Project Runway: The Billboard’s the Limit


Top 10 Revelatory Moments From This Week’s Project Runway

1. The Oliver Twist undercurrent that runs so fiercely throughout Runway (think about it: cramped confines, rigorous wailing, repurposed rags) has never been so apparent than in this episode’s early arc. We open on Mondo, Denver’s most fluorescent woodland creature, hiding in the bathroom from the other contestants, picking up items and forlornly setting them back down. Persecution complex, glorious persecution complex!

2. This week’s challenge, as issued by Marie Claire Editor in Chief Joanna Coles: “Create a look that defines the Marie Claire woman.” The winning look will run on a Times Square billboard, directly adjacent to P. Diddy’s caustic yet lustful gaze beaming down from the Sean John poster.

3. During the Mood Fabrics spree, Valerie reveals herself to talk exclusively in the indefatigable, piercing staccato of a bona fide Valley Girl. Hats off to you, girl, and your two extra syllables inserted into every “maybe.”

4. Jason attempts the relative high-concept approach of an “infinity dress,” something attempted once to woeful results in a prior Runway season. Tim Gunn, after praising Mondo for having a table of unsewn scraps, is markedly more cynical toward Jason’s equally unfinished remnants. “I’m a straight guy in a gay man’s world,” moans Jason. Right, buddy, you should take that injustice straight to the Supreme Court.

5. Casanova, after ushering out a diaphanous mermaid/showgirl ensemble last week, offers up a prim satin jacket with exaggerated balloon sleeves. From J. Lo at the car show to Carolina Herrera at the synagogue? That takes skill. A perverse skill, but one nonetheless. 6. Nicholas’s violet, backless satin blouse is unremarkable aside from the horrified sniff it elicits from Tim Gunn. Seriously, that inhalation would freeze lava.

7. The surprise mock photo shoot for each designer reveals that Jason’s “infinity” dress amounts to zero (a gaping hole over the model’s navel is exaggerated by stretched satin and intentional safety-pin closures) and Peach, with her matronly defiance, seems a few skips behind every trend.

8. On the runway, not one design commands the room. Valerie’s red shift with puffed neckline and exposed front zipper is chic, and Gretchen’s midnight-blue jumpsuit ruches nicely on the model. Michael’s crocheted drape sleeves frame a scandalously short skirt that his model tugs at desperately. Mondo’s tiered tweed mini is flirtatious but over-merchandised with clashing pink scarves. Andy’s grape top boasts sleeves that fan down like paper lanterns and wide-legged trousers with honest-to-God racing stripes down the rear. Kristin combines baby pink and khaki, and Heidi Klum’s head asplodes.

9. The judges are markedly kinder this week. Coles calls Gretchen’s jumper “easy” (we assume in the good way) and tells Mondo warmly, after he reveals his inspiration to be Mary Tyler Moore, that she also idolizes the actress. Valerie’s lipstick-red dress is universally acknowledged as “sexy.” Peach’s staid, pink polka-dotted two-piece is decried as “Desperate Housewife, “Stepford Wife,” and every matronly allusion in between. Jason’s gaping Judy Jetson sack is, quite frankly, just crazypants.

10. Gretchen wins the challenge; it’s her second week in a row. (She will later cry when she sees supermodel Coco Rocha model her jumpsuit for the billboard.) Mumsy Peach is inexplicably safe, but, surprisingly, Jason and Nicholas are not–true to Heidi Klum’s vague threats about “one or more of you will be out,” both are unceremoniously eliminated. It’s genuinely a little unnerving, seeing two contestants sent home. Maybe there’s a trick up these voluminous sleeves yet.