I confess: I’m not a huge Muppet fan. Oh, I’m not a hater; they’re cute, they were great on TWW (Big Bird with CJ was terrific, and the hassling Mrs. Bartlett about resuming her medical practice bit was perfection) and I like how they weave social awareness into their show (though the whole selling-toys thing bugs me). And “The Rainbow Connection” is one of my favorite songs. But as reality show judges, they leave something to be desired. I find them distracting.
Take their appearance on Top Chef All Stars. Elmo was adorable, saying hi to Blais’ little girl. And it was certainly appropriate to have the Cookie Monster judge a cookie quickfire, and the banter was fine. But I kept wondering: who’s doing the judging? Are the puppet guys eating the cookies in real time, slipping them surreptitiously while letting go of the costumes, or did they serve them before the televised judging started? How can the contestants just ignore the puppeteers? How are they filming so as to avoid catching a glimpse of them? It drove me nuts.
Same thing here. How did they film the runway judging? Where was the puppeteer, and did he have final say, or is there a costume designer for the Muppets who approves all that stuff? And why is Miss Piggy’s puppeteer a man?
But I tried to brush that away, and get into the spirit of things. Unlike some of our All Stars.
The challenge was, of course, to design a flamboyant cocktail dress for Miss Piggy to wear to the premier of the latest Muppet movie. “Flamboyant” was specified. However – and here I was thrown, too – they designed on their usual models, and the dress would be “modified for Miss Piggy’s figure.” That’s some major modification there. In a move that tested my suspension of disbelief, never during the show did anyone ever wonder what would look good when converted to a lumpy puppet. Oh, shut up, it’s a puppet, it’s lumpy, deal with it.
Anthony says something about pulling talent from our toenails. I have no idea what that means. When Mila hears that Miss Piggy has worn Prada, she decides that means she can do 60s mod. Wow, what a surprise. Mila would decide that the moon in final quarter phase means she should do 60s mod. But she says she loves the Muppets (with grim determination) and isn’t sure how to translate her POV to them. First of all, Mila, you’re not designing for a “them” but for a “she” or, if you must, an “it.” Miss Piggy is very different from, say, Elmo or Kermit or Cookie Monster or Oscar the Grouch. They aren’t one homogeneous bunch. Granted, I dislike Mila intensely (and for no good reason) so if someone else said this, I’d just let it slide, but with Mila, I want to skewer her with it. Even though I take a dim view of this challenge myself. All’s fair in love, war, and blogging.
Kenley loves Miss Piggy, she reminds her of herself, which is likewise not a surprise. Everyone either reminds Kenley of herself, or is scorned. April says something about va va voom, which is unlike the usually depressed and malcontent April. Michael‘s seven-year-old son loves the Muppet Babies. See, I’m not up with muppet lore, I’m not sure who the Muppet Babies are, but I’m surprised a seven-year-old boy likes anything called Babies.
Austin is going for a pink bow. Gordana is thinking youthful, free-flowing, less structured, and feminine; she sees a lot of people doing black, but she’s doing pink. Rami wants to do a happy dress. Kara wonders if she can sex up Miss Piggy and show some skin. Fine, Kara, but remember, it’s pigskin, and she has six teats. Or is it eight? Yeah, I’m not into this challenge at all.
Joanna comes in for the walkthrough.
Gordana‘s first up. She wants to present something more youthful and carefree, and show off Miss Piggy’s pretty legs with a short dress, using movement. Joanna is getting nightgown. Gordana assures her she plans to stretch the hems for a nice finished look. Joanna points out that celebrities will wear triple Spanx or saran wrap to get into the right dress, so comfort isn’t necessarily important for a mega-celebrity. I hate to break the spell, but in this case it’s not important at all, considering Miss Piggy is made of fabric and and has no nerve endings, not to mention the dress is being remade specifically to fit her. Man, I’m really not into this.
Mila talks about her mod, classy look. Joanna loves the detail near the hemline, and asks about hairstyling for the model. Mila’s thinking headband, but as Joanna points out, Miss Piggy has these big ears. Oh, no, Mila forgot about the ears! Let’s face it: Mila forgot about Miss Piggy entirely.
Kenley gets her thirty seconds of fame. Joanna says both Kenley and Miss Piggy are girly girls. She asks how a pig would feel about wearing a giraffe print. Kenley seems surprised by that question. I didn’t even realize it was a giraffe print; I wonder if she realized it. But as Kenley points out, Miss Piggy wears leopard, so why not? Damn, girl, it’s pink and white, it no more evokes giraffe than does a wad of bubble gum on the bottom of your shoe.
Austin is thrilled to dress Miss Piggy; he understands her. He, too, likes to use French phrases, and sometimes refers to himself as “moi.” He tells Joanna he’s doing a sculptured bow in the back that wraps around the body. Joanna worries she’ll look gift wrapped; Austin says yes, that’s it exactly, humor, fantasy. Yes, a gift wrapped pig puppet, just what everyone wants for Christmas.
Mondo tells Joanna Miss Piggy brought joy to his childhood. He’s figuring she was born in 1960 soe he’s using fashion from then. Joanna says to keep focused because there’s lots of competition in the room. I’m thinking this is less about his design (which is even at that point is just awful fabric) than about his thought process since he could end up as her guest editor. But as time goes on, Mondo likes his dress less and less; it’s heavy and overwrought. Bless him for not trying to defend it.
Joanna’s done, and we now know five of the top/bottom six. Good thing I’m not big on the surprise element of these things.
The designers dish about each other’s efforts.
Gordana: Mondo thinks it’s beautiful but doesn’t fit the challenge, doesn’t make enough of a statement. Michael thinks you can get it in any department store.
Rami: Michael thinks it’s fun but safe. Safe? SAFE? It’s pink and purple and orange polka dots and a flounce sleeve and hem, how the hell is that safe?
Kenley: April’s just focusing on her work. She remembers what will happen to any comments she makes. April learns from experience. Well, not exactly. She does snark on the giraffe print. She just can’t help it.
Mila: Austin thinks her aesthetic is severe and may not have much in the way of humor and whimsy. Good call, Austin.
Michael: Anthony thinks his design is amateur.
Kara and Kenley, who are sharing ideas: Mila thinks they’re becoming co-dependent; this isn’t a team competition. “Some people are needy for other people’s opinions.” Yes, and some don’t pay any attention at all, Mila.
Austin: Michael doesn’t like it: “This challenge, no more Austin Scarlett.”
Rami finally says something about other designers: everyone has something unique, and he’s nervous. Wow, that’s pretty scathing, Rami. This is someone who takes the “if you don’t say it, they can’t play it” mantra very seriously.
Kara and Mondo bicker over pink gloves. Mondo gives them up but is pissed. Uh oh. That’s never good, when Mondo is pissed. He gets sulky and stubborn, and is perfectly capable of cutting off his nose to spite his face when he’s in a mood. But then Kara and Austin quibble over accessories. I wonder if I got my notes messed up. I’ll check it out on re-viewing.
Anthony makes bacon jokes. Austin is offended: “Don’t way that in front of her.” Oh, god, give me a break. Jerell says, “Her bacon’s gonna sizzle when she sees my look.” Don’t count on it, Jerell.
Isaac is MIA today, so Sex and the City stylist Eric Daman is sitting in for him. And of course, there’s Miss Piggy.
Kenley: Again, I find myself admiring Kenley’s dress and hating myself for it. It’s pink and white giraffe print with a poodle skirt. Ok, a giraffe skirt. A circle skirt held up by petticoats. I love it. I love the white belt with the bow. The bodice is a little weird (in my notes I typed, “Pasted on boobs”), and that’s where she went astray; it’s too weird to overlook. It looks like, I don’t know, the rook on a chess set? The boob flaps are just too square and too long. They’re teeth, maybe. Upper incisors, upside down (too big to be lower incisors). But it’s really, really cute, and that print, though I should think it’s horrid, is adorable.
The judges like that the dress demands attention. Georgina is worried about the construction of the top. Kenley says she used boning and it’s upholstery fabric (upholstery fabric???) so it isn’t going anywhere. I don’t believe it’s staying up with boning. Maybe they’ve lifted the ban on twostick tape this season, because I suspect there’s been a lot of it going around. Eric thinks it’s whimsical; the fuzz on the head is great, but take into consideration that Miss Piggy might be sensitive about her ears. Miss Piggy gets offended that anyone thinks she might want to hide her ears. She loves the hat because after a night on the town she can use it to scrub her pots and pans. Miss Piggy 1, Kenley 0. This thing with fascinators has gotten way out of hand. Miss Piggy isn’t sure about giraffe print. Leopard is fierce, what is giraffe? She’s got a point there.
Michael: I’m perplexed. It’s a perfectly fine autumn print cocktail dress, though it violates the “boobs or legs, not both” rule. I like the tight construction and the belt at the waist. I even like the vertical loops. The silhouette reminds me a lot of his “design your own fabric” dress which I liked but the judges hated. Maybe it’s the glove that kill it for me. It just doesn’t strike me as Miss Piggy. Not at all.
Georgina says it takes Miss Piggy in a different direction, but it works. She likes the zipper in back. Angela wonders if a pink glove would work better (oh, stop it with the accessories, nobody cares). Miss Piggy loves the dress, it looks like a present. Hey, that’s what Austin was going for, but seems like Michael achieved it. They think his styling is off (I warned you, now stop it). Eric has a fight with Miss Piggy about her ears. “Stop it with the pig remarks. My ears are fine.” Do Eric and Miss Piggy have a prior relationship? They seem to be doing a lot of friendly banter.
Rami: Yessss! This is Miss Piggy with a capital P. Or should that be capital M? Make it all caps. It’s the most godawful horrible piece of hypersexed-old-broad-from-a-dime-novel-pink-fluff (think Trixie Delight, the Madeline Kahn character from Paper Moon, or a dance hall girl from one of Captain Picard’s Dixon Hill novels) to ever walk down the runway, and that’s why it was perfect for this challenge. The ruffle at the top creates a beautiful sleeve, the asymmetric flounce at the bottom is perfect, the fabric is an inspired choice, and it’s fun all the way. Ok, no adult would ever wear it. But for Miss Piggy? She herself summed it up perfectly: “the most garish, outlandish, ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen”… it looks like a candy store exploded” and she loves it. Santino, this is how over-the-top is done.
The judges admire how it moves a lot, fluttering, like the petals of a rose. Angela admits it’s a difficult dress for the average woman, but Miss Piggy isn’t average. Georgina thinks it’s fun, like a wink. Her only crit is that the front seams, with mismatched polka dots, throw the eye. Eric calls it “Parisian Hog Couture” and Miss Piggy gets play-insulted. It says hello, look at me. In other contexts, it’d be a WTF, but here it works.
The nebulous middle:
Anthony: Black dress with sheer-striped fabric and feathered bodice. Anthony’s specialty is cocktail, so he was facing high expectations. It’s beautiful fabric (I think Joshua used this in the “What Women Want” challenge of Season 9), well made (I like the patterning on the back), nice trim on neckline and sleeves, lovely swing to the skirt. Which also reminds me of Joshua’s dress. I’m not sure about the roadkill breastplate, but feathers seemed to be the mode du jour, and it was nicely done. But I’m guessing it isn’t in the top three because overall it was too black. Ordinarily, black and cocktail dress go together like white on rice, but for Miss Piggy, well, a few feathers doesn’t make it flamboyant. Still, it’s a lovely dress.
April: Let’s say April was, um, inspired by Michael’s neck wrap in the last challenge. She made a nice black dress with a polka-dot chest insert, some of her signature cutaway in the back, a flirty multi-layered chiffon skirt, and feather trim on the neckline. It’s not as goth as she typically goes, but it would’ve helped for this challenge if the chest insert and maybe the feathers had been a brighter color. Still, it’s not bad.
Kara: This midriff-baring black sheath piped in pink has some construction going on, though it doesn’t strike me as Miss Piggy at all. For me, the real problem is that it looks too much like a bra to be a dress, and not sexy enough to be a cute bra top with the wide shoulder straps. The back looks like what happens when you just don’t bother with it. It’s a complete miss, but at least there was some effort put into doing something interesting.
Mondo: I think Mondo and Austin drank from the same bottle of WTF potion. The fabric is unpleasantly shiny, which is the only thing that keeps it from being 1968 High School/Disco wear. Yeah, I know, there was no Disco in 1968; it’s a fusion of two things that should never be fused. The hem construction has some interest, but it’s sloppy; I don’t think he had the time he needed. I know he was going for 60s, and he hit it, but this was bad 60s, and not cool-bad, just bad-bad. Oh, Mondo, what happened to you? Was this because you were pissy because someone stole the gloves you wanted? No, you picked the fabric before that. Big mistake. Mondo isn’t going home any time soon, I’m sure, but this is aufable.
Jerell: I’m not sure where the line is between flamboyant cocktail dress and 1920s dance hall whore, but Jerell crossed it and never looked back. Hot pink ruffled skirt with black lace yoking and feather (or furry, or just fluffy) shoulders. I think it’s interesting that the pink fabric has holes in it and is lined in black; I’d thought it was some kind of polka dot or matte sequin. But the bodice and shoulders turn it cheap. The pink is garish. From the back it looks kind of old-lady. I’m surprised this wasn’t in the bottom. It’s really bad, with little to redeem it. This is the second time he’s made a super-loser look and not paid for it. I’m wondering what that’s about.
Austin Oh, my. Austin had a bit of a brain fart, didn’t he. He sends down a gray and pink structured dress with bows from hell on each hip. Even I can see the colors don’t work together, the hyperconstruction is weird (though I like that one line of grey crosses the pink belt at the waist), and the bows are, well, in the dictionary under No, it says, look at these bows. What happened to one bow in the back, it mitosed? And the fit is off, giving it horizontal rumples that look like latticework in the front but just look messy in the back. It’s ok, Austin, you had a bad day, now shake it off and get back to work.
Georgina says it’s well constructed, but the choice of colors isn’t quite right, it doesn’t read happy. Eric thnks the bows accentuate the hips. Angela likes the shape but not the color combination. Miss Piggy doesn’t think it’s functional: “Can you hula hoop in that dress?” Austin has a very quick comeback about the bows holding up the hoop, which is cool of him. It’s flamboyant but not classy; Eric calls it 90s redux, not appropriate. Miss Piggy likes the shininess and futuristic elements; Eric thinks if he was designing for Pigs in Space it would’ve worked. I have to admit, I didn’t notice the shine. Georgina doesn’t think any woman wants tight satin (going against Joanna Coles and her it’s-ok-to-make-a-mega-celeb-suffer philosophy); every wrinkle shows, and the bows were unfortunate. I think that’s the kindest thing to call them. They’re really wearing kid gloves with these critiques, aren’t they? Because let’s be honest: this was hideous.
Gordana: It’s exactly what Joanna warned her about, a pink nightgown. The elements are lovely. The froth at the neck is perfectly done, the lettuce hem is beautiful, and I like the little rhinestone trim hanging down (I would’ve liked it on one side only, and longer). And the pink is a little ashy rather than flirty. But it’s nightgowny. Very pretty nightgowny. Routine nightgowny. During her original season, a viewer on TWoP (a Gordana fan) said Gordana had a very Eastern Bloc communist point of view. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I think this dress illustrates it as well as her 1940’s Polish office worker suit.
Angela says it’s a pretty dress, but understated. Georgina doesn’t think it fits the challenge. And it’s not going to flatter anyone’s curves. Besides, it’s not a happy pink. Miss Piggy says it’s a fun dress, but it isn’t “moi.” It just kind of sat there, where’s the rest of it?
Mila I’m not sure this is a cocktail dress at all. It’s more like a work dress. Again I like the fabric, which I assume is holed and lined with white. I know Joanna liked the white insert at the hem, and it’s fine, but the one at the neck isn’t, and the ones on the sleeves take it towards old-time prison wear. It’s the sort of thing I might’ve worn to school in 1970 if I’d had any daring. But it hasn’t aged well. It doesn’t look cocktail, or flamboyant, or Miss Piggy. It looks like something from her PR Fashion Week collection. Everything she’s made so far on this show has looked like something from her PR Fashion Week collection. It’s kind of amazing, I’ve never seen someone make so many very different dresses that were so stuck in one collection. Maybe that’s a talent in and of itself. But for Miss Piggy? Please.
She defends it on the runway by saying she went Hollywood It girl, streamlined. Angela thinks Mila struggles with flamboyant. Georgina thinks color would work better for the red carpet. Eric appreciates the linearity, but it wasn’t fun. Miss Piggy loves retro, but it doesn’t scream Miss Piggy; it whispers. Georgina thinks Mila is designing for her collection rather than for the client.
In a move that totally surprises me, Michael wins. I don’t get it. I liked the dress very much, but Rami’s was so much more about the challenge. I wonder who made that decision? And why? I’m a Michael fan. I just compared Beverly on Top Chef Texas to him: the same kind of really interesting, mysterious, underestimated overperforming vibe, the same tolerance of bullying. And the same almost-childlike joy in winning. What really touches me here is that he said isn’t worried about people hating him because he won. April might be a hater, but she hates pretty much everyone except Peach. I’m glad Michael can have a PR experience without the nastiness that corrupted his season. But I still think Rami was robbed.
And Gordana’s out. Yeah, that’s no surprise. Austin’s several screw ups away from aufing, and Mila is very good at what she does, even if she doesn’t seem to be able to do anything else. Gordana just isn’t New York. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, not at all.
And I realize now that I’m enjoying this season, against my will. I have a few complaints, though:
1. I miss Tim as shepherd of the flock. Even if Joanna does the walkthrough critiques, I wish Tim was around to take them to Mood, to announce time limits, and most of all, to say his gentle and kind goodbyes to the auf’d of the week. This last was never more obvious to me than this week, with Gordana’s aufing.
2. I don’t like the new legs-walking-across-the-screen promo. I don’t know if it was Heidi actually doing the last 9 years, and they had to switch to Angela now, but it bothers me. It feels wrong. I can’t believe I notice something like this. But it’s really annoying.
3. I race for the remote at every commercial break so I don’t have to suffer through those terrible Dance Moms promos. I don’t know why a show featuring low-class screaming shrews is so popular, but the sound is blood-curdling. Stop it! STOP IT!
Next time: Diane Von Furstenburg and a six-hour challenge.