1. We open on the Runway contestants’ Spartan apartment and an eloquent diorama of good versus evil, i.e., previous challenge winner Casanova chattering benignly about his recent victory as wicked sisters Gretchen and Ivy continue to verbally desecrate Michael C. Cut to stern, sepia flashback of Tim Gunn scolding the Runway lemmings for following the “manipulative” Gretchen into last week’s unsuccessful attempt to oust Michael C. It is even funnier in muted hue (important fashion lesson, ahoy).
2. Fraulein Heidi Klum barely contains her smirk as she ushers out a row of wildly saturated, over-embellished bridesmaid dresses. The contestants’ task is to turn them into ball-gags to mute Gretchen, or to make them fashionable, whichever way the individual wind blows. Mondo elects a woman in an abysmal, Pepto-pink satin number; a surprise awaits us all as she turns to reveal an ivory racing stripe running determinedly down her rear. Woof.
3. Michael’s model, inexplicably, bolts from the competition mere moments after being selected. This is not televised, but rather explained with a stilted deus ex machina finality in the workroom. A strange, genuine moment of drama in these aggressively stoked interpersonal embers, shafted for a lengthy segment of Gretchen wittering in baby-talk to her mother via webcam. “I’m realizing that life is more than fashion,” she expounds.
4. “What’s wrong with the bridesmaids dress industry, I ask?” glowers Tim Gunn. Papa Tim is, in fact, full of witticisms this episode, his witch trial the previous week having imbued him with new fervor. To wit:
5. “You should make her a thong and call it a day,” he says to Ivy after glimpsing her scanty proportions. 6. “That looks like a clubbing outfit, but look at me,” he chortles to Andy, gesturing at his own (assuredly Liz Claiborne Co.) ensemble.
7. The second-act twist this time ’round is an impromptu trade show, and a vaguely uncomfortable one at that. The contestants display their repurposed bridesmaid frocks in a vacant loft, then peddle their wares like old-timey elixer salesmen to random strangers filtering through. Ivy is incensed that Michael C is apparently spreadin’ some of the bad word on her. Peach lets her maternal charm ripple throughout the room, though it does not save her bizarre dust-ruffle of a racerback halter. April’s raggedy bow looks even more like knockoff Rodarte in the harsh overhead lights. The crowd votes for their favorites by dropping buttons into the designers’ fishbowls, an odd tithe that elicits no prize for the winner (Mondo) and doesn’t affect the judges’ decisions at all…
8. …because the judges are obviously just pulling some sociopathic mind games on the contestants. On the runway, guest Cynthia Rowley has the guns to disagree with Michael Kors; she loves Christopher’s brightly adorned dress. Kors shreds Peach’s tight, unbecoming separates as “Holly Hobby” and “avocado dinner napkin.” He also sounds the death knell and the general insult template of Runway: that her taste level is “questionable.”
9. The judges love Michael C’s swoop-hip, lace-and-satin, scandalously short black reinvention. As my roommate rightly points out, “They could have just as easily hated it for 10 reasons,” the first surely being the painful-looking puckering and seaming on the model’s caboose. More than ever, their rampant opinions gives the impression of furthering the drama, ensuring the contestants’ personal conflicts, rather than making some sort of impartial sartorial jurisdiction. Would they love Michael C so much if Gretchen and Co. hadn’t so ardently roasted him the week before? It seems improbable; the dress isn’t that superb, and pales next to Mondo’s clever gymnastics. Dude took apart his bubblegum frock, resewed it backwards, stitched immaculately sharp mod seams, and put a cherry on top. The cherry being that he doesn’t brag about his superlatives to his resentful fellow contestants, and Michael C does gleefully. To wit: “They said so many good things, I kinda forgot what they said.” This is received beautifully, of course.
10. Michael C wins, and the reception from his colleagues could frost over the sun. Jovial, mama-bear Peach is booted, to much crying from the others. And Ivy retreats deliberately into the background: somewhere out there is a baby seal in need of punching. And she will find it, by God she will.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 3, 2010