Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Project Runway

Like most of my friends (sorry, guys), I have no fashion sense whatsoever. Basically, if “inconspicuous” could be called a style, that’s how I’ve rolled since grade school, where I determined early on that it was best to wear clothes that wouldn’t call attention to me. Let the fashion-forward nerds take all the playground beatings.

All that said, I still feel confident in declaring that the judges on Project Runway 3 are on crack this season. There are now seven designers remaining in the cast—we’re at the halfway mark, more or less—and three of them should have been booted within the first three weeks. You know who I’m talking about:

1. Angela, a tasteless folk artist type who slaps her signature “rosettes” and other cheesy add-ons to every shoddily executed garment she turns out. This week, when contestants were asked to create everyday clothes for other contestants’ mothers or sisters, Angela tried for an Audrey Hepburn look, but inexplicably added cowgirl frills to spice up a drab, unflattering outfit.

2. Vincent, a raving lunatic who escaped the first challenge despite having his model walk the runway with a bowl on her head. Against all reason, he actually won this week’s challenge with a simple, unimaginative, and shoddily executed dress that’s nonetheless his best effort by far. Let’s hear it for failing upwards!

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3. Jeffrey, an ex-junkie who’s apparently given up smack for the all-consuming work of being a total dick. This week, he brushed off his client’s wishes in order to create another in a long line of patched-together Frankenstein ensembles, part of what judge Michael Kors charitably referred to as his “ugly beautiful” aesthetic. But you had to go back in time and create outfits for Pat Benetar’s “Love Is A Battlefield” video, he’d be the guy to do it.

Granted, some of more promising designers in the beginning went south in a hurry. There was Keith, who rivaled Jeffrey for arrogant dick-ery before getting kicked off for breaking house rules about using design books and leaving the residence for late-night Internet sessions. Robert looked like a shoo-in for Fashion Week after a couple of episodes, but he couldn’t stop turning out boring garments. This week, he pretty much forced the judges to send him home by cutting holes in two giant swaths of fabric and making a plus-sized woman look like William “The Refrigerator” Perry.

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To my mind, two of the exits were not justified. Week Two sent Malan home for a dress that clearly didn’t work—it fit, to paraphrase The Hater, like a brown log—but it was an ambitious and intricate bit of tailoring that was at least going for something. Keep in mind, the “going for something” criteria basically kept Santino around all the way to the finish last year, even when he made that hideous jumpsuit for Kara Janx, which was easily a contender for the worst outfit in the show’s history. Can someone honestly claim that Malan would be putting out less interesting clothes than Angela, Vincent, and Jeffrey if he were still around? (That’s a rhetorical question. The answer is “no.”) Then there’s poor Alison, who also put together a flawed but interesting dress after weeks of solid contributions and gets the boot over Vincent’s juvenile canvas-in-motion.

So who does that leave? Michael and Uli, two rock-solid designers who have yet to turn out a dud and who consistently stay above the catty fray. I’d say that they’re a lock for Fashion Week, but one bad week and it could be Angela/Vincent/Jeffrey waving them off. (An open question: How much weight should individual challenges have in determining who stays and who goes? Apparently, the judges put a lot of emphasis on what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, but there have been too many inexplicable exits this year.) The only real suspense will be who takes up the third slot. Between Kayne and Laura, I’d have to give a pretty big edge to Laura, whose dresses have a bad tendency to look matronly, but they’re always well-constructed and tasteful; she seems to design clothes a woman like herself would like to wear, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Kayne has a more active imagination, but he doesn’t know when to quit with the garish beauty pageant costumes; with Robert gone, he’ll have no one to rein him in.

Overall, what seemed initially like the most promising of casts has withered into perhaps the weakest. But hey, if that clears the way for Michael and Uli to rule Fashion Week, all the better. Like Harold from Top Chef, they’re heads-down craftspeople on one of the few meritocracies in reality television.

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