Never failing to tackify a trend, PR flashes back to the 20s.
Never failing to look for something of value in anything, I digress.
The 20s was about more than flappers and Prohibition (which had a long and complex history all by itself). It was a post-war boom period, much as were the 50s. One of my favorite books from childhood, Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth, is set partly in the 20s. Don’t, by the way, confuse that charming book, or the 1950 movie starring Jeanne Crain and Clifton Webb, with the junk of the same title from this millennium. The current Oprah’s Pick The Twelve Tribes of Hattie and last year’s The Warmth of Other Suns tell of a different 20s, one of The Great Migration, which fed into The Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Bessie Smith, not to mention, later on, Billie Holiday. Throw in The Lost Generation – early Hemingway, Fitzgerald – and the 19th Amendment, and it’s an era as wonderful and terrifying as our own. Or any other era.
Other cool stuff to know:
The Life Expectancy in the US was about 54.
The population of the U.S. was slightly over 100 million (over 300 million now).
Average annual salary was $1,236.
It took 13 days to reach California from New York.
There were 387,000 miles of paved roads (now, about 2,600,000).
Anyone still with me? Let’s move on…
There’s a complicated thing about invitations that can’t be opened until Blondie says so, but it boils down to this: Each designer must create a 1920s-inspired look for the woman of today attending one of three specific 20s events. Since there are six designers, two will be designing for the same event, and they’ll be judged head-to-head, with the three “bests” competing for the win, and the three “worsts” up for elimination. Wait, didn’t I just did do this with Top Chef? Fine, then, I’ll just use the same format.
If it doesn’t quite make sense to you that “today’s woman” would be going to a speakeasy, well, we’re often asked to suspend disbelief on PR, so why not.
The hands-down best moment of the night was when Laura revealed her card, a misspelled “Social Soriee.” I’m not sure how they got Uli’s right and Laura’s wrong; did they hand-make these? Doesn’t anyone know how to use a computer? And… why on earth did they leave it in for airing?
Guest judges are Gretchen Mol (of Boardwalk Empire and thus an authority on the 20s) and Jenny Packham (British designer to the stars and the Duchess of Cambridge. That’s Kate Middleton, to those of us who haven’t been paying attention to British Royalty).
And there’s some smack-talk, mostly precipitated by Joanna. I guess they felt the show needed more conflict. Some of it’s really good. So good, in fact, I wondered if it was written for them and rehearsed.
Afternoon Garden Party by Emilio and Josh:
The smack talk:
Emilio: My lady owns the estate; Joshua’s is a guest.
Joshua: Emilio’s lady may own the estate, but she’s the appetizer for her husband, while my girl is the main course. Oh, Joshua, a million feminists just threw up.
Emilio is using the latter part of the 20s, when the silhouette got closer to the body and the hemlines became more demure. That’s the word he uses, “demure.” I love him for that. He he needs to go back to what the judges know him for, the Wow Factor. Prints were big in the 20s so he’s using a geometric; Joanna’s a bit concerned about the print; is it “young?” She sees it on her grandmother’s sofa, which is pretty scary criticism. Then she worries about the lace; he thinks it’s nostalgic, not old. I hate to tell him, but I think Joanna was right. It’s pretty, still. He arranged the print to start blue at top and “grey down,” which again is a cool turn of phrase; I’m not sure this graying-down is noticeable, but it’s a nice concept. Blondie sees Ralph Lauren in the detailing at the top. Gretchen likes the ladylike length. Jenny thinks it’s a little dated, but still elegant and a successful design. Georgina thinks it’s a touch lacking in personality, ouch. Isaac gets Ginger Rogers, which, yeah, I follow that; he thinks it’s more 30s, so Emilio tells him he “skewed later” in the 20s. I wonder if I like Emilio because of these phrases he keeps trotting out. I haven’t even noticed it before, but today, his mouth is genius even if his dress is grandma. I think he stayed too long in the 20s and didn’t update quite enough. But I know nothing about fashion, and less about the fashion of the 20s. Top Half.
Joshua wants to come up with a clean, classic daywear look. He’s using this incredibly awful print muslin as a template; what, were they out of plain muslin, or did he actually buy that stuff? It looks like something he might use, actually. Someone asks if he’s gone to many garden parties: “The only parties I go to in NY are on fire escapes and rooftops.” Joanna loves the “very Josh color” but is worried it’s not a flattering silhouette; she points out neither he nor Ivy have won any challenges, and they were both in the bottom last week. Just in case he was holding back, see. He fools around with the brooch, placing it in different locations; Anthony Ryan tells him it looks Scottish, which I’m still trying to figure out. It’s not terrible in terms of lines and ideas, when you consider what atrocities Joshua is capable of, but like most things he does, it’s off and the overall effect is pretty bad. I don’t like the asymmetrical skirt (and I usually do), the grey fabric looks too thin, and what I like the best, the yellow strip on the back, is missing in the front. Georgina loves the cut and thinks it feels modern, but the brooch and handbag are awful. Jenny sees a snappy great little shape and interesting pleating. Gretchen loves the yellow. Blondie thinks it’s too safe. Well, sure, considering the asinine things she’s been wearing all season (she seems to have toned it down in the past couple of episodes; I’ve actually liked a couple of things, and her dress for Runway isn’t half bad). Isaac doesn’t think it’s interesting enough in front, though the back is divine. Hey, that’s what I said, you mean I was right? Bottom Half.
Speakeasy by Ivy and Anthony Ryan:
The Smack Talk:
Anthony Ryan wants to make something low-cut, not form-fitting, with a high hem, so when she walks down the runway you want to have sex with her. Wow, those feminists who’ve just cleaned up after Joshua made them hurl just hurled again. He makes this feathered capelet that I love; Joshua does a great job modeling it, I wonder if he’s done any modeling or performing in whatever the modern gay equivalent of a speakeasy is. Joanna loves the capelet too; it’s a little naughty, it celebrates freedom. Yeah, the freedom to have everyone want to have sex with you so they can claim you were asking for it (there’s been a skin-crawlingly-horrific discussion of “nice guy rapists” going around that’s definitely colored my perception of some things this week). It’s probably the most flapper-esque thing on the runway. Jenny likes it; it’s very modern, but needs to be closer to the body; Isaac doesn’t like the capelet, but Georgina loves it. Top Half.
Ivy likes art deco, so she’s found some eye-catching embellished fabric to work with. Problem is, it’s $150/yard. Holy sh*t. They only have $250 for the challenge. She gets a yard and a half and crosses her fingers she has enough to cut the chevron pattern she’s planning. Joanna loves the fabric; it’s Roxy Hart. I knew someone was going to say that. Ivy’s worried about making sure everything is finished properly, since she’s been dinged for craftsmanship in past weeks, and she considers it her strongest asset. I have no doubt she can sew beautifully, but most of the stuff I’ve seen here and on S8 was sloppy. It’s probably a matter of time. Every time I see her dress from a different angle, I change my mind; sometimes it’s cool, sometimes it’s dumpy. The Lifetime website picture is definitely dumpy. Blondie thinks it’s Prada-esque, too literal. Isaac loves the chevron but it’s so heavy in the front. Jenny doesn’t like it at all. It grows on Gretchen the longer she looks at it; she could see it at an art opening. Aha, another art gallery dress! Bottom Half.
Social Soiree by Uli and Laura:
The Smack Talk:
Uli: This challenge screams for feathers.
Laura: I don’t need feathers to compensate for my design.
But hey! Let’s both wear headbands with feathers to the Runway! That’d be fun!
Uli is wondering if feathers are her destiny, since “this challenge screams for feathers.” Joanna wants to break into a Charleston when she sees what she’s working on, but she worries if it’s too similar to other things she’s done. Uli explains, she has to do this, because if she pulls back, the judges will scold her with “Here was your opportunity….” She’s right. Fact is, no matter what the designers do, the judges will praise or censure simply because it’s your turn to be in the top or bottom. It’s a rule I learned from gaming in Pyroto years ago: no matter what you do, someone’s going to complain, so you might as well do what you think is right. Her dress does look very familiar, and I’m not sure about the arched cutaway in front, the half-lining looks like a cheap half-slip, but I’m crazy about the Möbius shawl. Uli really has this eye for creating something aesthetically pleasing, as Nina would say. Isaac loves everything but the white fringe, which makes it “go cheap.” Georgina loves the modern feel; there’s some disagreement about whether the shawl adds or detracts. Top Half.
Laura don’t need no stinkin’ feathers; that’s styling, not design. As opposed to fur and beads, which she does need to make the same jumpsuit she made in the Green episode, except with beaded fabric and a fur shrug. She struggles with cracking the glass beads on her fabric, and Uli the Stylist who Needs Feathers Yet Has Won Two Challenges helpfully hands her the exact tool that will work. Laura doesn’t have the brains to realize irony. She tries to pass it off as Art Deco because of the glass beads. Isaac thinks it’s brilliant as long as she gets rid of the fur that weighs it down and turns the girl into a cave woman. Georgina thinks it’s made beautifully, and I’m wondering what Bizarro world I’m in until Blondie, of all people, doesn’t like the pants. Then it all goes downhill. Georgina worries about the hips looking big, and warns her to “watch the crotch” when using reflective fabric: “it creates shadowing no woman wants.” PR helpfully shows a closeup of exactly what she means: the pants have pubic hair from certain angles. Oopsie. Bottom Half.
The judges talk amongst themselves. By sheer coincidence, the three people I’d be fine never seeing again are in the bottom: Joshua, Laura, and Ivy. I’m relieved; usually, someone good gets caught in the crossfire in these things, but I don’t really care which one they auf. Isaac likes Joshua’s enough to take him out of danger right away (is the the only one who can make a call like that?), so they debate between Ivy and Laura: Georgina likes the essence of the woman once the fur stopped weighing it down, but Blondie thinks it’s dowdy and boring. I don’t like being on the same side of the fence with Blondie; it makes me doubt myself. Isaac thinks Ivy’s design just went wrong, and they all are disappointed with how she used that incredibly expensive fabric. For the winners, they rule out Emilio right away, since he did nothing new; Anthony Ryan’s is more modern, but Isaac doesn’t like it without the feather capelet. Jenny loves the detail in Uli’s, and Isaac is happy about the layers and complexity.
Anthony Ryan wins. Fine.
Laura’s out. Fine, too.
Fifth Avenue, Ready-to-Wear. No one wants to have a droopy breast. And someone looks like she has a dump in her butt. That Joshua, made of class.