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Project Runway Recap: Shoes First!

by Zan Romanoff

August 30, 2013 | 9:08 am

A really absurd sounding piece of modern art-y word salad is Heidi Klum reciting the rules, regulations and prize package of this season's Project Runway just before the models walk each week. It's a blind runway show and Tim Gunn doesn't judge but he consults the judges and he has a Tim Gunn save and the winner will receive sewing equipment and money for Fabric and something from Tide and a vacation sponsored by bottled water and also a year's supply of bottled water, whatever the hell that means. Last week, though, the Tim Gunn Save actually came into play when the judges tried to auf Justin for his frankly hideous dress inspired by-- no, I am not kidding about this-- a glamping trip. It involved hot glue gun "lace." It led Nina Garcia to verbalize the phrase "foaming vagina." Clearly, though, Justin was a favorite among the designers, who were genuinely sad to see him go, and the fact that he is partially deaf made his story and his eventual save all the more tear-jerking. (This is in no way to suggest that Justin plays his disability for points; only that the show does it, because reality television is cheap and awful. Almost as awful as his dress was.)

In any event, this week's show is a pretty basic return to form: everyone is sad that they won't get Tim Gunn saved (except pragmatic Kate, who carelessly observes that the save was never for her anyway. I like Kate more and more, and am increasingly curious to see what got her such a bad rep on her first Project Runway go-around. She's certainly not the fireiest character this season-- that was Sandro, and is now the increasingly intolerable Ken). They go to the Marie Claire fashion closet and take a fashion quiz (what inspired Manohlo Blahnik's red soled shoes? Who coined the phrase little black dress?) and pick shoes that will inspire their outfit for the week. Designers who did well on the quiz make fun of designers who did poorly for not being well-versed in fashion history. As someone who is theoretically smart and definitely well-educated and extremely bad at trivia, I sympathize. It's a skill! Not everyone has it, okay. 

Anyway, then they make some clothes. Alexander and Miranda spend a lot of time worrying about the fact that they're both making plaid pants but this turns out not to matter in the slightest, because Alexander's outfit is fine and he's safe, where Miranda's is "not cool" and too dated, and she ends up in the bottom-- and then going home. Also in the bottom are Bradon's tortured homage to the fifties, an uninspired effort from a talented designer, and Jeremy's Pretty Woman ensemble, which he defends to the last. It is way, way too eighties, and the fact that he can't see this bodes poorly for Jeremy, which is too bad because I find him personally kind of delightful. He totally does not seem to get reality television, and just is his cheerful, sincere self in a kind of lovely way, even when he's getting savaged by Posen &co.

The top three are all little black dresses, which makes sense in the context of the challenge: a smart take on a classic design sets off the shoes without overpowering them. I was less of a fan of Ken's reptilian cocktail dress but I'm also not a Ken fan, and I thought Alexandria's shift was well-handled but, really, what else could anyone have done with those insane gladiator sandals? Helen's dress and cape pretty deservedly got the win, and it was sweet to see her excited and overhwhelmed by praise for once.

We're halfway through the season but there's a lot of chaff left to sort through; I'm betting on Alexander, Jeremy, Ken, Karen, Helen and, yes, poor returned Justin going home in the next few weeks. I'm hoping for Alexandria, Bradon, Dom and Kate as the final four-- though we'll see as we proceed whether I'm right or whether I'm, um, auf. 

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