Thursday, January 12, 2012

PR All-Stars: A Night at the Opera

Hello again, lovely Runway fans! I have made my peace with this new, Tim Gunn-less runway, especially because I have it on good authority that he will definitely be back for next season. Whew! (Also, for all you fans of Gunn's Golden Rules, he's working on a new book!)  I've tuned in early enough to catch the "coming up on this season," and it looks like Isaac definitely won't stay as sedate as he was this week--for good or ill.

Angela welcomes the designers and announces the guests who will deliver this week's challenge: the two men who make up Badgley Mischka! Badgley (or Mischka) demonstrates via self-tanner that orange is always in fashion. The task tonight is to design a dress for attending the opera, and it should be fabulous and creative. (I assume they're referring specifically to opening night at the Met, which I know is fancy because Alex and Simon made a big deal of it on RHONY. See how educational reality TV can be?)

The designers all retire to the workroom to sketch before heading to Mood (with $350, but only a day to make the dress), and I find it interesting to see how few of them embrace the sponsor's HP Think Pads for sketching. April tells us that on her season, she used a ton of black, so this time she's embracing color. Not, apparently, in her hair, however.  Austin tells us he was called "the king of couture" on his season of PR (was he?), and will be humiliated if he doesn't do well on this challenge.

I can identify Sweet P by her sketching hand alone--the tattoos on her fingers were a giveaway. She's nervous after being in the bottom last week. Mondo explains that he doesn't sketch pre-Mood...he just chooses material and then lets the fabric tell him what to design. I'd scoff, but it worked pretty darn well for him last time.

At Mood, there is running and bolt-grabbing and calling of time...but no Joanna. Apparently her mentorship does not extend to accompanying the designers on their Mood outing. OK, I'm coping as best I can, but if this season doesn't at least have Swatch, I will be sorely disappointed! April and Michael C. tell the camera that they're doing red dresses, and then Uh-oh! at the runway discover that they seem to be channeling each other once again.  Michael's freaking out, and changes his color--April doesn't give a crap if they have the same color dress. I leave it to you to decide who's most confident in his/her skills.

Back at the workroom, April immediately takes the lush red fabric she's chosen and...dunks it in a bucket of dark (black?) dye. She says she's going for a "corpse bride" thing, but the other designers all look on aghast. They think she's wrecked the fabric, or won't have time to both dye the cloth and make the garment, and either way, they're all thrilled she's (apparently) taken herself out of the running.

Off the Runway Interlude! Oh, man, moving the show to Lifetime means sometimes you get amazing commercials, like this one for the new TV movie Sexting in Suburbia. When a high school girl foolishly sends naked pics to a boy who spreads them around (she's told too late the first rule of naked pics--don't show your face), the whole school torments her. But her mother won't stand for it, and plans her revenge. Then there's the best series of quick cuts ever: baseball bat! Weeping YouTube video! Dangling feet of hanged student! Bloody hand fallen next to ancient cell phone! Delicious.

The workshop is busy, with shots of Mondo helping Michael with some trim, Michael placing a feather-and-beaded strap on his mannequin, Kara cutting out some pieces. In walks Joanna Coles, one looks up. She has to plant herself in the middle of the floor and announce, "Hel-LO!" to get a response. Don't worry, Joanna, you'll get there (but I bet that's a weird experience for her compared to the reaction she gets as an editor-in-chief). Kenley tells us again how happy she is to have Joanna as a mentor, and once again we remember that it's probably because she and Tim hated each other.

Joanna starts with Rami, who tells her a little bit about his design, but there's nothing really to show yet. Joanna asks who his biggest competition is, and he says Austin, who coyly responds. (I am still depressed about Austin's pervy-looking mustache, and it is not helped by the hat he's wearing today, which might be a porkpie?) Austin tells Joanna he's nervous about the expectations, but he has a vision for his dress that Joanna seems to like. Gordana, in a talking head, is over his fussing--"If you are so used to making something, it shouldn't be a big deal--just make it." Heh. It's even better if you read it in her accent.

When Joanna gets to April, she's concerned with the decision to hand-dye the ombre, but April is unfazed. April is so unfazed as to be almost sedated, in fact. She tells Joanna what her "surprise" for the judges will be, and talks about how the dress will move. Joanna seems mollified, and moves on to Michael.  She asks her already-growing-familiar question, "How will you surprise the judges?" and Michael shows her his feather-and-bead halter strap. The gown is in black jersey (having ditched the red at Mood), and is one of those dresses that shows a lot of skin because the cloth just crosses over the boobs in front and leaves a midriff spot bare. I often find Michael's stuff a little tacky, and I think this could go either way, depending on his styling. Joanna asks if he's going to put cups in the bodice, and he says no. Jerell, in a talking head, tells us it's a bad idea: "No one wants a nip slip, not at the opera. It's tacky!" Heh. So true. Save your nip slips for the movies, ladies!

On to Kara Janx, from whom we heard very little last week. She's starting with a floral taffeta bodice that looks kind of garden-party--Joanna wants to know how she's going to make the dress look like evening wear.  We don't see Kara respond--just a series of worried, near-tears faces. Kara, toughen up! You were a contender in your season! Sweet P is next, and she's chosen orange. Her dress also looks very day, and Joanna seems unconvinced. No suggested changes, but a "we'll see." Careful, Sweet P!

Joanna comes over to Anthony, and I suspect these two are about as far apart on the aesthetic spectrum as you can get. Anthony's chosen a cream fabric (organza, maybe?) and shows Joanna his sketch of a plunging-neckline gown with something that could be a train, or maybe a cape? I'm no good at deciphering these sketches, and his is hasty at best. Joanna asks him how he plans to keep this from looking like a bridal gown. He basically says it's too sexy--"plunging in the front, plunging in the back." Really? Both? I thought the rule was breasts or legs, front or back. I think he's going to get dinged for taste.

Rami explains that even though everyone thinks he's a tough cookie, he appreciates Joanna's encouragement. Y'all, Rami's sensitive! Don't let the massive muscles fool you. Sweet P is happy with her look, though it's taking a long time. Mondo thinks Kara's the weakest designer here because she's too sensitive and unconfident. Mondo, don't be bitchy--eyes on your own paper. (That said, she really does look like she's about to be sick.) Austin thinks Michael C's dress is "beautiful. However, a little too celebrity and not enough socialite." Before we know it, the day is done and everyone returns to the hotel to eat, sleep and mingle with the other teams. (Oops, wrong show.)

We're watching Kara alternately melt down and boost herself up, but the other designers are mostly pulling for her. I'm bewildered by her outfit in the talking heads--she is covered in straps. She's wearing an embroidered halter-neck top, but there's some sort of pink lanyard around her neck, and then she has denim shoulder straps, as though she's wearing secret overalls just below camera. Or a smock? Hip waders? Who knows what's in this year?

Off the runway Interlude! Have you been to When Parents Text? I tried to buy their book, but alas, was outbid. Here's a sample that makes me giggle: Cazadillo.

The next morning, the designers are all back to do their fittings & finishing touches. The workroom is nearly silent, which is a function of pressure, but also, I think, of the fact that there are no 20-year-olds in this cast. There's a lot less goofing off and swanning about with this crew. (Swanning about? Excuse me while I go put my teeth in and get a Werther's.)  Models! In they come, and no one looks disastrous, at least. Jerell thinks his model looks like "mofo money." Um, good?

Runway! Our guest judges are, of course, Badgley Mischka. Kenley's dress leads off, and it looks like Scarlett O'Hara got a shot at your nursery curtains.  Long tiered pink organza skirt, pink-with-black-polka-dot bodice. The model looks swallowed up in it, and it reads as "hoop skirt" to me. Isaac is frowning, but in concentration or disapproval? Next is Gordana's dress, which we saw little of during the workroom scenes. It's periwinkle, with a long skirt that has sheer chiffon panels on it (which unfortunately kind of make the model look like she's not wearing any bottoms). The bodice is a halter neck with a mesh overlay. Gotta say, this one gives me taste concerns as well. Angela is staring intently like a cobra just crawled into her dressing room.

Ooh, Rami, no! His model is in a fuschia off-the-shoulder dress, with complicated triangular pleating fitting down past the hips before the skirt swirls to the floor. I think the fabric looks cheap and shiny under the lights, and overall this looks like a bad bridesmaid dress. I am shocked to see this from Rami rather than Anthony. Our eyeballs get a rest as Mila's all-black dress comes out. It's gorgeous--a fitted column with lots of sequins and a gauzy one-shoulder detail, but it's not particularly unique or dramatic. Plus, Mila herself says, "I'm hoping they forgot that they said romantic and feminine." This looks perfectly feminine, actually--it's not as severe and linear as her usual--but I feel like you could pick this up off the rack anywhere.

Sweet P. Oh, Sweet P. Her poor model walks out and is either preparing to appear at the opera in the role of Carmen, or is going to a fiesta. Plus, the empire waist and awkward pleats make her look seven months pregnant. Sweet P claims to be delighted, but the racer back looks off center, the skirt is stiff, and the whole thing doesn't say "evening." I think Sweet P is headed for trouble.

Mondo surprises me by designing something that Betty Draper would wear. It's a white and silver short cocktail dress with a dramatic 60s neckline (I will have to find a picture, because I don't know what to call it--here you go: Mondo's dress). Fits tightly, but trailing from the back of the dress is an eight-foot train. As the model walks back up the runway, we see that the train is attached with a large obi-style bow detail on the back. Mondo tells us it looks "very 60s, but very modern," and I pat myself on the back for identifying the fashion reference.

Jerell's dress is also disturbingly maternity in's a brown bodice with a lighter brown, patterned full skirt, connected with black feathers. The waist is so high that it's above an empire--it's like the seam runs right across her breasts. (It also doesn't look even.) Quick cuts to Isaac and Mischka (or maybe Badgley) show furrowed brows. Jerell, my friend, I fear your confidence is misplaced.

And speaking of's time for Kara Janx. Hmm, she also has this near-maternity shape--it's not truly an empire waist, but it's definitely high-waisted. Surprisingly, banding the floral fabric with a tidy black belt and creating those exaggerated proportions moves it into evening wear, at least for me. Not sure the judges will buy it. I'm also not sure there's enough design there--it's a simple strapless bodice and a long skirt, though it seems well-constructed.

Here comes Anthony's white Grecian gown. He's put her in above the elbow black gloves, which feels wrong to me. The dress is cut super-low and belted with a jeweled chain detail; it's draped well, but shows a LOT of skin. Serious double-stick tape happening here. The gloves look way too severe to me--I think the judges may bust him on the styling.

OK, Austin, show us what you've got. Behind the screen, his silhouette almost looks Edwardian--seems to be a high neck, and there's the hint of a bustle in the skirt's rear volume. The dress has an interesting criss-cross detail, where he's brought gold straps over the black tulle to contain it on the bodice before letting it flow down the sides of the skirt. It's pretty, but perhaps a little simple, and doesn't look quite as even as it could. Still, it's certainly not going to land him among the worst tonight.

And now it's April's turn--did she get her dress dyed in time? The dress looks a little crazy, and April says she can see the flaws, but doesn't elaborate. The dyeing seemed to work, but the dress's asymmetrical details are a little confusing--there's a red square panel on one shoulder, and the model's hair is all uneven and frizzed out like she's a mad bride, and overall, she looks more messy than deliberately artistic. More Helena Bonham Carter than Tilda Swinton.

Michael C.'s gown comes out, and it looks better than it did on the mannequin--the glittery shoulder strap covers a fair bit, and the midriff isn't showing.  In fact, there's just a small keyhole detail in the front...but when the model turns back up the runway, you see that her whole back is bare except for a crystal strap running across the small of her back. The skirt has a fishtail hem, which Michael calls "this little 80-foot train." I hope he has someone double-check his measurements. It looks a little watered-down Bob Mackie, but still pretty.

And that's it! We go right into the call-outs: Anthony, April, Sweet P, Austin, Kara and Michael.  Uh-oh, kids--these are our highest and lowest! Definitely Sweet P and April in the bottom, and Austin in the top...but the other three could go either way, I think.

Off-the-runway Interlude: Commercial! Aggh! Rob Lowe is...Drew Peterson: Untouchable.  I don't want to see Rob Lowe under tons of aging makeup, saying, "I'm untouchable, bitch," while he and an unknown actress open and close a garage door! That seems like a bad decision for all concerned.

Back to the runway, and Austin looks like he thinks he has this in the bag. The judges start with Anthony, and now that we're up close we can see that the black gloves are leather. Strangely, this works better for me than it did from afar--the leather feels modern. Isaac agrees, loving the "new context" for a white dress. Angela loves the styling too, while Georgina is on the fence, but she loves the fabric. B&M both love it, too--yay, Anthony!

April's up next, and Isaac congratulates her on choosing a color, but he doesn't think the ombre dyeing is right for the opera--looks too tie-dyed. B&M don't like it, in part because it looks "tortured" and overworked (yes), but also because it turns out they both hate red & black together. Oopsie. Georgina likes red, but calls April out on some of her details, which were done in a matte red that doesn't quite work with the shiny stuff.

Sweet P says she was going for "ball gown," but Isaac tells her she wound up on "prom dress." B&M think the skirt looks like a dirndl, and Georgina wishes she'd swapped her fabrics, so you just had a short plain bodice in the floral, and did the big skirt in straight orange. Sweet P says, "Now I do, too!" Yeah, well, that's a problem, Sweet P.  The other half of B&M points out that the color is fun, but the bodice doesn't fit well. Sweet P looks crushed and is trying not to cry.

On to Austin, who was going for "sensual refinement." Isaac jumps right in to say he loves it. It looks "fresh and classic and expensive." He also appreciates that Austin went for something a little modest, which is rare on today's runway. B&M also think it's lovely, but note that his tulle is slightly uneven--they give him a pass, though, given that he had only one day. Georgina also loves, though would have preferred a slightly lower-cut bodice. But overall, it's a clean sweep for Austin.

Kara, still looking a bit like she could cry, talks about why she chose her print and how it might suit for evening. Isaac agrees with her, and also finds that the simplicity of the ball gown cut, contrasted with the cheerful floral print, is what makes it work...but warns her that when your look is that pared down, it has to be "utterly perfect." He finds the placement of the black grosgrain ribbon slightly off, and B&M wishes the bow tails in the back were 3-4 feet longer, "for the opera." Yes, be sure your opera ribbons are full-length, people! Kara is clearly relieved at what's basically a positive critique and points out that she added pockets. Angela is quick to say that she loves pockets in a dress, as does Isaac. Kara says, "You need them for your lipstick and your iPhone." Heh. Nice plug. HP must be PISSED right now. Georgina's the only naysayer here, because she thinks it's a little generic, and doesn't say "Kara Janx."

Isaac says of Michael's dress, "I can't believe you made this dress in a day, because it's perfect. Shockingly perfect." (Was Michael the designer who had issues with knocking off established designers' pieces? Or am I confusing that with Isaac's former fashion competition show?) Where Austin was old-world society glamour, Michael's dress is for "Kim Kardashian at the opera." Heh--he's right. Georgina loves it, and says, "Even if she's going alone, she's certainly not going HOME alone in that dress." Heh. B&M love the coverage in the front vs. the bareness in the back, and Angela tells him she wants to wear it.

So who's it going to be? Austin or Michael? Old or new? Classy or brassy? First we have to pick the loser. The judges think April made some bad choices and her construction was sloppy, whereas they thought Sweet P's skirt was well-made but the bodice looked like a frumpy bathing suit.  Georgina moves on to Kara's dress, which she thinks is done well, but she's seen it a thousand times. Angela doesn't know many girls who would wear it, but B or M stands up for it and says he loves it. Isaac seems to agree, with some minor bow issues.

On to the top--they say more nice things about Anthony's dress, but I don't think he's the winner. Austin garners more praise for his cut, his eye, etc.. Angela then whispers in a strange come-hithery way, "What do you think about Michael's gown?" Um, are you trying to seduce Badgley and/or Mischka, Angela? They all agree that it was well done, but Isaac makes a case for it being more familiar in its brazen blinginess. Georgina loves the personality of it. I still haven't a clue which one they'll pick as top!

Off the runway Interlude! Wow, it's like Lifetime is reading my blog--they just gave me the Sexting in Suburbia and Drew Peterson: Untouchable ads back to back!

The results are in--Anthony is called out safe and sent back to the stew room. Then the winner is announced and it's...Austin! I'm glad. I prefer his old-school designs to the in-your-face stuff. Michael is obviously safe as well, and they tell him it was a very tough choice. Kara is put out of her misery quickly, as she should be--she's obviously safe, since her gown was much better than the other two. Angela actually delivers some nice comments to both before Sweet P is sent packing, to no one's real surprise. (April walks offstage without even acknowledging Sweet P, but I think it's because she's so relieved to have made it through that she just wanted to get offstage before crying.) Sweet P is gracious in defeat, but I'm a little put off to see that as she packs up her stuff, she seems to be wearing no shoes.

What's coming up next week? They have to design for Miss Piggy. Ugh. People, let them make real clothes! I don't need to see the puppet as a judge. Curmudgeon curmudgeon--better go get another Werther's. Tune in next week to see if I'm less of a crank!

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