Project Runway S11: Episode 5 – A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock ‘n’ Roll

If you recall, we left off with a teaser last week (which I erroneously transplanted to Top Chef yesterday; I’m going to be unusually confused this week, since I have Tim’s picture plastered all over that TC recap): Tim wandered back to the designers after the auf and said. “Come out to the runway and meet with Heidi, there’s something that needs discussion.” I speculated, “It’s probably a complete recalibration of teams….”

And, sure enough, the Evil Button Bag is clearly silhouetted. The designers groan. Except for Stanley, who’s glad to get rid of all that dead weight holding him down.

Me, I’m thrilled. Now I don’t have to worry about those dumb team names. See, everything works out, if you just procrastinate long enough.

They’ll be working in teams of two, usually called pairs, but then they’d have to change the promos to “Project Runway: Teams or Pairs Edition.” Tim exhorts them to choose a true partner, someone who will complement them (not “compliment” – the “e” makes a difference – though I suspect they’ll all go for the compliments over complements). Because she won the last challenge, Samantha gets to pick first, after which Heidi goes to the Evil Button Bag.

Samantha picks Daniel because he likes shapes and structure.
Richard picks Stanley since their energies are great together; “it was destiny.”
Patricia takes Layana maybe because she’s sitting right next to her. Layana’s dubious.
Matthew picks Michelle.
Kate picks Tu.
Amanda Benjamin are just stuck with each other. Benjamin’s nervous, since all those people pushed her under the bus last week; she’s still smarting from that. But he’s going to push her to be more adventurous. All this talk of pushing is making me nervous.

Field trip! They end up at a country-western bar which has nothing to do with the challenge but paid for the promotion. Turns out they’ll be designing for country singer Miranda Lambert. Everyone gushes about how wonderful she is throughout the episode. Wanna bet no one ever heard of her before this episode? Except Amanda, who’s from Nashville (making Benjamin a little less nervous about her) and pronounces her “not a princess or a diva, she’s one of those cool country stars.” If you say so.

Each team-pair produces two looks, one for performance (a little bit… etc), and one for Red Carpet use (chic, young, fresh, not overly designed). Dang, why doesn’t anyone ever want something old and out-of-style? And it’s time to celebrate curves. Oh goody. The looks don’t need to be cohesive. This means that the “teams” are once again a notion of convenience rather than an actual part of the challenge. With the exception of last week, I don’t think there’s been a challenge in which cohesion played a significant role, has there? They get $400 per pair and one day. Miranda herself will be Guest Judge.

It’s not about the clothes, it’s about the narrative.

Rising Arcs:

Benjamin and Amanda: Team Narrative – Double Redemption.

Benjamin does glamour, so he takes the Red Carpet look. They end up so seriously under-budget at Mood – only using $271 of their allotted $400 – that he’s worried. The extra money, once you get beyond the basic cost of decent fabric, really is for fixing mistakes and allowing options, I think; if you know exactly what you’re doing and can execute it perfectly, I guess you can manage on less. But it’s very risky. He even manages to stay on schedule, and gives us a little insight into his personal psychology with, “My mother would be so proud.” Tell me more about your mother… On walk-through, Tim thinks it’s great, and Benjamin is very psyched. The finished look is striking, but whenever you pour a model into a tight dress, it’s striking. I know Miranda wants to embrace her curves, but does she want to embrace them that tightly? I’m not sure about the placement of the fanny pack, or the swinging curtain of beads on her right boob. I, however, am not a fashionista, and apparently it’s terrific. Lack of side seams apparently is an important feature. Nina thinks it’s elegant and gorgeous from every angle. Zac likes her hair. Her hair? I wonder what else he said that they cut out. Miranda is dubious, and all the thin people on the judging panel tell her it’s perfect for her: it’s got support, it’s streamlined without those bulky seams, and it’ll be great. I hate it when thin people tell non-thin people how great they’ll look in stuff that only looks good on thin people. But Benjamin’s on the schedule for an upward arc.

Amanda has seen Miranda (once) and she’s pretty sure she’s got the Performance look nailed. She shows Benjamin a fringe technique for the skirt and he loves it. She’s doing “hipster country.” I’m still working on “hipster” but they all seem kind of whiney and annoying to me. She and Michelle enjoy a little gossip about the dubious value of their partners. Tim loves the in-progress; she’s glad, but, as she says, she always gets good critique from Tim, right before she goes out on the runway and gets slaughtered. She’s dealing with her own psyche: her brother is a rock star. Literally. So she’s tired of being the other one. Her dress looks pretty “other one” to me – lots of blue fringe and a silvery glitzed-up v-neck. She explains the model is wearing a “regular bra” but that back seemed really low. Still, it’s a good thought; Miranda needs a bra. She likes the shape. Zac loves that she took casual jersey and made the fringe, giving it a wet-t-shirt connotation, which is another thing I never thought was on the list of fashion do’s. Seems the chevron makes it chic. I have no idea what chevron he’s talking about, but I’ll take his word for it. Nina likes that it’s easily accessorized. I suppose the last-place-to-top narrative is foremost on the agenda, since Heidi can’t stop talking about it.

Richard and Stanley

Richard (narrative: t-shirt ex machina) does the Performance look, all glitz and glam. Netting, chains falling, rock goddess. This is the guy that wanted to buy a water pump last week, remember? He keeps in mind she’ll be sweating a lot, so the fabric is more like netting. Tim’s fine with that; it’s not a coverup, some skin is going to show. At the end of the day, he realizes there’s all this fishnet stuff with no lining. “It’ll happen, something will come along.” Really? I know I said everything works out ok if you procrastinate long enough, but he’s got less than 24 hours. On Runway Day, he’s still worried; no one has anything he can use as a lining. And somehow one hasn’t dropped out of the sky like he’d expected. Then the miracle happens: he bought a “Thank You, Mood” t-shirt with his budget, so he can use that to make a tube dress for a lining. Thank you, Mood, indeed. His fringe dress isn’t bad, until she turns around, when it’s seriously ordinary. Zac loves the movement and sparkle, and the body exposure in the back. Heidi thinks it looks expensive; of course it does, those Mood t-shirts go for up to $30. Nina likes that it plays up her curves (by hiding them under layers of fringe). Miranda would wear it. ‘Nuff said.

Stanley (narrative: Designated Black Designer who Won’t Win but Proves We’re Not Racist) who is working on the Red Carpet dress; he wants a hard edge, with beading that isn’t prim and ladylike. Just before runway, he’s worried he hasn’t done his best. I don’t think so either; it’s slut on top, Amish on bottom, with a hammered foil belt he’s very proud of. Miranda likes the plunge, but the bottom’s a lot of fabric. Nina thinks it’s beautiful, but Miranda would be swallowed up by all that pleating. Heidi likes the neckline. Of course she would.

Tragedic Twists:

Samantha and Daniel: Team Narrative: How the Might Have Fallen

Samantha (narrative: one day you’re in, the next you’re out, and boy it’s a good thing you’ve got immunity) takes the Performance look. She explains to Tim about the motorcycle vest and skirt with movement; he likes the counterpoint of tailoring on top with an “exuberant” skirt. I’m not sure what he saw, but in the final look, the skirt doesn’t exuberant to me, it looks like the upper third is showing by mistake. The vest is pretty, though. She tells the judges she does rock, not country. Zac wanted more wow. Miranda would wear what Samantha’s wearing, not what she made.

Daniel (narrative: the hare who started strong now stumbles) goes Red Carpet; he figures he’ll do separates so they can be used at other times. He’s thrilled with some metallic navy leather he finds in Mood. She’s cutting up cotton jersey for a skirt that moves. He’s got this soutache technique he’s dying to use. Now, I associate soutache with military uniforms, but apparently it’s all the rage in jewelry, so if he wants to use it for a country singer’s Red Carpet gown, sure, why not. I think he just likes saying “soutache,” myself. Thing is, he doesn’t usually use leather, so why he’s torturing the leather in this particular way, I’m not sure. Maybe because it’s what he knows how to do. He explains it to Tim, who focuses instead on the center seam and slit as the winner of the Bad Idea of the Day. It’s not improved by shredding the hem with a fork. Then we learn something interesting about Kate: she keeps telling Daniel what a terrific thing his soutache is, but she really thinks it’s stupid. Keep in mind for future reference, Kate is a two-faced phony liar. Either that, or she actually liked it, and the interview was shot after judging. Having seen the final product, I don’t quite get the big deal myself. It doesn’t look like anything in particular, other than texture with shine (Heidi thinks it looks like tin foil); to make matters worse, the skirt’s ugly and stiff, and the top and bottom have nothing to do with each other. Miranda’s not impressed; it’s someone’s interpretation of what a country star would wear. I don’t understand that, maybe the fringing? Nina puts the dread “inexpensive” label on it, and she hates the middle seam. Tim’s no longer infallible, but he called it this time. Nina breaks her own record for using the word “bad” in one critique. Zac: “Pieces from you are starting to look referential and old; they’re not flattering.” Ouch.

Michelle and Matthew

Michelle (narrative: Questionable Taste?) does Red Carpet, starting with a plunging leather vest. She starts with navy leather, but notices everyone’s getting navy (I’m guessing it’s in the Dossier) so changes her mind. She seems ambivalent about Matthew; one minute she’s worried about how he’s been in the bottom so many times, but then she loved his unconventional look last week and she respects his convictions. Tim thinks her fabric looks like eel. Is eelskin a thing? To the point where it’s recognizable? Michelle does a Nina imitation making fun of the necklace she’s making, except her Nina sounds more like Natasha. I like the vest she ends up with, but the skirt’s absurd and the necklace doesn’t make sense. She was thinking more rock-n-roll, MTV awards. Heidi’s sure she’d go on the Worst Dressed list. Miranda’s distracted by the necklace (Zac calls it linguine) but might wear the vest with a short leather skirt. Removing the necklace improves it greatly. Nope, Nina doesn’t approve, it’s Rock of Ages, AC/DC, bad rock-n-roll. Michelle professes her love of hair metal. Miranda: “You tried to capture my personality and I appreciate that but I don’t like it.” So there.

Matthew (narrative: If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will, either… and maybe not even then) wonders just how edge a performance look can have before it becomes kitsch-y or costumey. As have we all, during those Dark Nights of the Soul. Tim and Michelle play double-team therapists. “It’s weird to be my age and still struggle with insecurity.” Oh, honey, don’t you know yet, it never goes away? The big problem is, he’s got a top but no bottom. Matthew, make the skirt. After a few hours of seemingly doing nothing but dithering over not having finished, he finally does make a pleated skirt; it’s not the design he wants, but it’s the one he can finish in the short time he has left. After all, he’s been busy worrying about not finishing in time. He ends up with a depressed figure-skater costume. Except the skirt is more cheerleader. I don’t even see what he was going for. Nina sees little movement and no shine. It’s Miranda’s turn to play therapist: have confidence in his craft, he can do better with the leather and lace idea. Michelle is kind of nice, chirping that last week he had a great look, then takes it back by saying he was stuck this week.

Minor Sub-Plots

Patricia and Layana:

Patricia (narrative: Look, a Native American designer!) does the performance getup, since she’s Native American. She comes from a family of performers, and they have to create all their garments. I believe her. She explains her semi-constructed look to Tim: the crossed straps are bullet holsters, and she’ll add twisted leather fringe so you’ll see hints of brown and gold underneath. Tim: “When I saw it before I knew what you were going to do, I was terrified, I wanted to run for the hills.” Wait… so that means bullet holsters are a good thing? I want so bad to make a Cowboys & Indians joke. Hey, wait, I don’t have to – Patricia’s dress is a walking Cowboys & Indians joke. X marks the spot.

Layana (narrative: it’s my week off) talks to Tim about ruching and chiffon; Tim thinks her keyhole feels modern. I think the whole thing is awful; there’s nothing natural-looking about this dress. She managed to recreate Daniel’s cheap look without fringing the fabric or the center seam. Maybe the model is holding the dress open; but why?

Tu and Kate

Tu (narrative: I’m the Crazy Asian this season) likes curvy. He’s going Gaga: volume on the hips, “curvy when she moves and like the country music.” I have no idea what he means, but he’s happy, at least until Tim walks through. Tim’s so upset, he actually takes off his glasses: a new level of “Tim, Concerned.” “It’s going to be wacky, coming out here and here, exaggerating.” Tu nods, excited: that’s it exactly! Tim: “You really gaga-ized her.” Kate suggests stitching down the pleats; but it’s not the pleats, it’s the projectiles. Tim is gasping for air. Then he sees Tu: “You really want to do this, don’t you?” Tu does. But he’s aware Tim does not like his design, and it troubles him. Lifetime didn’t create the Crazy Asian Reality Show Contestant stereotype, but they’ve certainly exploited the hell out of it. I’m a little troubled myself. He makes a few changes, but doesn’t have time to revamp completely. I think I would’ve liked his original vision better than what he dialed it back to. It has nothing to do with country music, rock & roll, performance, Miranda Lambert, or really anything at all. I like the dress in general, and if those little droopy napkins on her hips had been allowed to fly as he envisioned, I think it would’ve been amazing.

Kate (narrative: I’m a two-faced stone-cold liar; see Daniel) likes Tu, because he’s always been nice to her, and they start with the same idea so she’s encouraged, but by the end, she’s working hard at ignoring him because he’s gone Gaga. She needs to show Nina she can make more than feminine, floral garments. Isn’t it interesting everyone’s worried about Nina. She goes mermaid in red leather. I rather like it though I see some sewing goofs and the fabrics don’t quite match in color; the neckline could use some work, too. I guess I like the idea rather than the actual garment. But it flows really nicely as she walks, and the train works for a change.

The Closing Chapter:

Richard wins. Thank You, Mood.

Matthew is finally put Auf of his misery. What a great story arc: tell him to have confidence in himself just before you cut him loose. I should have more sympathy for Matthew – he’s probably the contestant most like me – but he’s just this black hole of self-pity. Pot, kettle. Tim: “It was a self-fulfilling prophecy on your part.” Twist the knife a little deeper, why don’t you? Matthew even agrees with him, poor schmuck.

Next Week:

It the 40-to-death challenge for real – hey, I was joking last week! We get Joan Rivers, too. Because who else would it be.

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6 responses to “Project Runway S11: Episode 5 – A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock ‘n’ Roll

  1. Interesting how the designers collectively recoiled by the mere silhouette of the
    dreaded button-bag. HA! Because the bag is always used to fish for the random
    pairing of teams! How incredible when they are already on teams (of some sort)
    this being a Teams Season, and yet the basic aversion to lumping it together with
    their direct competitors bursts out: even when it’s what they’re currently doing!
    Not much the editing dept. could do about that, I guess.
    Thanks again for your adroit compass; finding all the bits of the PR story and giving
    them reason and humor – always good reading. Still grinning over Richard’s
    expensive-looking Mood t-shirt… the designer-narratives.. I am going to try not to
    think of her as StoneColdLiar-KateDesigner, but it won’t be easy!

  2. We all do it, of course – someone’s worked hard on something, and they ask, Do you like it? and we tell them it’s great. That’s with friends, though, not with people actually producing something to be evaluated. Maybe I’m just too used to a workshop environment, where honest critique is expected. I started sputtering when she took in back on-camera in her interview. I guess she was trying to distance herself, but it came across really tacky.

    I read Joshua’s blog through the BPR Recapalooza; while it seemed random in this case, I’m still not convinced the button bag isn’t fixed.

    • Oh I agree – she was telling him (or maybe simply agreeing with Daniel’s
      own perception) yes it was cool; but telling the camera she wasn’t that into it.
      I will keep her new and more hilarious name and give her a small out; I will
      chalk it up to phony team dynamics, they are all needing to keep it sweet for
      future pairings. Did you notice StoneColdKate was really invested in Tu’s
      idea – I mean really rooting for him and they were both equally shocked and
      shaken by Tim’s critique of Tu’s proposed design? I think StoneCold was
      practically devastated with not only the thought of a weak partner, but that
      she genuinely liked Tu and his plans and didn’t see it coming at all.
      Nevertheless; she immediately advised him to go along with Tim’s suggestion
      and de-Gaga-ize it. Unhappy Tu. They don’t call her StoneColdKate, ‘fer
      nothin’. Actually, it was most likely the only thing to do considering Tim’s
      reaction reverberating off the walls of the workroom.

      Mila says in her blog that she has never seen the name-tags/buttons ever;
      or knows of anyone else who’s seen them either, and she remains very
      skeptical of the process.

    • Pretty much all the former contestants who blog or have blogged the show—Mila, Nick, and Bert, for example—have mentioned that the designers never get to see the buttons, and all of them seemed to have their doubts about the randomness of the draw.

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