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Designer Crack: Post-Turkey Edition

(Yes, the episode was pre-turkey, but I minimized my online-ness yesterday on purpose.)

Image-heavy behind the cut.

"I Started Crying" is a lame episode title. Is it a Sex and the City reference or something?

And here we have it, our first "icon" challenge of the season. When Sarah Jessica Parker walked in the room, I cringed -- not because I have any problem with her, but because I immediately had flashbacks to the exercise in futility that was trying to design for Sasha Cohen and display on a six-foot model. So I was very relieved indeed to find that, instead of the usual "event outfit for the icon herself" thing, the challenge was to design a look for SJP's Bitten line. Which I'd heard a little bit about, but not actually looked into. I find SJP's "manifesto" hilariously overstated, but still like the sentiment: It is every woman's inalienable right to have a pulled-together, stylish, confident wardrobe with money left over to live.

To that end, each designer was given a ring-binder "dossier" to brief them on the collection into which they were to fit a two-piece look...that has to retail for $40 or less.

Which means their budget? Is $15. Cue panicky designers. Watch Val rub her shoestring-theatre-experienced hands in glee. :->

Then, of course, it's also the first team challenge, which means everybody pitching their sketches to SJP (with the inevitable awkward moments of starstruckness), and her picking seven to be realized by teams of two.

Ricky and Jack Rami and Jillian: (Edited to correct. "Rate the Runway" is mislabeled.) Meh. One of a couple teams who went all black (or at least apparently so), to their own detriment. When the goth-friendly chick is telling you that? You have a problem.

I get why: Besides the budget factor, Bitten's raison d'être is all about suiting a range of body types, and of course being marketed to a mainstream -- not conventionally high-fashion -- market. And the default to basic black (what Allison Lurie calls "urban black" in The Language of Clothes, which, incidentally, I totally recommend) is pretty much inevitable. All of which could steamroller any possible spark of interest out of an outfit, and these guys let it happen. Yawn.

Christian and Carmen: Two not-great-but-good-enough tastes that do not taste great together. The outfit, that is, not the designers.

Perfectly serviceable T-shirt dress -- great color, and the cowl neck keeps it from being the exact same thing I can get on clearance from the Victoria's Secret catalog pretty much any time. The jacket is more interesting; I disagree a lot with the 80s-flashback accusations, but I think they came from putting it with the dress. Black jeans, or maybe suit trousers given the same sort of sporty soup-up, in the same grey and black.

Christian continues to grate, but I try to ignore it because you just know it's Santino or Jeffrey all over again -- he's punching up the most annoying aspects of his personality, with the help of the editing, into a persona Everyone Will Be Talking About. Sorry, but that's just not what I'm here for. If I'm going to be irritated by made-up characters, I'd rather they be scripted and have a point, TYVM.

Rami and Jillian Ricky and Jack: Love it. Want it. Am aghast that Ricky didn't get called on the carpet for copping out of the challenge parameters.

I was waiting for it from the second he said he'd decided to make the belt the second piece. Because no way were Kors and Garcia going to let that slide. And then they did! I'm going to be over here scratching my head about that one for a while.

Elisa and Sweet P: Holy spinnoli, they pulled it off. *blink* *blink* *blink*

First, my head was positively spinning that SJP picked Elisa's design to go forward, after her rambly pitch and amorphous (no, not polymorphous) blob of a sketch. Even without her knowing, as we do, that the woman's work process couldn't be more at odds with a project intended for MASS PRODUCTION. I mean, seriously, ponder that one. You may need a moment to recover.

So how did they make this? When, contrary to Elisa's mini-meltdown about being told what to do, Sweet P actually did everything Elisa said to the best of her ability to comprehend it? I haven't a clue. And I'm still not entirely convinced it could be mass-produced without difficulty. But it's certainly not the gallery piece I expected. And Elisa's good-natured participation in all the byplay about who comes from what planet makes the whole thing amusing rather than painful to watch.

BTW, you really can't see the dress under the cape, but it's the same kind of graceful as the part of Elisa's dress in the first challenge that worked. Except with sleeves. It's a good dress.

Kit and Chris: The other members of the Urban Black Brigade.

Seriously, guys, this is a panic response. You can barely tell what shape these pieces are. And they're cute shapes! At least for anyone who can wear capris. Which is a smaller segment of the population than actually does. Thus failing to meet the "Bitten philosophy" aspect of the challenge. Popping the beret on Marie at the last second was an inspired bit of presentation, especially because she looks like she belongs in the boho/beatnik café in Funny Face anyway. (Yes, I'm starting to take back what I said last week about seeing no individuality in the models.) But, oh, look, more black.

Hint to people unaccustomed to having no budget: You can't do all black within those constraints because you can't afford any texture. Cheap clothes come in bold colors for a reason.

Victorya and Kevin: Given what we've got, I agree with the win. But I'm not unreservedly loving this either.

I think I'd be happier with the dress if it had about 1/3 less volume. Even then, I'd feel exposed in something that short and that full. It'll work over jeans or leggings, though, and I'll bet you good money that's what most of the women who actually buy it when it hits the stores will do with it. Actually, I'll be very curious to see what the mass-market version looks like, because there are always simplifications and subtle shifts in line. Even Angela's INC challenge outfit, simple as it was, was noticeably altered when it hit Macy's.

I didn't expect the vest to work with the dress, but once I saw it all together, I had to concede. Although I'm bugged by any vest or jacket that too obviously would look really awkward if it were buttoned, and this falls into that category, as it would totally wack out the shape of the dress. But that's just a personal bugaboo about non-practical closures.

The scarf needs to go away, or at least not be worn at the same time as the vest. And apropos of nothing, except for how they used the accessory wall, I hate those little not-even-ankle boots and cannot wait for them to stop being everywhere I look. They flatter nobody.

Marion and Steven: What was it Heidi said? "Homeless Pocahontas"? Yeah.

Okay, guys, lemme get this straight: You bought a sweater knit, used it on the bias, and failed to predict that it would DEVOUR THE WORLD? For cripes sakes, that should have been obvious from how it behaved on the bolt. No. Excuse.

And frankly, even if the thing had fit right, it would leave me cold. I couldn't figure out why SJP picked the design in the first place. But then, I don't have a good impression of any of the ones that weren't picked (did we even see those pitches?), so maybe it was just that it showed a little imagination.

So, another nice, non-drama-llama-herding designer is auf'd. And once again, it's primarily for want of understanding fabric, at least from my vantage point. I estimate 2-3 more weeks before they start having to eliminate for finer considerations than sheer failure of competence.


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 23rd, 2007 04:28 pm (UTC)
Er, I think you have Rami & Jillian's design confused with Ricky & Jack. Ricky created the pretty dress with the belt.

I really didn't like the winner, but I agreed about who needed to go. I actually liked Elisa & Sweet P's outfit which surprised me.
Nov. 23rd, 2007 05:58 pm (UTC)
D'oh! That's what I get for trusting "Rate the Runway"! There are still too many of them, and I'm not familiar enough with them yet, to keep it all straight in my head...
Nov. 23rd, 2007 05:08 pm (UTC)
At least for anyone who can wear capris. Which is a smaller segment of the population than actually does.

I've finally stopped trying them on. For years I would see them in the store and think "oh, cute!" only to realize that they Do Not Work At All on short little me. Ah well.
Nov. 23rd, 2007 06:00 pm (UTC)
Don't feel bad -- they might work on big tall me in theory, but not off the rack! I've yet to find any that clear my kneecaps by more than a centimeter when standing up straight...
Nov. 23rd, 2007 06:18 pm (UTC)
I'm almost, but not quite, 5'3", so while I have this fond persuasion that if I could ever find capris that fit, they might look nice, I've never had the opportunity to complete the experiment. :-)
Nov. 23rd, 2007 05:34 pm (UTC)
Y'know, this show is one of the few that makes me regret I don't have my TV hooked up to cable (or anything else but my DVD and VCR) anymore.

I hate those little not-even-ankle boots

I agree they aren't attractive on most people, but they appeal to me for the simple reason that I can wear them-- or could if they didn't have the French Heels Of Death and did come in 7 1/2 EE. I can't wear most boots because the calves are all cut for skinny people like you ;-) so "boots" that stop at mid-ankle or just above are as close as I'll get to the real thing without shelling out a small fortune on custom-made.

And yes, I agree about the capri pants. I'll be glad when they go out again, as I'm heartily tired of picking up what looks like a potentially wearable pair of pants and discovering they stop at the most unflattering place for me.
Nov. 23rd, 2007 06:04 pm (UTC)
so "boots" that stop at mid-ankle or just above are as close as I'll get to the real thing without shelling out a small fortune on custom-made.

I can see that, but I also haven't seen them in any kind of functional form that you'd want. :-/ If I did, I doubt they'd annoy me nearly as much.
Nov. 23rd, 2007 06:25 pm (UTC)
I also haven't seen them in any kind of functional form that you'd want.

That's definitely a big negative. I like my footwear to be attractive, but if I have to choose between "wearable" and "attractive" the former will win every time.

I've never been able to figure out the appeal of "dress boots" to anyone in a state with actual winter (ie: places it snows and/or freezes). They invariably have high heels, materials that would stain if they got wet, or both, which makes them unsuitable for walking on icy/wet/snowy streets even if you only have to walk from your apartment to the waiting cab, and from the cab to your office. I suppose one could wear a pair of practical boots to and from the office and put on the "dress boots" once you arrived, but in that case, why not just wear your ordinary dressy shoes at work and save yourself a big chunk of cash?
Nov. 23rd, 2007 06:47 pm (UTC)
Not that we usually have actual winter where I live, but I wear dress boots because that's the only way I can wear tall heels. (When it does snow/ice I wear fuzzy boots to wherever I'm going and carry the dressy ones.) I have really bad ankles--in the summer I'm stuck in flats.
Nov. 23rd, 2007 07:26 pm (UTC)
I wear dress boots because that's the only way I can wear tall heels.

That's perfectly sensible.

I've never been the sort to go for whatever was "trendy" even when I was in high school & college, but I've no objection to other people going to that much work if they want to. Where my bafflement comes is when women wear stuff that is blatantly impractical just because it's the "in thing". Crop-tops and mid-calf-length leggings in Wisconsin in December,for example.
Nov. 23rd, 2007 06:16 pm (UTC)
Is it a Sex and the City reference or something?

Might be, but it's what Chris said in his talking head segment after SJP was brought into the workroom.
Nov. 23rd, 2007 07:04 pm (UTC)
I remember that now. Still a weird thing to call the episode!
Nov. 23rd, 2007 06:21 pm (UTC)
>"Black jeans, or maybe suit trousers given the same sort of sporty soup-up, in the same grey and black."

Suit trousers! Yes, coordinated suit trousers with that jacket would have been serviceable and sane and versatile.
Nov. 23rd, 2007 07:04 pm (UTC)
I'm half-tempted to design them myself...
Nov. 23rd, 2007 06:52 pm (UTC)
There was not a single outfit on this episode that someone with my body type could wear. (Short and well-endowed)

And what's with the maternity dress thing (Victorya and Kevin)? Once again one of the dresses looks like something that Heidi would wear while she's preggo.
Nov. 23rd, 2007 07:08 pm (UTC)
The cranberry dress would probably work -- even the neckline is reasonable, which is rare for a peasant style. But it wouldn't be flexible in standardized mass-market proportions.

And what's with the maternity dress thing (Victorya and Kevin)?

I just keep looking at it and seeing the Folkwear French Cheesemaker's Smock pattern...
Nov. 23rd, 2007 07:32 pm (UTC)
*bookmarks Folkwear site for future costume needs*

Okay, I can see the neckline, cut and skirt working. And the color, actually. I have several things that color. But the sleeves end at the most unflattering part of my arms and there's not enough me between bust line and hips to wear the belt. (Remember how short-waisted I am?)
Nov. 24th, 2007 12:35 am (UTC)
I'm thinking without the belt, actually. It's hiding the cut that I really like, with the high waist seam but forgiving-fit-and-flare cut of the bottom part (rather than maternity-dress gathers). I've seen the shape work very well on Kristin Chenoweth, who's built very similarly to you.
Nov. 24th, 2007 01:04 am (UTC)
Unfortunately, that's not the one that's going to be making it into the stores to try on...

Nov. 23rd, 2007 07:47 pm (UTC)
You know, I have absolutely no desire to watch this show, but I am enjoying reading your reviews of it.
Nov. 24th, 2007 12:35 am (UTC)
Hee! Thanks. I have that with a couple shows and various people's recaps...
Nov. 26th, 2007 09:52 pm (UTC)
May I friend you? I'm cjmr's sister and she forwarded me your Project Runway posts that I greatly enjoyed. Thanks.
Nov. 26th, 2007 09:56 pm (UTC)
By all means! Nice to "meet" you. :-)
Nov. 26th, 2007 10:00 pm (UTC)
You too!
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )


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