For the past four seasons, Tim Gunn has warned Project Runway contestants about designing "a float in a parade" -- his description of a garment so over-the-top that it can't be taken seriously.
Not that all of the designers listen to le Gunn, however. The "more is less" mistake felled many a designer, from Santino in Season 2 to Kayne in Season 3.
Both of the aforementioned designers must have felt like weeping this week, when Project Runway freed the Season 4 crew from the constraints of designing a wearable garment. The contestants were commanded to go all out to create avant-garde designs based on crazy hairstyles.
Of course there was a catch -- there is always a catch. The designers were working in pairs so Shruti and I spent an entire commercial break biting our nails and worrying that the twist was two designers getting kicked off this week.
Luckily, the reality involved pain for the designers but pleasure for the audience in the form of watching each team scramble to create a second look, a ready-to-wear version of the avant-garde piece.
This challenge was a gift for Christian and Chris M. -- Christian has worked for avant-garde designer Alexander McQueen and Chris M. creates bombastic costumes for a living.
"Team Fierce," as Christian called them, really delivered. Their avant-garde outfit looked like a wedding cake, with layers fabric standing in for icing. The collar was the size of a small planet bringing the entire piece in at a weight equal to that of all the models plus Heidi put together.
I thought Nina was going to cry, she was gushing so much over this outfit, the eventual challenge winner. And Nina doesn't even have feelings, other than cattiness and rage!
I wish someone would have explained why models of avant-garde designs are supposed to hunch over. This poor model looks like she's going to topple:
After the extravaganza of the layer cake dress, Chris and Christian's ready-to-wear design was a bit disappointing. The look was nice, but a little too Sears for me. This is Project Runway! I expect Bloomingdale's at least.
With one notable exception, all of the designers created relatively mundane ready-to-wear looks.
A boring dress was a victory for Victorya and Jillian -- for a while, it looked like they weren't even going sew a second look.
I was surprised that time management was the only conflict between Jill and Vic. Both are such intense perfectionists, I expected them to be at each other's throats.
Instead, they worked together and created an amazing avant-garde look. The coat was fabulous and the tartan details fit perfectly with the model's punk ponyhawk. Even more impressive? The fact that the riding pants and blouse underneath were more than an afterthought. Avant-garde or not, I would have taken that blouse home on the spot.
There is something very the Clash-meets-Jack the Ripper about this outfit. It's awesome:
Since Victorya and Jill weren't fighting, maybe Rami felt like he had to pick up the slack. He claimed the animosity toward partner Sweet P was due to her sloth at the sewing machine. But I think the real reason is Rami, the winner of two previous challenges, sees Bottom Two-prone Sweet P as beneath him as a designer (despite the fact that she did well last week.)
So it was sweet to see how the situation reversed itself. Rami thought Sweet P was going to bring him down, but his attitude was the killer here. Note to Rami: You can find women wearing pants under a dress on every street corner in America. That idea may have been avant-garde in 1942, but it's de rigour in 2008. Rami also proved once again that he's coasting on his draping skills. Even the judges noticed this week.
All of this look is 1942, not just the pants. It looks like something Lauren Bacall would have worn in her ingenue days:
Meanwhile, Sweet P did a great job with the ready-to-wear look. Hers was the only second design that didn't look like an afterthought.
I actually thought Kit's avant-garde look was better than Rami's; at least she tried to go over-the-top. Unlike the judges, I also liked the fabrics she and Ricky used. Their execution missed the mark, however.
The dress looks like a costume for actors on the Alice in Wonderland float at Disney World:
Too bad Ricky wasn't team leader. Kit probably wouldn't have made it to the top three -- she spent her entire run out of the spotlight, but I think the judges would have had taste issues with her eventually. But she deserved to outlast Ricky.
Ricky is shaping up to be this season's stealth underachiever. He's been in the Bottom Two multiple times. Each time, however, his errors haven't been as heinous as the other contender for ousting. I keep telling myself that Ricky's luck has to run out eventually. Then I remember that Wendy Pepper -- the world-famous, original stealth underachiever -- managed to make it to Fashion Week.
But lightning never strikes twice -- or does it?
Next week: The designers create looks using mystery materials stored in a New York warehouse.