Project Runway All Stars: Mo' Money, Mo' Problems
Our All Stars took on the Great White Way last night with a Godspell-inspired challenge.
Our posse's on Broadway!
Because there are three of us Project Runway lovers (well, today there are just two—have fun in London, Annalee!), and because we're assuming you watched the show too, instead of straight recaps for this series we're picking and choosing the parts we want to talk about most each week. First though, the episode stats:
The Winner: Mondo
The Loser: Kara (and another one bites the dust)
And now, our highlights/lowlights. Be sure to chime in in the comments with some of your own!
I'm rich, bitch!
Project Runway has a long history of rewarding clothing that looks "expensive," but last night's focus on wealth and opulence was laughably over-the-top. As Austin put it (nickname idea for Austin: Austintatious), "I want to go for some fabric that will just speak ... opulence, conspicuous consumption, richness." Fashion as it exists on PR is a niche industry for wealthy women, so emphasizing ritziness makes sense in that context. What didn't make sense last night was that, given how many conflicting ideas the designers had about this woman they were making a dress for, "richness" ended up being their main inspiration. And what does it look like when you design for "wealth," exactly?
Photo-shoot fresh, lookin' like wealth.
Apparently, it looks like a combination of Marie Antoinette (Austintatious), an East Village thrift store shopper (Kenley), a deceitful woman in her father's smoking jacket (Mondo), a down-and-out LA mall girl (Mila), Carmen Miranda (Michael), a buttoned-up dowager (Jerrell), and "a tube of lipstick" (Kara). That shit was all over the place! No way could all of these women have appeared in the same play. Some designs (*cough* Kenley's—hey, I liked it!) were better than others (*cough* Michael's—just say no to chartreuse, dudes) of course, but more guidance from the Godspell folks would have helped (or at least caused a few of the designers to rethink their styling choices).
We need to talk about Mila.
Haters gonna hate, but I've always liked Mila. What can I say? There's something about her icy demeanor and flawless, colorless designs that really appeals to me, and I like that she's above petty interpersonal drama and needing the other contestants to like her (they don't like her, so it's good that she doesn't really care). However, as much as the judges and fans have encouraged her to break the black-and-white mold, her look last night reminded us why she shouldn't:
Mo' fabrics, mo' problems.
Mila's usual icy composure is starting to crack, as she gets frustrated with Kara and Kenley's (admittedly obnoxious) workroom antics and second-guessed her (admittedly obnoxious) asymmetrical skirt last night. While I'm not one to smack-talk sex workers—à la Isaac Mizrahi—even I, avowed Mila-liker, had to concede that her look wasn't right for this challenge and evoked kind of the opposite of "wealth" (although, as we've already established, no one could really pin down what that was supposed to look like). I'm worried about Mila making it much further in the competition, as she seems beyond burnt out—and you know that Mila reaching for a neon yellow print is a sign of the Project Runway apocalypse.
I couldn't have been more wrong in my prediction that Jerrell was going to own the shit out of this Godspell challenge. His look was dowdy, boring, and a total departure from everything else he's made this season. All of previous looks though? PERFECT for Godspell. Why did he choose this challenge to introduce structure and frumpiness into the mix? You should've had this one in the bag, man.
I loved Austin Scarlett's departing remarks to Kara: "You're an artist! You're a loving mother!" Say what you will about his inflated ego, at least he's nicer than Josh "Who's going to make my coffee in the morning?!" McKinley from last season (or Kenley from last week).
Dear Internet: Please uncover some footage of Joanna Coles appearing in Godspell and send it to me ASAP.
Everybody is a star. Except Kara Janx.
We're down to seven designers this week, and perhaps to make themselves feel like the workroom is fuller than it is, everyone has decided to start referring to themselves in the third person. "It's not very Mila," says Mila, about the skirt that Mila is making. "Jerell did not take your machine," says Jerell when Jerell is accused of jacking Austin's sewing spot. "It's Austin Scarlett," says Austin Scarlett when Isaac mistakenly—or not?—refers to him as "Austin Starlet." Everyone feel a little less alone? Cool, let's move on.
How fucking hard did Mondo bring it this week, you guys? So, so hard. He commented, at one point, that he "had to go to a dark place" to do his best work. Let's keep in mind that though we watched it a week later, the Broadway challenge happened probably only a day after the fashion face-off that knocked Mondo on his ass, as he recounted this week with bonus Cynthia-Rowley-is-a-meanie flashback footage. So clearly the workroom was a far darker place than we know, because Mondo's flowing, multipatterned, hippie-queen outfit was beautiful. More than beautiful, it answered the challenge and was perfect for Godspell, which…
Musical theater fact-box time!
…originally opened on Broadway in 1976 and vies with Jesus Christ Superstar as the most Jesus-y musical production ever to be mounted on Broadway. (JCS probably has the edge, though, since "Jesus" is right there in the name.) If you were a kid in the 1970s and went to day camp, you know all the lyrics to "Day By Day"—in this sense, at least, Wet Hot American Summer is a documentary—and probably learned most of what you know about the Bible from it.
Anyway, Mondo seems to have been the only designer who really understood the context of this challenge, and who got that making something that looks ostentatious and showy is a very different challenge when the musical is a notoriously boho Jesus-freak affair than it would be for another kind of musical. I couldn't even root, for instance, for poor miserable Kara, because she so stubbornly refused to go with the context. No one asked for "clean lines," Kara! Or "chic, simple elegance." Austin came a little closer, mainly by repeatedly creating a word salad of "baroque," " rococo," "opulence," and "conspicuous consumption"—Tim Gunn and his giant mental thesaurus would have been proud. But Austin's look was much more rogue flapper than anything else. Which is why…
Musical theater match-game time!
….I'm going to suggest alternative musical-theater productions where Austin's, and the other designers', outfits might find a home.
Austin's look. Definitely a musical set in the 1920s, so maybe Guys and Dolls. It was a beautifully made outfit for sure, but it seemed like Austin got so swept up in his own fantasies about what designing for Broadway looks like that he ignored the specifics. (More randomly: I couldn't stop thinking that the baby-obsessed doctor's ghost-wife from American Horror Story would really rock that dress at a sad, ghost-filled basement party.)
Jerell's look: Miss Hannigan from Annie, no question. For a garment that involved so much lamé, it read really flat. Actual question: Why was this dowdy mess in the middle? Jerell might be a really good example of blind confidence being a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Michael C.'s look: Little Shop of Horrors. Not a dis: It looked well-made and the pink top was pretty, but the whole vibe was a little too kitschy for the challenge. I also really wonder why so many designers this season continue to hear the siren song of chartreuse, because it really hasn't worked out so well thus far. (See also: Mila.)
Kenley's look: Oklahoma! I actually liked the prints she chose, but the whole thing read a little country, overall. Maybe it was the feathers? Kenley's own aesthetic, meanwhile, continues to be straight out of The Pajama Game, or maybe the "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" scene from Grease. Either way, the scarf-over-curlers look just isn't a good one for her.
Kara's look: Dreamgirls. The big fur, the red pencil skirt, the silver bow—it was wrong in every way for this challenge, but Effie White would have worn the shit out of that whole situation.
Mila's look: There wasn't a Studio 54 musical, was there? I don't know. This was awful. So awful that I'm not even going to make a crack about Mila's assertion that she "pushed outside my box." This outfit was also responsible for bringing us the really awkward judges' exchange wherein no one wanted to use the word "hooker" so everyone had to come up with increasingly convoluted euphemisms like "Pretty Woman before she got…pretty."
Isaac called Mondo's look "passive-agressively sexy," because Isaac always has to get a little dig in there. And he definitely wasn't kidding anyone with the "Austin Starlet" slip-up. Who's the real passive-aggressive one, Ike?
Joanna's brilliant psych-out of Austin during her workroom critique: "I love how it straddles the line of hideous and fabulous. Right now it's hideous but you're going to turn it into something fabulous, right?" Austin was not expecting to hear that, but his, "Right, yes, I AM straddling that line, aren't I? Ha. Ha. Erm…" expression was PR gold.
Speaking of Joanna, did I mishear this, or did JC reveal that she was once in a production of Godspell? Awesome.
I said this last week, but it kind of bears repeating: I really, really think that Kara was not sure that she was on a competitive show, here, and her parting confessions/thumping understatement last night clinched it. ("I don't know that this was the best challenge for me.") Michael and Mondo, you're both shouldering all crying duties from here on out. Don't let us down!
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