Project Runway Season 10: Episode 6 – Fix My Friend

There’s a story about Noah Webster (the dictionary guy): his wife came upon him kissing the maid in his library, and gasped, “Noah, I am surprised!” Webster replied: “No, Madame. I am surprised. You are astonished.”

Webster’s own dictionary, now merged with Mr. Merriam’s, defines “humiliate” as: “To reduce to a lower position in one’s own eyes or others.”

Terri was embarrassed; it was Ven, whether he knows it or not, who was humiliated.

Yeah, I know, that doesn’t really stand up to linguistic scrutiny. But here’s the point: I think it’s time people stop being embarrassed because others treat them poorly. Terri did nothing wrong. In fact, she’s a hero, keeping her dignity and her temper throughout. She should be very proud of herself.

They cast these “real women” in types as rigid as those used for the designers, I think. A couple of fat ones (I’m fat, I’m allowed to say that). A couple of dress-haters. Someone who wants to look like a hooker. And some nice people as background. I always wonder if they interview for those things, or if they convince the women to play the parts. I don’t believe for a minute the client assignments were random.

It was kind of an upside-down episode: some of the Naughties turned Nice, and the designers often in the top were in the bottom, and vice versa. When it came time for judging (and I was crazy about Heidi’s multi-stripe dress which TLo credits to Vivienne Westwood), I think there was more happening than judging clothes. Like a much-needed, if completely ineffective, spanking. I would’ve had a very different top and bottom lineup. But I’ve never claimed to understand fashion.

The Challenge:

PR is ripping off What Not To Wear this week. Alicia puts it best: “They were dragged in by a friend who thinks they need a makeover”. I love Alicia. One of my biggest fears has always been that someone will submit my name to WNTW. Five grand on clothes?Are you people crazy?

“Are you willing to help them out?” Heidi asks. Dmitry asks, “Do we have a choice?” which starts things off on the right foot.

It’s also the put-chemicals-on-your-hair-or-you’re-ugly episode. The hair stylist gets his moment in the sun and the hair-care sponsor gets their advertising.

They consult, they sketch, they go to Mood (that was either Swatch lying in the aisle or a small pile of black and white fabric remnants), they sew. British designer Alice Temperley is guest judge.

The Best:

Dmitry works with Angela, brought in by friend Ellen. We don’t see much of him working. He tells Walkthrough Tim his client is plain. Oh, Dmitry, you need to learn some of the nuances of English. Tim worries his dress is too conservative, but I love it on the dress form. Dmitry figures he needs to tone it down since it’s not for the runway but for a real person to wear in a real setting; he wants to keep it professional. As they’re prepping for runway, he says it’s time for him to win. I’d say it’s past time.
On the runway, I still love his blue dress with crossover pleated bodice. He thinks she looks young and vibrant; he’s right; Top Three. She’s a graphic designer and wanted something structural but nothing restraining; this, she can sleep in. Not so sure about that, but that isn’t what it’s for. Angela loves it; she didn’t think it was possible. Her friend describes her previous idea of a style update as cutting off the bottom of her jean shorts. Heidi loves the length; it’s sexy but not slutty. Nina loves the edgy cool look and the color goes great with her chemicalized-to-proper-standards-of-beauty hair. Michael credits him with smart fabric choice and beautiful tailoring. Alice wants the neckline a little lower, but well done; in Chat she notes Angela was smiling throughout the session.

Fabio designs for Ko-rely. They have this discussion about edgy, girly but harsh, going against the grain. Fabio wants to make her more feminine; she doesn’t want to have anything to do with cleavage. Fabio’s psyched; he’s coming back up from the bottom with this one. He thinks she’s always tried to be one of the guys, but inside, she wanted a dress.
And a dress she gets, in Three Shades of Grey (she did say she didn’t want to be sexualized, so he left out the other 47 shades); it’s Top Three. I didn’t go for this at all at first; doesn’t it look a little dowdy? A little Auntie Em on the Prairie? It’s growing on me, probably because everyone keeps saying how amazing it is. I love the concept: Ko-rely is a film student, so the patterning of the grey makes sense, calling to mind snippets on the cutting room floor or shadows on a wall in a black-and-white noir. She’s thrilled with it; she isn’t comfy with femininity, which she associates with weakness, so she likes showing off her “guns” in the sleeveless look. Heidi loves how she talks like she’s from the ‘hood but she’s wearing a dress. Fabio’s wearing a dress himself which I didn’t even notice until Michael pointed out, “It took a man in a dress to get her into a dress” (Maddingcrowd on TWoP wrote he looks like a temple guard in Jesus Christ Superstar). Nina loves it; she looks like a professional – and the client adds, “With an edge.” Everyone hates the belt, though. In Chat, Michael credits him with with the biggest challenge – “she came in dressed like a lumberjack” – and the best transformation.

Gunnar asks friend Catherine why she signed client Kim up for this: she has a big personality and wants to see it shine. He likes designing for the “average person.” Good for you, Gunnar. Let it be noted Kim is neither model-slim nor model-young; he’s fine with her. At one point she cries, and when he asks, very kindly, what’s going on, she says she’s happy and they hug. Transformation Gunnar; he knows when to bring the nice. Even Elena is impressed with his work: “it’s not as ugly as usual.” “I don’t mean to be mean,” she continues. I believe her. For some people, it’s just a natural talent.
Thing is: I hate his black ruffled dress. And it’s not growing on me at all. But it’s a Top Three dress. He tells the judges he wanted something that would move with her spirit. Kim was looking for fabulous and red carpet and she’s thrilled with it. Michael loves the movement and flirtiness. Alice thinks it accentuates all the right things. Nina wishes the neckline were lower (Kim didn’t want that), but she looks great. Heidi gives her the honor of Best Model of the Day. She did seem to be having fun. In Chat, they credit Gunnar with taking her from frumpy to sexy and unlocking her personality.

The Neither-Nor

Elena and Jenna get along very well. Elena hugging someone, imagine that. Even Dmitry acknowledges it’s the first time she’s acted nice. It’s good he can admit that, backhandedness aside. The friend says Jenna is bubbly and likes colors that reflect that (see what I mean about client assignment not being random?).
On the runway, the skirt is a skirt, but the blouse is kind of wonky: the front zipper looks oddly pressed open in places. In general the finishing is nowhere near the quality of Elena’s prior work. But I like the design: the slightly extended sleeve (no Romulan shoulders), the flare at the hem. Overall it’s a nice look. Jenna is smiling wildly as she walks, so she seems happy.

Alicia surprises Tim, and herself, by using frilly pink fabrics for client Martina. The last thing she expected to make on Project Runway was a little pink dress.
I liked it a lot, but one side of the back is slightly higher than the other. The lace insets raise it above sundress territory. She has the client who looks like a model, so maybe she felt she needed to exceed her usual parameters; good for her.

Christopher learns Kate lives in jeans and sometimes blazers, so he makes a dress to go with the blazers and a blazer to go with the jeans…. Huh? Kate takes off the jacket he spent eight hours on the second she hits the runway and carries it inside-out. Didn’t I read somewhere the models walk the runway several times so the judges can get a good look? I hope so, especially when not using professional models. I like the dress, though I don’t understand the hem; is it supposed to ride up on one side? He’s thrilled to be in the “safe” zone.

Melissa is dismayed when Kandace covers the black cocktail dress she made with a dropcloth. Oh, wait, that’s a scarf. A stole. A wrap. The dress is clearly Melissa. I’m not sure it fits. I think she’s lucky she has immunity.

The Fashion Failures:

Sonjia draws Amanda, a social worker who needs some style. She hates to shop because nothing ever fits her right, seeing as she’s pear-shaped and short. You know, most women are pear-shaped and short, why don’t clothes reflect this? She’s sure she wants a dress, and Sonjia aims for a structured top with movement at the bottom. I loved this in the workroom, but Tim warned her about proportions. When she’s done, she thinks it’s too short.
And it is too short – it almost looks like a towel wrapped over a swimsuit – and the waist bunches up in the back, but I’m crazy about the overall style with the knot. Still, Alice’s point that she wants to pull the knot et al down lower is well-taken, and I reluctantly agree. Michael doesn’t understand why, with someone who’s sporty and athletic, she made a cocktail dress. Nina doesn’t think she looked at Amanda herself. Amanda thinks she did take into account her desire to feel sexy but not lose her comfortable, sporty side. Even the friend likes it: Amanda can do her internship and be in the real world. I’m not sure what field she’s interning in, but it’s not a work dress, is it? In Chat, Heidi compares it to a lot of her maternity dresses; Alice calls it run-of-the-mill. Really? I see some issues with proportion, but overall I still love it.

Ven got the short end of the stick: his client’s a size 14, for god’s sake! And she’s almost 40! She has no sense of style! How could anyone expect him to work under these conditions? In the course of this episode he alienates pretty much everyone in America. Maybe the world. I don’t even want to waste the keystrokes documenting it. Ven, I hope you do have a diagnosis (there’s a lot of speculation on TWoP about autism-spectrum disorders, but I’m thinking it’s more in the personality-disorder area, some mix-and-match of narcissistic, obsessive-compulsive, and possibly psychopathic tendencies like a complete lack of empathy), because if you don’t, you’re just stupid. In fact, I wondered more than once if this whole thing was staged, because come on, can anyone really be that much of an asshole? And I’m giving him some allowance for the situation: he’s trying to earn a bundle of money and build a career on little sleep and a ridiculously tight schedule. I’ve said before, who knows what I’d do or say under those circumstances. But I’d like to think I’d have some humanity.
Here’s the problem: I kinda like his outfit. It’s not at all the “business casual” she asked for, but other designers took some liberties there as well. The blouse has a nice drape; the sleeves are terrific for women of size, as the airlines say, who want coverage but find sleeves often too tight. The skirt is a skirt, but it’s the right idea; slim skirts work well on larger women, and the zipper gives it some kick. I’m a little surprised they were so negative about the clothes. The attitude, sure. And if the only way to spank him was to put him in the bottom three, and put Gunnar’s monstrosity in the top, I’m fine with that.
Terri and her friend speak out on the runway about how she was treated. He complains again that the other designers had it lucky. Now, Terri, now’s the time to kick him in the balls. But Terri abides by rules of human decency, which makes it an unfair fight. The friend starts to cry as she tells Terri’s story, which Ven never got: she drives hours to work, her husband stays home with the kids, and her friend wanted her to have the spotlight for a change. Well, she got the spotlight, all right, though the way she might’ve wanted. Michael says he cut her in half, Heidi doesn’t think it looks like her, it’s something Ven imposed on her. Nina likes the skirt, but not the top. In Chat, Michael can tell Ven doesn’t work with clients; he didn’t care about Terri, all he cared about was Ven.

Nathan might as well be wearing a Red Shirt; you know when Ven, Sonjia and Nathan are in the bottom three, it’s Nathan who’s toast.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Liana, an aspiring R&B singer, is his client. She loves color, which is good. She wants a bare midriff, not so good. But not overly sexed up, which sounds confusing; how is a bare midriff not overly sexy? They settle on a few cutouts with mesh, but, he assures Tim, not hooker mesh, just regular mesh. Tim’s so relieved, but he still warns him to have her wear shapewear to avoid a vulgar moment. I’m not even sure what that means, but it sounds scary.
It is scary. Tight electric blue satin with black mesh insets, yoke and sleeves. Not a bad idea, but the color and the satin do it in. I like the weaving, though it reminds me of Michael Beach. Liana likes it, though she thinks it needs to be “tightened up” a little. That must mean something other than she wants it tighter, because it’s already too tight. Heidi’s relieved it’s intended for the stage, but still, its hootchie mama, a phrase that stymies Alice (Michael helpfully supplies the British translation of “tart”). Nina has a list of flaws: shiny color, ill-fitting, too short, and the earrings don’t work. Nathan tries out the “I gave her what she wanted” defense, which never works. It’s a tightrope: you have to give the client what she wants, but you also have to keep your own point of view. In Chat, they feel like he threw Liana under the bus, blaming her vision, instead of directing her towards a better idea.
I can smell the toast burning.

Win, Lose, or Sulk:

Michael notes that the top three all had fabulous relationships with their clients. I suspect that’s why they were the top three. I told you, there was more going on than the clothes, and I’m not inclined to disagree with that. Now that I’ve looked at the pictures, I might even do the same. Gunnar’s dress was ugly, but I’m glad niceness sometimes counts.

Fabio wins. I’m very happy for him, and he deserves it. He may not make my favorite clothes, but he’s someone I might like to know IRL.

Heidi announces, “One or maybe more of you will be out.” Don’t get your hopes up; it’s all for effect. Thing is, Ven doesn’t scare. He knows they’re not going to send him home. In fact, he’s indignant that he was the last person standing there.

Bye, Nathan. He’s really decent, too; “To send somebody else home would not be right.” Tim recognizes him as “an individual with profound qualities of character.” I’m about to cry. I just wish they’d given him enough airtime over the past six weeks for me to tell him and Fabio apart.

Next week: something about “these looks are being put into production.” I’m not sure what that means; is it that thing where one person designs the look and another sews it? Ven continues to win hearts and minds: “Men are usually stronger designers than women.” Wait – he’s doing this on purpose, isn’t he?

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