Project Runway Recap: S12 E9

This week, Project Runway asks, “Who is the modern southern woman?” Lolz, just kidding – they make up whatever definition is most convenient at the moment.

The Challenge: The designers are forced to “unwind” and “have fun” at a southern brunch, which obviously means they’re in for some Belk Accessories Wall-related torture. They are tasked with creating a day or evening look for the modern southern woman (the Belk customer, allegedly) in one day. The winning look will be produced and sold at Belk stores and online. In spite of this runway being not any better or worse than the average challenge, Heidi and her team of crack-smoking jesters decide that this arbitrarily-chosen bottom three is the WORST EVER, and send the bottom three designers back to the workroom for another hour to create an entirely new look. And thus goes the story of how a bottom three look ended up winning a challenge.

Guest Judges: Stacy Keibler, whose fame continues to elude me. Also, Wikipedia tells me she’s from Baltimore, so how did they land on her for the “southern woman” challenge? Oh, and the judging panel was also joined by human-robot hybrid John Thomas from Belk.

ALEXANDER POPE
Top 3
Photo: Lifetime

Photo: Lifetime

I like the print, but it’s not as if Alexander created that textile himself. And the silhouette is a basic strapless cocktail dress with a flirty, asymmetrical skirt – it’s a look we’ve seen on this show and on other runways thousands of times before. All he did was render it in a print that, while cool, can only really be worn around the Fourth of July. Normally, I’d question how that makes it worthy of the top three, but there wasn’t much else worth complimenting on this runway, so I suppose it makes a modicum of sense.

ALEXANDRIA VAN BROMSSEN
Photo: Lifetime

Photo: Lifetime

I have been a big fan of some of Alexandria’s previous work – I think she has a very of-the-moment, fashion-forward style and a relatively unique point of view. So I’m actually biased in her favor, and I still think it’s an atrocious joke that this truly awful look escaped the bottom three. I’ve never seen Alexandria put something with such shoddy construction down the runway; it was as if she heard the word “southern,” knew she couldn’t win this one, and gave up before she even began. For once I think the judges should just come out and say, “Listen, Alexandria. You’re a very, very beautiful blonde former model born in Stockholm, Sweden, and that means we just don’t want to eliminate you yet, even though what you sent down the runway today is laughable garbage.” That way, we could at least understand where the hell these judges are coming from when they let something like this slide through in the safe pile .

BRADON MCDONALD
Winner
Photo: Lifetime

Photo: Lifetime

Let’s get real, dear readers – I’m from New Jersey, raised by Brooklyn-ites, I’ve lived in DC since the moment I was able to escape the Jersey Shore, and I’ve spent almost no time in the south. So unlike all of the crack addicts on the Project Runway team, I am not about to pretend that I am any sort of authority on the “modern southern woman.” I assume that like the “modern northern woman,” and every other modern woman, her style is dictated by much more than where she lives and varies based on her personality. Because, you know, we’re humans and not fashion automatons restricted to a particular aesthetic based on our geographical location. But I digress. My point is, I’m not really sure what’s modern about this look. It’s got a farm-girl-goes-to-fashion-school quality to it, but that’s still quite far removed from the “modern southern woman.” (Yes, I will continue to use ironic quotation marks around that phrase, because the producers made no attempt to define it.) I suppose it was better than everything else on the runway, but I hate awarding a win solely based on that.

DOM STREATER
Bottom 3/Winner
Photo: Lifetime

Photo: Lifetime

Whatever, judges. I actually liked Dom’s original look, before they put her in the bottom and made her create a new look in an hour. It was modern, it was interesting, it was bright and colorful – the judges railed against it because it didn’t have a print, which didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love prints as much as the next girl, but I’m not sure why it was a requirement for Dom’s look and no one else’s.

Photo: Lifetime

Photo: Lifetime

I’m loathe to admit it, because the judges were disgustingly proud of themselves for their inspired decision to squeeze another look out of three poor, tired designers in the last hour of the day, but this was a shockingly great dress. But the judges acted as if they themselves had created this stunning look in an hour, such was their obnoxious level of “SEE WHAT YOU CAN DO WHEN YOU HAVE US TO GUIDE YOU?!” And it seems a little unfair to Bradon to also give Dom the win, when she got two chances to the impress the judges and he managed to do it in one. Don’t get me wrong, this dress probably was the best thing on the runway, but the manipulation of the rules of the game in this episode was a bit too much.

HELEN CASTILLO
Photo: Lifetime

Photo: Lifetime

I hate this print. And there’s no way in hell I’d call this look “modern.”

JEREMY BRANDRICK
Eliminated
Photo: Lifetime

Photo: Lifetime

Since Jeremy is only capable of designing for old ladies, I wasn’t sad to see him go. I hated this jacket, which screamed “politician’s wife.” Jeremy has no concept of how to style a woman who hasn’t yet reached menopause. So I’m not denying his auf-ing was imminent – but the fact that Ken the Sociopath remains on this show despite never creating anything worthwhile makes me feel that this elimination was slightly unfair.

Photo: Lifetime

Photo: Lifetime

Any way you slice it, I think Jeremy’s work this episode proved he deserves to remain in the competition over Ken. Both of Jeremy’s looks had more happening in terms of design and style, even if Jeremy’s first look read as a little dated. The dress he completed in an hour was actually kind of fresh and fun – yes, it’s very simple, but again, he had sixty damn minutes to create it. As far as I’m concerned, he proved that when the pressure is really on, he can make something simple, stylish, and beautiful. And Ken can’t.

JUSTIN LEBLANC
Photo: Lifetime

Photo: Lifetime

I keep forgetting Justin is still in the competition. Probably because I can’t remember anything he’s ever made. This will surely be no exception. But he’s been hiding in the safe pile for way too long – eventually, the judges will need to stop deferring to Tim Gunn’s ill-conceiving judgment and give Justin the auf once and for all. It’s clear they’ve only kept him this long in an attempt to make the audience believe that Tim used his save on the right person. Sadly, we are much, much smarter than the Lifetime producers.

KATE PANKOKE
Top 3
Photo: Lifetime

Photo: Lifetime

I can’t even look at this, it’s such an eyesore. The judges’ love affair with Kate continues to baffle me.

KEN LAURENCE
Bottom 3
Photo: Lifetime

Photo: Lifetime

Is there anything more hilarious than Ken spending the whole challenge talking about how he knows the “modern southern woman” better than anyone, and then creating something this boring and poorly constructed? This was a throwaway look if I ever saw one, and when he was given an extra hour to right his wrongs, Ken just made everything even worse:

Photo: Lifetime

Photo: Lifetime

Drunk sorority girl, circa 2002? Maybe. Modern southern woman? Not so much.

Judges’ Top 3: Bradon/Dom, Alexander, Kate
Diva’s Top 3: Bradon, Dom, Alexander
Judges’ Bottom 3: Dom, Ken, Jeremy
Diva’s Bottom 3: Alexandria, Jeremy, Ken


© Democracy Diva, 2013.
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4 responses to Project Runway Recap: S12 E9

  1. Thanks, Diva. I was away last week, couldn’t watch the show and enjoyed seeing your review pop up so soon! This week- Jeremy’s look could have been worn to any church service with the possible exception of a very formal evening wedding. Helen’s was a 60s hippie bridesmaid. Ken’s and Dom’s both screamed bridesmaid, too, as well as loving hands at home. Kate’s was a profile that would be suitable for any preteen girl in the 1950s. Yes, I am that old. I am so over asymmetric hemlines, visible zippers, gathered skirts and dresses that won’t let a woman wear a bra.

    I have no idea about next week’s challenge, but PR is going downhill. I’m expecting to see something in ruched pink taffeta.

    • democracydiva – Author

      Glad to be of service, IvyFree! And I agree, there was a heck of a lot of bridesmaid/Sunday best happening here, which felt to me like very lazy, outdated stereotypes of southern women.

      I can’t even describe how much Project Runway has made me hate the exposed zipper. I used to like it, in those few months when it was new and trendy, and I might have bought a few too many items with it that really didn’t last long enough. (I try not to spend money on stuff that won’t last more than a season, at least until someone starts sending me free designer clothes.) But I could happily never see an exposed zipper on this show after a few straight seasons of the judges saying, “An exposed zipper! How cool and new and fashion-forward!” They’ve finally stopped praising designers specifically for using that, but we still see the trend so much on this show that it’s absurd.

  2. I’m a Tennessee raised twenty-something professional living in Atlanta so I was annoyed by most of this episode. First off, they could have at least brought one Southern-born, female judge who could have offered some perspective. The only dresses I could see myself or any of my friends wearing was both of Dom’s looks and Jeremy’s second look. I could so see myself wearing Jeremy’s second look with my cowboy boots. Brandon’s dress was a joke and if I wore that out in public, I’d get a lot of “bless your heart” comments. The only fashion difference in modern Southern women and modern Northern women, that I can think of, is that it’s hot and humid as Hades down here so we need lighter, breathable fabrics. So Ken’s heavy dress would have caused me to sweat like a whore in church on a Sunday and no Southern lady wants that. Oh, and one final rant…what’s with all the freaking plaid? None of the women in my life own or would wear a tablecloth-inspired dress. We only wear dresses inspired by curtains and only when in a “Gone With the Wind” mood.

    • democracydiva – Author

      I was hoping a fabulous southern woman would comment and give me her perspective, so thank you for obliging! I definitely agree that for myself and my friends, Dom’s looks and Jeremy’s second look were pretty much the only wearable things on that runway, so I think you’re on to something about the main differences in regional styles being weather-related. I didn’t even consider the heaviness of Ken’s fabric and how gross I’d feel wearing that fabric in D.C.’s humidity, let alone in the weather of the actual south. And your “Gone with the Wind” reference made me giggle out loud.

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