I had two favorite dresses this week. One won; the other lost. Neither was really a prom dress, but they were pretty. Project Runway, with their arbitrary choices and nonsensical judging, has finally beaten me down to the point where I don’t care.
Except that, at the final second, they went beyond jerking contestants (and viewers) around to being just plain mean. Watching them lie – LIE – and cut someone off at the knees – SURPRISE! – for no reason at all isn’t fun. It’s cruel.
That’s entertainment. Lifetime-style.
Enter Heidi with a duck named Fred. Daniel likes ducks; he had a pet duck once, so they have a special place in his heart. Tu, on the other hand, hates ducks. A friend of his had a duck, and it followed him and tried to bite him. I’m wondering where all these duck people came from. Out of ten people, two have encountered ducks-as-pets? Is this true for the general population – half have had a pet duck, or know someone who has? Have I been duck-deprived all my life? Is that what’s truly, fundamentally wrong with me? Or did they select contestants based on personal experience with ducks?
Here’s what I really want to know: how is the leash attached?
Layana’s trying to figure out what they’re doing with farm animals. I’d love to see what’s in her head right now. As Heidi fades out behind the screen, Fred makes a break for it, and Heidi reacts like a girl. That’s what you get for putting a duck on a leash, Heidi.
The Duck Tape
The Man from Duck Tape is in the workroom, wearing a Duck Tape tie. We get an official Duck Tape history lesson, but they don’t mention that in 1943 Navy mom Vesta Stoudt, an ammunition factory packer in Illinois, wrote a letter to President Roosevelt suggesting a waterproof tape as a better way of sealing ammo boxes, making it quicker and easier for troops to get to the ammo when they needed it. Leave it to a concerned mom to come up with ways to protect her kids while the men are off posturing. No, she didn’t invent Duck Tape in the same way Mike Nesmith’s (the guy from the Monkees, sheesh, just when you people born anyway) invented Liquid Paper, but she specifically suggested it.
Until recently – less than 10 years ago – I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Duck Tape. I called it “duct tape.” I looked into this back then, wondering if it was a clever little play on words, but found that nope, it was originally army green and referred to as “duck tape” due to its waterproof quality; after the war, it was produced for civilian use, particularly the construction boom as all those soldiers used the GI Bill to create the suburbs, in the traditional silver color, and got to be generically referred to as “duct tape” as it was used to hold metal air ducts in place for welding. Turns out, in 1998 a couple of Berkeley National Laboratory physicists demonstrated that the one thing duct tape is really bad at is… sealing HVAC ducts. Water, it can handle. Repeated heating and cooling, not so much.
And in this millennium, what duck tape is really very good for, is… prom dresses.
The Duck Tape Challenge:
The designers, working in teams of two, must create one prom dress per team, which makes this an actual team challenge. Students will get a mini-runway-preview in a high school gym at the end of the day, give the designers some feedback, and vote for their favorite; their overall vote will count towards 20% of the team’s score. So time is short on this one.
Daniel: “How can you go wrong on a prom dress for a sixteen-year-old girl?” Ask Christian Siriano, he’ll tell you. Funny how things work out, isn’t it. What if Christian had been eliminated that week? Would he still be dressing the rich and famous today?
Samantha isn’t feeling it; she’s not into proms, or teenagers. I have to say, I’m with Samantha on this one. I wasn’t into teenagers even when I was a teenager. Especially when I was a teenager.
Layana isn’t enjoying the idea of being judged by high school kids, since they’re just going to vote for the one that shows the most skin. I wonder if this says something about Layana’s high school experience.
Patricia is terrified of teenagers. Yeah, me too.
The Duck Tape Challenge Teams:
Because the pairs are all snarled up at this point, Tim brings out the Button Bag and new partner selection begins.
Stanley gets first choice, since he won the week before; he picks Layana, which hurts Richard, who thought he was Stanley’s soulmate. “He probably thinks her aesthetic is better for prom, but what he doesn’t know is, my specialty is prom dresses.” But Stanley was actually thinking, he likes to learn something new, and Layana’s someone he can learn from. It’s a little Glee drama in there, isn’t it?
Kate gets to pick next. She can’t stand Michelle, Layana, or Amanda: “They’re bitches.” I love Kate. She’s this incredible Good Witch/Bad Witch, lying to Daniel one week, standing up for Tu the next, and now she’s being a bitch about who’s a bitch. Good Witch Kate stays with Tu since he’s been so nice to her (sorry, I’m reading Wicked).
Michelle picks Amanda for reasons which pass understanding.
Richard takes Daniel.
That leaves Patricia and Samantha stuck together. “This will be interesting,” says Samantha. I suppose this isn’t the time and place for a diatribe on the devaluation of the word “interesting.” I warn you, some day I will bust out on this.
After the high school run-through, they’ll come back to Parsons for the real runway the next day. Zac is back from not wasting his time on senior citizens, and Chris Benz, pink-haired
Designer to the Stars and First Lady, is guest judge. The winner will be credited with a $5,000 donation to Autism Speaks, which bizarrely comes out of left field showing no connection to anyone or anything involved in the episode. I don’t know why I’m surprised; Project Runway gave up on making sense a long time ago.
Does it seem to anyone else that there are an awful lot of self-promotional spots buried in here with tiny slices of sponsorships in them? Are they having trouble selling full advertising time, so they’re offering something like integrated spots with no production costs?
The Duck Tape Challenge High Scores:
Stanley and Layana
Layana wants gold duct tape, but Richard’s already hoarded all the gold and won’t part with any; she thinks it’s because Stanley picked her instead of him to go to the prom. Wow, Eric3000 is going to have a blast with this episode. Stanley tries to be reasonable and tell her not to get stuck on gold, here’s some really nice hot pink we can use, but as Bad Witch Kate points out, Layana’s used to getting her own way. They compromise on black and zebra print with a big pink bow for Stanley, who, remember, has immunity, so it’s not his ass on the line. Their pinafore is absurd; the bow is the least of their problems. So of course the judges love it; it’s lovely, smart, 3-D, almost comes to life. Heidi wants to be friends with this girl, she’s modern, plugged in, cool, and whatever other word Heidi can think of to prove how modern, plugged in and cool she herself is. And she loves that they weren’t afraid to put on that ginormous pink bow. Zac loves the bow; it ties the whole thing together, no pun intended, I’m sure. Chris likes that it references Greek warriors in the bodice, fetishism with the black leather look, and has all sorts of strange layers of inspiration to keep the feel fresh and modern. This is modern? Can we go back to the old days, please? I will say I love the petticoat. There’s a story that David O. Selznick insisted all the Gone With the Wind costumes be complete with beautiful petticoats; when asked why, since the audience would never see them, he said, “The actress will know.” So I give them points for including a petticoat, even a muslin-and-duck-tape petticoat. Heidi asks whose idea the garment was; Layana claims the top, Stanley the bottom.
Patricia and Samantha
Patricia’s got a technique for stripping a floor to show layers of paint, and she’s going to use it on this dress; this makes Samantha very nervous. Seems like everyone on Patricia’s team is always nervous. But when Tim comes around, it’s Patricia who looks scared to death; they sketched independently and have two very different design concepts. “I know you’re working hard,” says Tim, “but are you working smart?” Right now it’s the bride of the Tin Woodsman (maybe Tim’s reading Wicked, too. No, he probably read it years ago). Samantha realizes one of them is going to have to get watered down by the other, which sounds like something that would make a fortune on a different kind of show. At the high school show, Patricia realizes their final look is pretty out-there in the future. Again, if that’s what the future holds, I want to go backwards. It’s not out there, it’s ugly. The colors don’t work together, the skirt has awkward lines and a vaguely, i.e., unintentional, bulbous shape, and the top looks like a cheap cami with no style at all. Of course, the kids voted it their favorite, which just proves that teenagers have little taste and less sense. On the runway, Patricia explains her floor-stripping technique; I think if she’d used something a little more harmonious than electric blue for the top layer, it might’ve worked. Heidi loves it; Nina thinks it channels Katey Perry, and the back is fabulous – ok, there’s a cute little string closure as a hook-and-eye at the top of the zipper, but it’s .02% of the dress. Chris says the proportion is a little tricky (it sure is), most girls want tight and short, but he loved the idea and they could use it as a format to create their own prom dress. Wait, I thought the idea was to actually make a prom dress, not a format for someone else to make a prom dress. But the judges are smitten, or pretending to be, and there’s no reasoning with them. Who should win? Samantha can’t give the credit to Patricia fast enough. She’s no fool; she doesn’t want to be associated with this mess. Patricia repays the compliment, saying it’s good to have someone pulling the reins in on her, and she’s always grateful for someone who can say, “Stop.” Hey, Patricia? Stop. Ok?
Michelle and Amanda
Add Michelle to the list of people angry at Richard for hogging all the gold tape. She’s thinking Power 80s but she’s also thinking camouflage, which makes no sense to me. Her prom dress, see, was really funky, so she’s going to push the edge, no one wants to show up and find Becky wearing the same gown. Who’s Becky? Amanda nixes the camouflage and suggests tie-die. Michelle Just Says No to that, and they end up creating a print for a punk-rock dress. Bad Witch Kate calls it a Queen of Hearts costume, which it kind of is, but it looks pretty cool in the workroom. Amanda tries to add, and fails: “I’m twice the age of these kids…. Well, no, almost twice… yeah, I am, I’m twice their age.” Amanda is 31. Are the kids 15 ½ ? I’ll even give her 16. I confess: I love this dress, and that’s hard to admit since I’m waiting for Michelle to trip over her narrative and fall down. But it’s the best thing there. I’m not 100% sure it’s a prom dress, but when I was prom-age, we all wore floor-length empire chiffon with sheer sleeves. At least, I think that’s what everyone wore; I wasn’t there. In any case, Michelle and Amanda’s dress is great: sharp, unusual, and clever. Chris loves it; it’s modern, fun, and slightly sinister, a little high school fantasy. Zac loves the shape, the pattern (“tessellations,” he says, which endears him to me forever, and Michelle wisely doesn’t correct him with, “Actually, it’s houndstooth”); he’s a little concerned about the side cutouts which need boning (I didn’t even see them; he’s right). Nina sees Gwen Stefani, which makes the designers happy. When Heidi asks who should win if the dress wins (which it absolutely should) Amanda gives it to Michelle. That’s happening a lot this season, isn’t it? Michelle says it was 50/50 kismet, “but I did pick her,” just in case the judges get any funny ideas that it actually was a 50/50 collaboration and they consider giving it to Amanda. I still don’t have a clue why she picked Amanda in the first place, but I can’t deny that it worked.
And Those Who Couldn’t Quite Quack It:
Kate and Tu
Tu wants a short circle skirt, but Kate worries it’s too much and talks him out of it. Bad Witch Kate interviews, “There’s only room for one cook in this kitchen, and that’s me.” Tu knows Kate went to prom, so he respects her opinion on what’s appropriate, and Kate thinks every girl wants a long gown, since you only get to wear a long gown once when you’re that age. Tim doesn’t like that it’s pretending to be fabric; the point was to use duck tape, and he sees a flat, lackluster effect that’s forgettable. Kate’s shocked that Tim hates it, and rethinks her being the only cook in the kitchen; maybe she should trust Tu more. She sets to work giving Tim the volume he craves without compromising anyone’s personal design aesthetic. She’s pretty sure their dress is the most realistic of all in the room. Tu: “We’re going to prom, girls, not Hollyweird.” I have no idea what that means, but I love the color and on the runway I love most of the dress; in the photo, it’s a bit wrinkled, though it’s easier to see the reference to denim. The model has a little trouble walking in it, and it’s not really a prom dress at all, but I still think it’s pretty good. Nope. Heidi “didn’t respond to it.” It doesn’t look like fun. Chris thinks it’s old-fashioned, and it ages her. They said the same thing about that amazing dress Rami designed for prom; they said it was a dress for a 30-year-old. They had a sliver of a point then, and they do now, but it’s still damn good. But it seems long prom dresses have gone the way of the dinosaur (that would be me). Nina and Zac get into a little tiff about who knows more about prom dresses, which Heidi tries to defuse by asking Zac to ask her to prom. Heidi, dear, I know you’re going through your post-divorce second childhood, but let’s not get ridiculous. They try to figure out who’s to blame. Good Witch Kate stands up: the length and silhouette is on her. But Heidi wants to beat Tu up a little, since he hasn’t been doing much for the show in the way of Crazy Asian sound bites, so she scolds him for not speaking up.
Richard and Daniel
Richard decides there’s only going to be one gold dress at this prom, and it’s going to be his, so he takes all the gold tape and squirrels away what he doesn’t need. Because if he can’t have Stanley, at least he can have gold duck tape. They’re doing Beyonce, or maybe Rhianna. Though at one point he realizes they’re doing baked potato, which isn’t Beyonce-ish at all. Them change tactics; instead of putting tape on the mannikin, they make fabric out of tape then use the fabric on the mannikin. They’re doing great with this latticework on the sides, and then they add ruffles. Big ruffles. Still, Tim is impressed: it’s the opportunity to have fun and do sculptural forms, and this looks like a wow. The ruffles don’t bother me at this point, but ruffles can go bad fast, and they do; they sag, and there’s nothing worse than saggy ruffles. Well, actually, there are plenty of things worse than saggy ruffles – famine, poverty, disease, to name a few. But for this dress, the ruffles are dragging it down. Daniel claims he was thinking Sixteen Candles which turns out is not Heidi’s favorite movie, and since it came out 20 years ago, isn’t perhaps the best image to work towards. Zac tells them putting detailing on the side is kind of a waste, since the arms cover it. He’s not wrong, but still, it’s kind of cool to have a little surprise peeking through; not everything has to hit you over the head like a bag of hammers to have impact. Though I suppose on Lifetime it does. Nina is borrowing Michael Kors’ scriptwriter: “You go from heroes to zeroes.” She should give the writer back. They stick together, though; they’d both work together in the next round, and refuse to throw each other under the bus. I’m approving of this trend this season, more and more. It’s too bad the rest of the show is so awful.
Who’s In, Who’s Auf:
Michelle wins. She absolutely deserved it, though she should’ve given Amanda a little more credit for talking her out of camouflage. Now I suppose we’ll have to hear about how she’s hitting her stride now that she doesn’t have to carry around all the deadwood any more, which is pretty funny, considering Amanda seems to me to be mostly deadwood. But she’s deadwood Michelle can push aside in pursuit of her own ideas, which makes all the difference. “Now I feel like I’m supposed to be here,” interviews Michelle. And, when poked with a sharp stick by the producers, “And $5,000 goes to Autism Speaks which is pretty freakin’ cool.” To be clear: $5,000 would have gone to Autism Speaks, via the Duck Tape people, no matter who won. But I’m sure they wanted to get credit for the donation, in addition to all the advertising for duck tape they hope to sell to high school students everywhere for this year’s prom.
Patricia and Samantha are consoled with how close a decision it was. No, it wasn’t.
Which leaves us with the Gold Dust Twins or Tu and Kate. I still think they were second and third and shouldn’t have been in danger at all, but my opinion counts for little. Richard and Daniel are whisked away to safety.
Tu is out. I’m not surprised – I don’t think this was his venue – but I’m sad. He’s not; he’s fine. He even thinks he deserves to go home. Now I’m really sad.
Then comes the stupid part: Kate is out, too. Both Good Witch and Bad Witch.
Now, that was just mean. Didn’t Heidi say at runway time that “one designer from the losing team” would be out? Yes, she did, I just watched the video. She lied, having left all pretense of integrity and consistency behind when she jumped to Lifetime. Mean Girl pays better, I guess.
So they wait until Kate bids adieu to Tu, and Good Witch Kate is feeling some measure of guilt mixed with Bad Witch Kate’s immense relief, and they axe them both.
Mean, Heidi. Just mean.
Male strippers. Because deception, lying, and cruelty aren’t enough.