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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Project Runway: “Hats Off To You”

Illustration for article titled Project Runway: “Hats Off To You”
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I’m surprised there hasn’t been a crazy-hat challenge before (at least not that I can remember). It’s an archetypal image: If you asked Joe and Jane Average of Anytown, U.S.A., to picture a high-fashion runway show, they’d imagine a model on the catwalk wearing some outlandish hat. That’s the photo that always makes the papers, for the simple reason that hats are fun, as borne out by tonight’s episode.

But before hats, Project Runway had to resolve last week’s ambulance panic cliffhanger! Ivy was fine.

Moving on, Philip Treacy was this week’s guest judge, and he made his entrance amid a lineup of his most fantabulous, scrum-diddly-interesting-looking hats. He is a very famous London milliner, Google says. Contrary to my predictions in last week’s comment thread, the designers did do model selection, except it doubled as hat selection, and everyone stuck with their models anyway. Even Valerie stood pat, despite the fact that her model had a mask, not a hat. That was odd. You couldn’t dig one more hat/hat-like contraption out of the back room, Treacy?

The challenge was for the designers to create a look that complemented their chosen hats, and as is the tendency with the less restrictive challenges, the workroom was relatively drama-free. Casanova talked about quitting; he didn’t. Valerie forgot to purchase a zipper at Mood; Ivy gave her one. A lot of open-and-shut cases on tonight’s program. Even Her Holiness Gretchen III failed to stir the pot this week, at least in the footage we saw. That’s a letdown from Week 3, but I have a feeling that the editors are just saving their powder.

Tim Gunn’s attempts to critique Casanova were once again thwarted, as the two-faced ESL student transformed into his alter ego, Casa-no-clue. Tim’s reasonable criticism—that Casanova’s Olympia Dukakis funeral wear looked a tad dated—was no match for the vacant stares of Casa-no-clue, and so Tim walked away, shaking his head: “I don’t know what else I can say.”

I’m convinced that Casanova’s no-hablo-inglés act is just that, but there’s still evidence coming in for both sides of the argument. Prosecution Exhibit A: “They believe that I sew very well, but they think I don’t have taste”—clearly, the guy knows the score. Then again, Defense Exhibit A: “I’m not like a cat with seven life!”


Tim was most worried about Michael C., who was patching together a puckery, stretchy deep-champagne disaster on his dress form. Michael C.’s arc was a perfect example of how Project Runway can tell an interesting story using the creative process. When I saw Michael C.’s abomination in the workroom, my thought was, “Why did he buy that fabric? How could that have looked the most appealing out of everything he had to choose from?” Then, in the finished product, the fabric seemed perfect—just the right complement to the shimmery secondary color in his model’s hat. It was startling how much a new design could change the way the fabric comes across.

After some meandering chit-chat in the designers’ apartments, it was time for the runway show. The producers declined to show us footage of Gretchen plunging her face into a slurry of foundation and blush, presumably because the end result was frightening enough by itself. She looked so overdone that I was hoping that Handlebar-Mustache Makeup Dude would remark on it. Instead, our weekly glimpse of this imposing L’Oreal Paris badass consisted of him preparing to paint a mustache on Mondo’s model. Mustaches everywhere!


This particular mustache might have kept Mondo out of the top three, because otherwise, his look was striking and extremely well-made. It might have been borderline garish, but at least it was memorable and demonstrated a design perspective, unlike the safe fare that dominated the rest of the runway show. On the other end, Andy deserved to be in the bottom three with his pink shoulder-padded contraption, which looked like Murphy Brown’s boxing robe—although again, at least you can say it was distinctive.

Top three: Valerie, Michael C., and Michael D. I have no reaction to Valerie’s dress. It was fine. I don’t know why the regular judges went so crazy for it. I’m with guest-judge Treacy, whose verdict was, “Whatever.” Michael D.’s cardboard top and crumpled skirt might have deserved to win, given that his design was the least cautious and most inventive of the top three, but Michael C.’s second draft of the dark-champagne dress just looked better coming down the runway. So he got the victory—much to the entertaining consternation of the other designers, especially Gretchen and Ivy (who serves as Designated Gretchen Sidekick when Valerie is out of the room).


Bottom three: Christopher, April, and Kristen. Christopher’s design reminded me of Mary Poppins insofar as it had a rump, but otherwise it was inoffensive. He was safe. As pointed out by almost everyone, April made a diaper—there’s no other way to put it—yet she paired it with a flattering top, escaping elimination. The fitting loser was Kristen, who complemented her orchid hat with a stifling black dress that appeared to be squeezing a layer of pink Nickelodeon slime from her model. Her departure was a relief, because after Nina said that Kristen “has a talent for her aesthetic,” I thought that Kristen might become the Mediocre Female Designer Whom Nina Inexplicably Champions for this season. Not so, but rest assured that the fashion director for Marie Claire magazine remains on the hunt.

Stray Observations:

— Hat-tip to commenter “humanist” for “Casa-no-clue.”

— Gretchen: “The girl drinks a lot of Diet Coke and smokes a lot.” Right, that’s quite rare in the fashion world. A red flag.


— “Matching is old hat.”

— “There are a million trillion fabrics to choose from.”

— I’m all for Project Runway mixing up its music package, and I realize that Heidi is married to Seal, but holy crap that “Kiss From A Rose” moment was awkward.


— Philip Treacy made “There’s nothing day-wear about the hat” sound like the meanest sentence in the English language.

— “The woman who could afford that hat would be able to afford a polka-dot dress where the polka dots line up.”


— “There are many ways to skin a cat, but you should probably bring a knife.”

— I don’t think the phrase “matchy-matchy” quite belongs in one of Heidi’s ultra-serious pre-Auf speeches.


— Can you believe that hat-wearing savant Jason missed this challenge? It’s the challenge he was BORN to make something incredibly shitty for!

— “This hat speaks of a warrior.”