Project Runway Recap: The Top 12 Escape Real Women and Design for "the Body"

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AKA: If you can't make Heidi Klum look good? You have a problem.

This week's episode of Project Runway saved the designers from the scary, scary need to dress real women, and put them squarely back in their comfort zone: Dressing someone who models bikinis and underwear again three weeks after giving birth to her fourth child.

Heart Truth - Backstage - Fall 2010 MBFW

The episode started with the designers joining Tim at the new Hearst corporate headquarters in Manhattan. I've actually been in that building, which is famous for being the first completely green building in New York City. I even wrote a post about it back in 2006, describing all the green aspects of the building. It is beautiful and green...which is cool.

But I digress, and since they didn't decide to mention anything about how cool and green the building was, I figured this wasn't going to be some kind of eco-friendly fashion challenge. Nope, they were meeting with ninagarcia's boss, Marie Claire editor-in-chief Joanna Coles.

The challenge (and reward) was pretty big: design a dress to be worn by La Klum herself on the cover of the April issue of Marie Claire magazine.

Coles gave the designers some very helpful advice about what works for a magazine cover:

1. Think hips and higher. That's all you usually see on a cover.

2. Think color...no black!!! [Irina would have been lost, obviously.]

3. Patterns can be tricky. Think of all the text on magazine covers...it has to be readable even over the picture.

4. Think spring...what will be in and eye-catching in April.

I'm not sure the designers have ever gotten such a really constructive, helpful brief!

The designers have 30 minutes to sketch and $150 to spend at RealMood. And even though that's all the time they usually have, the designers seem to be running around frantically a little more than usual at RealMood. Designing for my boyfriend's wife will do that to you. [Side note: OK, if you have a soft heart, you totally have to click through and check out Seal's home page...it's dominated by some pictures of his new baby and the audio from his song "A Father's Way" -- to die for! My boyfriend is so sensitive!]

Anyway, thank you, RealMood!

If you weren't already sure, this is the season (and perhaps the network) of no designer drama. The best they can come up with? Seth Aaron is slightly annoying because he talks to himself a lot. Out loud. That's it, that's the drama.

I wish i could do my usual round-up of interesting things that happened while Tim made his rounds and the designers did their "confessionals", but they all seem really nice, and they like each other, and no one does any fun impressions, and their version of being catty about each other is to worry about whether this one or that one will finish on time or whether the judges will get this one or that one's vision.

I mean, I don't live for the catfights, but I'm realizing they do spice things up a tad!

So let's get on to the show where our judges are, obviously: MagicallyPregnantHeidi, MK, ninagarcia and Nina's Boss, aka the aforementioned Joanna Coles.

As always, click on the link under the designer's name to view the picture of their outfit:

1. Amy

Amy created what I frankly thought was a monstrosity. It was a strapless dress with a high waist and huge handkerchief mini skirt. Sounds unflattering enough right there, doesn't it? Now, add some boho pattern that looked like it was out of a Toulouse-Lautrec painting -- but not in a good, talented way, more in a depressing no-one-loves-me-so-I'll-drink-absinthe-until-I-go-crazy kind of way (breaking rule #3), with big black lacy tribble things at the shoulder and waist (breaking rule #2), all in a color scheme that reads dark, late fall or early winter (breaking rule #4). If you do the math and come up with "hideously ugly" as your sum, that would about sum up my feelings about this dress.

2. Seth Aaron

Seth Aaron designed a gray pantsuit. Why, yes. It is just as exciting as it sounds! It featured lots of little fussy Victorian-style details, like little buttons, but it was sort of an edgy modern silhouette. It didn't really add up to anything except boring. Meanwhile Seth Aaron's 'do for the evening reminded me of my mom's kicky little 'do from the '70s, so he had that going for him. [No, I couldn't find a picture of that, you'll have to trust me. This picture doesn't offer the full effect, which was when you saw it from the front.]

3. Jesse

Jess actually created something noteworthy for once, a sleek cocktail dress featuring an intricate woven bodice. There were only two unfortunate aspects to the dress. It was in a deep, dark ocean blue color, managing to break rules #2 and 4 simultaneously. And the woven bodice continued with a woven arrow pointing down the front of the dress, right to the fun zone. As if to say: "For a good time, call..." I think in a different color and without the helpful landing strip, this would have been Top 3 material.

4. Anna

I can't seem to keep Anna and Janeane straight, but for this week, Anna is the one who produced a glaringly inappropriate outfit. The concept was shorts, a tank and a vest. All were shapeless, cheap looking, unmatching and unflattering. It made the model look washed out and chunky. This was Old Navy, not Marie Claire.

5. Anthony

Anthony definitely had his best week yet, with a turquoise one-shouldered dress with folded pleats running from that shoulder down the waist and across the skirt. It was eye-catching, mostly due to the bright springy color. I wasn't sure I loved it quite as much as the judges. It seemed like I'd seen this approach often before, and while it certainly flattered the rail-thin model by giving her curves she didn't have, it wouldn't flatter anyone else...giving them *more* curves than they need! I liked it, was glad he was definitely going to be safe, but perhaps wouldn't have given it the kudos it ended up getting [spoiler alert].

6. Janeane

Janeane, like Anna, seemed to misunderstand the challenge and believe she should come up with something washed out and ready to put you to sleep. In Janeane's case, it was a pseudo-bridesmaid dress "inspired by the ocean" blah blah blah. Everything about this was pale, uninspiring and unflattering.

7. Mila

Mila created a beige dress with other highly neutral shades featured in chevrons down the sides of the dress. And rather than feature an arrow pointing *down* to her model's fun zone, Mila provided helpful chevrons on the front of the skirt pointing *up* to her model's crotchal area. I began to realize it was a very weird night.

8. Emilio

I thought Emilio had another good week, with a very striking and sexy red halter mini-dress. Was it too much like a negligee? Yes, a little bit. But it was hot, eye-catching, well made and well-fitted. And the micro-miniskirt wouldn't matter for a magazine cover. I could totally see Heidi in this.

9. Jay

So. You know when you go to a bridal shower and they team you up and send you off with lots of rolls of toilet paper to somehow construct a wedding dress on one of your team members? Yeah. This looked pretty much like the last time I did that. It was the color of that unbleached, natural kind of TP. And it was crinkly. And since TP is hard to work with, you can't exactly get it fitting nice and close to your model's body. And in an effort to add visual interest there were lots of crumpled TP rosettes. I'm not even kidding. Click and see.

10. Jonathan

Jonathan sent a stained shorts romper left over from a '70s swingers' party down the runway. This featured (if "featured" is even the right word) very short, very high-waisted shorts, a cafe au lait color, with bizarre stains all over it. Yes, I'm sure that was supposed to be some kind of tie-dye-like effect, but it looked more like the model had had a very rough night. It was quite hideous.

11. Maya

Maya sent a pearly gray cocktail dress down the runway. It featured more of the same seaweed-y pleats that she created as part of the couture inspiration challenge. This dress also pointed the way to her model's fun zone, this time with color blocking that made it look like the skirt was pulling back the curtains on her cootchie. The biggest crime about this dress was the color -- again, washed out and not following the magazine's express request to bring on the springlike color and feel. I almost began to wonder if these designers all lived in Scandinavia, where spring still features very short days and melting snow.

12. Ben

Ben [who is he again?] created a kimono-style dress with what I think was supposed to be a butterfly-like pattern. The colors were a deep peacock blue, yellow and some inexplicable shiny brown material. Plus a wide black belt with both studs and buckles. This dress had a whole lotta lotta going on, for my taste. Worst of all was the use of the brown shiny material to create a pattern on the front that looked like ovaries...if they were huge, disease-brown-colored ovaries. On the plus side, the dress was very well-made, particularly the back, with a cute keyhole back trimmed in yellow. Also, it featured liberal use of bright color. But honestly, I thought it was pretty ugly, and the styling of the model didn't help.

As I said, a weird night. Lots of designers not knowing what "spring" means. Lots of designers helpfully pointing the way to their models' nether regions.

In the end, the judges liked:

And didn't like:

Yes, all the Bottom 3 designers designed in beige. Janeane and Anna were the bottom two, and I still couldn't really tell them apart. Hopefully it will get easier to do so now that Anna has been sent home. I was gratified that ninagarcia mentioned how Mila's dress was pointing at her model's crotch. Thank you for noticing, ninagarcia.

When it came to the Top 3, I think there were actually downsides to each outfit, and Anthony may have won somewhat by default. I'm happy for him and enjoyed his reaction to the win, but I don't think it particularly points to him landing in the top at the end.

But what did you think?

Elisa Camahort Page
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