Project Runway All-Stars Season 2: Episode 5 – You’ve Got Male

Robert Hartl: "Androgynous Buddha"

Robert Hartl: “Androgynous Buddha”

I once took a college math class with someone whose sex I never knew; I decided at one point she was female, just because. She was very tall, very slender, with glasses and straight hair, always wearing jeans and t-shirts and a jacket. Not unattractive, but fairly plain. It drove me crazy until I gave up trying to categorize her and started focusing on L’Hopital’s Rule. She was, I think, accidentally androgynous; it wasn’t a fashion statement, it wasn’t gender confusion or a sexual identity crisis, it was just what she looked like, how she liked to dress, and she saw no need to change it. She got me thinking about gender roles, especially how unthinkable it is for a man, at least a straight man, to have any female characteristics, while the reverse is more acceptable. Tomboys are cute; pansies are anathema. Women have worn pants, at least for work, since pants were invented; men wear dresses when hell freezes over (except in Scotland where hell froze over a long time ago, and only then in costume). It’s considered a sign of approval – a promotion, of sorts – to be “one of the boys.” You don’t call a guy “just one of the girls.”

So I’m all for androgyny. And since it’s the hot “fashion forward” trend this season, that’s the challenge. Subtitled: avant garde, but I suspect that’s inherent in the idea of androgyny.

Joshua’s psyched, of course. Kayne thinks of all the androgynous people he knows, like David Bowie, Adam Lambert, and Lady Gaga. I guess that means he doesn’t actually know any androgynous people. Emilio’s excited about it, too. Laura and Uli, on the other hand, feel like they’re up shit’s creek. I get Uli’s problem, but Laura’s done some very structured, architectural stuff which could easily take on characteristics associated with masculinity. But that, of course, would require conceptual thinking to modify her mindset, and I don’t think her mind is up to that.

Sketch, Mood. Then Georgina shows up in the workroom. It must be fun to have everyone groan when you walk into a room. But they know what’s coming: twist time.

The actual challenge is to make two outfits, one boy and one girl (I’m using those terms because it’s easier), that will complement each other. Emilio’s plan is screwed. Ivy looks like she’s having a panic attack. Kayne asks his model if he likes boys or girls, and offers to fix him up with one of his sisters.

Jason Wu and Robert Rodrigues are the guest judges. BTW, Blondie didn’t bother me as much as usual; she actually made some coherent observations during judging. And her outfit in the opening modeling pose was quite sharp, though for the runway, she was back to hideous in something that reminds me of the reptilian science fiction horror from the S6 movie challenge. But she still needs to learn how to talk to adults.

Avant Garde Androgyny (the top three):

Emilio initially was headed for women’s wear in menswear fabric, a suit, something cool and avant garde, with circular fins that go around the body. Wait, man, you had me, then you lost me – circular fins? Fins? He’s a little thrown by the twist, since he’s already going quite masculine, but he deals with it: he turns the fabric inside out. Joanna thinks it’s well-put-together and dramatic; she can’t tell the boy from the girl, which is androgyny, right there. My first thought when they hit the runway: Gangsters. Not gangstas – gangsters. Incredibly cool gangsters. The walk is perfect – this wasn’t a runway, it was theater. I think I held my breath. Georgina appreciates the attention to detail and the use of the fabric turned around, but isn’t sure about the fins; he did nail androgyny, however. Robert can’t tell the boy from the girl, either (neither could I, but it was awfully dark), and the fabrics and colors were amazing. Jason declares, “This is what androgyny looks like,” which, well, what more do you want. Isaac wonders if it’s too heavily reliant on the hat. Nah, but that’s definitely the perfect finishing touch. Blondie calls it “music video ready”; she’s hot for the boy and starts fanning herself as they leave the runway (ok, this wasn’t where she surprised me with insightful comments).

Uli of the flowy gowns is not sure what to do, but she finds some trim with an armor feeling, uses a strong shoulder, and a shirttail for the boy. Joanna loves the detail and the safety pin trim (apparently safety pins are big this year; I immediately think of Chris March). Joanna learns the term “ball room” which makes perfect sense to me. The girl’s outfit is pretty cool, but I hate the feathered shoulders on the boy’s shirt; it’s something Michael Costello might do on one of his more tasteless days. Uli calls it “tribal-inspired” which always makes me nervous. Georgina loves the girl’s top under the jacket, and she’d wear everything; someone calls it “sick” in a good way. Jason wants the pants; they’re good pieces, more than meets the eye. Robert would wear the boy’s outfit. Isaac finds it a sophisticated take on androgyny. I still think the boy’s top is awful.

Anthony Ryan goes evening-inspired, with a boy dress, but decides to put pants under it. He shows Joanna some yellow fabric, but she worries it’s going to look like a wasp with the black stripes (that’s a bumblebee – wasps are all black – but good point). He ends up with a lot of sheer over print, which isn’t bad, though the girl’s doesn’t strike me as androgynous at all. Robert finds it wearable; Georgina is thrilled to see him do anything other than another dress. Jason thinks it looks well-made and expensive; Isaac loves the textures and points out the seaming on the print that turns it into something else.

Not so much, no (safe):


Ivy breathes into a paper bag and makes something hideous that I think I’ve seen in a Star Trek dominatrix scene (ST-TNG, “Angel One”). She shows Joanna a pair of male panties with a little pouch for the goodies; she did not just do that. Yes, she did. But she’s putting something over it, she says. Too late, I can’t unsee it. The jackets aren’t bad at all, the multiple lapels are really nice and I like the girl’s top, it’s her pants, and his panties under sheer, that’s just awful. Seriously, can’t you just see that guy on the planet ruled by women episode? I don’t think that’s the idea behind androgyny. She and Joshua get into it while waiting in the lounge: he’s pretty brutal – she’s made the same boxy jacket over and over, she has no courtesy for others, she should’ve already left – and she doesn’t really fight back much, which is a surprise. Maybe she doesn’t think he’s worth the effort. I don’t think either of them are. But he almost made me feel sorry for her, and that’s quite a trick.

Joshua wants to make a skirt with assless chaps, but Anthony Ryan tells him he could get arrested for that. “You think it’s costumey?” Joshua asks. “No, that’s just vulgar,” says Anth0ny Ryan. He tells a dubious Joanna he wants to make a yoke for the shirt “and trim the fur down to make it loo like a pony.” A pony? “Whoff, that does sound avant garde,” says Joanna. Then he makes a dust cover for his boy’s clutch out of fur. Excuse me, a dust cover? Is this like a real thing now, all the fashionistas use dust covers for their purses? And he thinks Ivy should be out? I think he now holds the record for the total number of incredibly stupid things said during one episode. What really scares me is that (whisper in small voice) his outfits weren’t half bad. I actually liked the boy’s, and without the furry sleeves, the girl’s isn’t too bad. They aren’t all that androgynous, though, and there’s nothing avant garde about them (fur does not make something avant garde, just stupid). I think he earned his safe spot. His sniping in the lounge is immature brattiness laid on top of fear.

Althea surpises me with her cluelessness: “Our looks need to be sexless.” No, no no – what, doesn’t anybody read anymore? Androgynous doesn’t mean neuter, it means using both male and female elements for an outfit that could be for either sex. She’s using leather and making coats. Joanna sees a cult out of Eyes Wide Shut during her walkthrough; I have no idea what that means, but the final looks, while quite appealing, rely on bulky coats to obscure rather than blur the lines. Sharp, attractive coats; but the guy looks like he’s wearing his mom’s winter closet, which isn’t exactly the idea. Still, I would’ve put her in the top three instead of Uli.

Not at all (bottom three):

Casanova hasn’t done menswear in a while, but he figures he can pull it off. He’s got this amazing cutwork going on, and I’m wondering what’s involved in that: does it require special equipment, or just a super-sharp exacto knife? Joanna wonders what man is going to wear gold leather. Come on, Joanna, who’s going to wear any of this stuff off the runway? She sees scorpions and gladiators. Ivy helps him a little with his pants, to the dismay of Laura and, surprisingly, Anthony Ryan. Emilio sees amazing craftsmanship, but not a bit of androgyny. It’s Casanova’s interpretation of warrior armor. I’ve been impressed by Casanova this season, but here we’re back to crap, and again, I’m thinking Star Trek, this time, costumes for TOS, which was always operating on a shoestring. Georgina likes it, she says unconvincingly, but it’s not androgynous. Isaac thinks the boy looks like the girl’s accessory, which is hilarious. Blondie doesn’t like the knees of the girl’s pants. Jason doesn’t see androgyny or avant garde; they’re nice outfits (really?) but not the challenge; they’re costumes, his least favorite.

Kayne goes into orbit, as expected. Strong shoulder, houndstooth, and neon yellow. Leather flowers. A smiley face in black on a neon yellow metallic mesh tee. “It’s either hideous or…” says Joanna. Kayne nixes the smiley face, showing he has a few functioning brain cells. He tries heels on his boy model, and Joshua – Joshua, who was going to do assless chaps – tells him it’s too much. When Joshua tells you something is too much…. I hate the shorts on the boy, (but I hate short suits under most circumstances), I hate the ruffled lapel on the girl, the print’s a little loud and the girl’s pants a little vulgar, but dang it’s well-made and sharp. Isaac thinks the yellow brings and inexpensive feel to it. Blondie would’ve rather seen her bare, it would’ve been very sexy (no, it would’ve been undressed). Georgina is impressed with how he cuts and sews, but he needs to edit. Hey, you guys, he did edit, you didn’t see the smiley face or the heels: this is Kane, edited. Georgina notices that he did better with the boy; when it comes to a woman, he goes askew. Isaac’s annoyed because he can really sew, it’s what he chooses to sew that’s the problem. He’s right: those jackets are incredibly polished, and they fit perfectly. They could’ve come out of a store, and he made them in two days. Along with the smiley face shell. Aww, Kayne.

Laura thinks smoking jacket with exaggerated proportions and feminine cutouts. Joanna warns her to watch the details; her lapels aren’t parallel. “That’s exactly the sort of detail that Georgina will swoop in on like a crow on a carcass.” A lot of things aren’t parallel. The boy’s look is sloppy, and has nothing to do with the girl’s. You can’t just cut squares in flimsy fabric and expect them to stay square when worn; Casanova’s cutouts stayed perfect but that was leather (and I’m pretty sure there was a lining underneath). Isaac can tell it was hard for her; the textiles look inexpensive. Jason sees too many ideas. Blondie doesn’t like the gold buttons or the cutouts. Robert finds it over the top. Georgina says it collapses on itself, and she should’ve played to her strengths and brought more of her feminine design to the boy.


Emilio wins which was pretty obvious all along. His models should win something, too; they oozed ‘tude. Considering she had some halfway decent comments during the runway, Blondie now reverts to moron: “It’s you, Emilio!” I’ve never appreciated Heidi more. But Emilio… he’s been far out in front of the pack lately, after a slow start. I realized tonight, when I saw all the stuff he had looped around his neck, I’ve been conflating him with Fabio. That’s not a bad thing at all.

Kayne is out. As he packs his knives… oops, cleans up his space in the workroom, the hat and the pink jacket say to me: Gay Frank Sinatra. I like Kayne, but his days were numbered. Laura clearly had the worst stuff on the runway today, but they really hate his particular brand of gaud.

Next week:

Going Green with Diane von Furstenberg.


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