Coles was gratuitously derisive and cruel. Her cut of Mila—that her dress was "the color of hospital food" was just mean. 

June Thomas June Thomas

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 

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That said, I am less and less impressed by these designers as the weeks pass by. Except for Ben's, whose bold kimono dress would have won my vote, the outfits were worryingly bad—a whole mess of mini-dresses cut an inch below the crotch! All that beige! Emilio's French maid in the boudoir dress —he seemed to have forgotten that red dress week was last week

Where did all the color go? Why did they all run away from it, except Ben and Anthony (and boudoir Emilio)? I think they heard Coles warn about black and assumed that type wouldn't show up on anything other than ecru. 

About Anna 's and Janeane 's outfits, the less said the better. I was hoping Heidi would take them both down at once and save us a week. Janeane obviously deserves auf 'ing—why not get it over with?

June Thomas: Not that I want you to take any cues from Joanna Coles, David, but I loved the way she showed off her editor's eye, getting Emilio to whip out his scissors and hack at his dress to make it work the way she wanted it.

Hanna Rosin: I agree, June, but that kind of chilly self-confidence is terrifying. I bet by the end they weren't sure they wanted that cover.

DP: That was one of the greatest moments in Project Runway history. I disagree that it massively improved the dress, though I suppose it slightly diminished its underage-girl-gone-bad quality and made it just slutty. But I, too, loved seeing the action. Do you think they judged the dress as he sent it down, or the dress as they amended it?  

HR: I think they bristle when contestants refuse their advice, so they judged Emilio's dress post-snip. And in this case, they were absolutely right—it did look very Teen Beat with those tie shoulders, while without them it just looked Victoria's Secret, which, I suppose, is preferable. But overall I found that dress completely uninteresting, and the feat of making jersey go hard did nothing for me.

I think they keep Janeane because she is the necessary counterweight to Mila. They are at opposite ends in the spectrum of self-awareness. Mila has none, and thus is pleasantly, cluelessly evil, a stock type in reality TV who can't fathom why no one ever gives her a hug. A hundred bucks says she lives alone, like Kenley from Season 5, and has an overbearing father. Janeane, meanwhile, is crippled by self-awareness, incapable of sewing a stitch without dissolving into piteous self-doubt.  

JT: "Hospital food" is an odd British obsession, by the way. (Young hooligans often ask each other, "Do you like hospital food?" Followed, inevitably, with, "Because that's what you'll be eating when I'm finished with you.") Nina pointed out the bigger problem with Mila's dress: The color blocks acted like a giant arrow pointing at the crotch. On the plus side, that dress was one of the few to show even a bit of cleavage.

One of the things that bothers me about PR contestants is how clueless they sometimes seem about the basics of the industry they supposedly want more than anything to break into. About half the designers seemed never to have seen the cover of a fashion magazine before, much less that of Marie Claire . And worst of all, they didn't seem to know much about the woman they were designing for. Heidi Klum has been on Project Runway for seven seasons now, and every week she wears short, figure-hugging dresses (who can blame her), usually in strong colors. And yet when tasked with designing an outfit for her to wear on a magazine cover, several of them turned out pale, flouncy numbers that were totally un-Klum.

DP: That seems a very finicky form of criticism. The show is not supposed to pick the most knowing insider. It's supposed to give everyone a chance. Plus, aren't the judges always saying: You're the designer you can't design just to please the client . They were giving their "point of view"—which happened to suck, but whatever.

JT: I disagree. The show positions the contestants as people who want to work at the highest levels of the fashion industry, not in a mall show. These would-be designers who don't know magazines and design styles are like wannabe journalists who don't read. They have to know trends, they have to be aware of other collections, and they see that stuff in fashion magazines.

HR: It's not so relevant whether they are insiders or not. Mean Joanna instructed them before the challenge on the basics of a cover outfit. And more than half of them completely ignored her advice. If they were her assistant, they would definitely be fired.

DP: What did you think of Anthony's winning dress ? I didn't get it. But I think men are constitutionally incapable of understanding dresses with one shoulder strap. Two straps, I get. No straps, I get. One strap? It upsets my sense of physics. And symmetry. 

HR: Well, you can't help but hope for the best for Anthony. As a person, he is like his dresses: costumey and overdone. And I was sure this would turn out to be another garish mother-of-the-bride thing. but then somehow those folds fell exactly right. 

JT: I was shocked at how well Anthony's dress turned out. It was looking messy and a bit hopeless when Tim Gunn went through the workroom, but the color was perfect, and the Frank Gehry-like structure wasn't garish or costumey, just interesting.

Of the other top men, I liked the length of Emilo's dress, but that was about all. And as Joanna Coles pointed out at the beginning, in all likelihood it would be cropped anyway.

I've been enjoying Ben's pieces so far this season (though mostly in the screen captures on Tom & Lorenzo's blog —since this was his first time in the top or bottom three, it's the first time we've really had a chance to stare at his work). He's very superhero-influenced. I loved the colors, but a) someone needs to tell him that Madame Butterfly is a tragic character, not really someone you want Heidi to channel (unless she's going to kill herself as the photographer takes the last shot); b) he needed to show a bit more cleavage; and c) that big chunky belt was heinous.

HR: Disagree! I loved the belt. Without it, this would have been much more Wonder Woman. And I liked the idea of Heidi as superhero. I vastly preferred his dress over Anthony's, but it was much more my style than hers. What did you guys think of Seth's bullet suit ?

JT: Seth's S&M suit seemed wrong for the challenge. I could imagine Heidi wearing it at a fetish night somewhere, but not on the cover of Marie Claire . It might work for Mistress May I Monthly , though.

DP: One more word about Anna: Has any designer in the entire history of humankind, ever designed a pair of shorts that looked good? 

JT: I can't recall any special shorts—Mychael Knight made a pair on Season 3 that the judges oohed and aahed over, but they just looked like a saggy too-short pair of shorts to me. Like sad Anna's.

Any theories about Jonathan's negligee ? Again, clueless; totally wrong for the magazine and the subject.

HR: Oh God, the romper. He even described it as a romper, the idiot. That's so spring 2009, or so infant 1899.

Previous chats: Weeks 1 , 2 , 3 , 4

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