Runway Recap: Pretty Dresses for Heidi, and the Cash Machine

“Make a pretty dress for Heidi that she’ll use to plug her latest project.”

The main reason I didn’t do this Runway Recap until now is that I’ve been on a fairly intense and exhausting speaking tour, and just got back last night. But the other reason I didn’t do this Runway Recap until now is that this last episode (a) was so fucking boring I wanted to pull my hair out, one hair at a time, just to keep myself awake, and (b) was a perfect example of what’s gone wrong with the show.

It’s not like the first few seasons of Project Runway were a shining example of incorruptible artistic integrity. Of course it was a commercial enterprise. It was a reality competition program on cable TV: like, duh. Being disappointed and disillusioned that the producers were in it to make money would have been like being disappointed and disillusioned that Goldman Sachs were in it to make money.

But since the show jumped from Bravo to Lifetime, the balance between “commercial enterprise” and “smart and imaginative exploration of the world of fashion design, from people who genuinely care about it” has tilted way, way over. The rapid-fire rate at which the show gets cranked out, so designers never have time to fix problems or try new ideas or put genuine craft into their work. The heavy-handed product placement (there’s always been product placement on the show, but it’s gone from background noise to a relentless shriek in your ear). The transparent shilling for whatever money-making enterprise Heidi is involved with this month (in this case, a perfume line). This show has essentially become a cash machine for Heidi Klum, and for everyone else along for the ride.

I haz a sad.

Project Runway, to a great extent, was my gateway drug into fashion and style. I’ve always been interested in clothes; I’ve always paid attention to what I was wearing and how it made me feel; I’ve never been someone who just threw on jeans and a T-shirt and called it a day. But Project Runway, to a great extent, was what got me thinking about fashion and style more consciously. It got me thinking a lot more carefully about fashion and style as a metaphorical language; about the history of fashion and the context it provides for the current fashion world; about how I wanted to use clothing to express myself and my relationship to the world. It opened the door into a world that I’m having a blast with. And I haz a sad that, for people who are just now tuning into the show, that door is closing. Or rather, that door is opening into the side of the fashion world that’s a crass, fawning cash machine for self-appointed celebrity royalty.

“Make a pretty dress for Heidi that she’ll use to plug her latest project. Because we haven’t already done that challenge eleventy billion times, and Heidi Klum isn’t rich enough.”

Oh, well. There’s always What Not to Wear.

So here are this week’s winners and losers. (More pics of more looks at Tom and Lorenzo.)

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 3 Layana and Katelyn

A pretty gown for Heidi!

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 3 Daniel

Another pretty gown for Heidi!

It’s kind of entertaining how they shifted the goalposts on this one. The teams were supposed to come up with one fantasy gown-y thing for Heidi’s perfume ads, and one marginally more practical look for publicity appearances. But nobody on the winning team came up with a presentable “publicity appearance” look… so they said, “Sure, what the hell, this looks like every other pretty gown in every other perfume commercial ever made, let’s call this a ‘press tour’ dress and move the hell on.”

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 3 Patricia

Somewhat baffled at why the judges were pissing themselves all over this. Am I the only one who saw this outfit and thought, “Crafts project”? No, that’s not fair. Patricia has chops. There was a good idea in here somewhere. She just didn’t have time in YET ANOTHER FUCKING ONE-DAY CHALLENGE to execute it. As a result, it looks like a flimsy dress with bits of fabric cut out and sewn onto it. Because that’s what it is.

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 3 Benjamin

An ugly gown for Heidi. An ugly, shabby, half-assed gown that looks like he wrapped a shower curtain around his model and then bound it her into it with some sort of construction material.

A case could be made that Benjamin should have gone home on this one. But at least he had a glimmer of an idea here somewhere. If he’d been able to execute the “drapey flowy gown with gold ribbon trailing around it like it landed there in a breeze” look he was going for — which he might have been able to do if this hadn’t been YET ANOTHER FUCKING ONE-DAY CHALLENGE — it might have really worked. And I’ll never fault the judges for rewarding “interesting and risk-taking but poorly executed” over “competent but boring and safe.”

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 3 Cindy

Not that this was competent or safe. Bad idea, poorly executed. Trashy and tawdry, without even the charm of being sensual and shamelessly fun. Cindy was in way over her head. I can’t really argue with this Auf.

Runway Recap: Pretty Dresses for Heidi, and the Cash Machine
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7 thoughts on “Runway Recap: Pretty Dresses for Heidi, and the Cash Machine

  1. 1

    I can’t decide which one is worse. Horrible.

    The first one is ugly, the second one is boring, the third one is stupid. The basic idea of the second from the bottom is not so bad, but the fabrics are awful. The last one is, as you say, tawdry.

    It doesn’t help that the models look like someone has their children held hostage in order to make them wear those things in public.


  2. 2

    Benjamin’s dress made the girl look like a pork loin. Not an easy effect to achieve given the fact that she probably weighs all of 100 lbs. If not sent home, he should have at least been given a reminder that his was actually the worst dress and he’s only sticking around based on his potential as seen by the judges (though an argument could also be made that his more interesting personality and potential for drama are just as (more) important in the eyes of the show’s producers.)

    I had the same reaction while watching. When they chose the second “pretty” gown (which I thought was pretty boring and the leather neck, odd-looking) I think I spat my beer out and said “Wtf happened to the ‘publicity’ criteria?!”

    PS- Don’t forget to use the Lord & Taylor accessory wall!

  3. 3

    “Project Runway, to a great extent, was my gateway drug into fashion and style.”

    well, Greta, look at it this way – now you’ve gone past the gateway and can enjoy more ‘advanced’ fare!

    I’m 50 and have been sewing my own clothes since i was 14. I was always interested in clothing and personal style (fashion not so much). Of course over the years all my friends, family, acquaintances have been assuming i watch this show, and are shocked when i tell them i don’t. Well, first of all i haven’t had/watched tv in 14 years now. But i have caught a show or two at my mom’s, and frankly for me the show just never had enough focus on style, design, or construction for me to sustain any interest in it. As you know, there’s a whole wild world out there of European and Japanese fashion magazines, alternative boutiques, vintage shops, plus blogs: street style, OOTD, sewing, etc. All of these venues have a LOT more to offer than this show ever did.

    You’re just more sophisticated now 😉 Have fun! steph

  4. 4

    Am I the only one who saw this outfit and thought, “Crafts project”?

    No, you are not.

    Also, I thought Benjamin should’ve been aufed… but how much of that is the awful dress and how much is that I just find Benjamin incredibly annoying, I can’t really say.

  5. 5

    The reason I can’t enjoy Project Runway is because I will always go with well-executed and safe. Look at that pink dress! It’s so pretty! I like how the fabric shimmers from pink to gold, creating a beautiful line going down the entire length of the dress and accentuating her figure perfectly. I think all of the other dresses are boring because they use boring colors and dull textures. Then again, sometimes I like going to fabric stores just to admire all of the colorful fabrics 🙂

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