Last episode’s previews hinted some “special ladies” would take part in this episode’s special challenge. Who are they? What is so special about them? The designers are about to find out. A large silhouette appears behind the scrim at the Parsons runway. Suede gasps. Suddenly, a line of middle-aged women in knee-length print skirts walks single file onto the runway. “What?” Suede says. Korto wonders in her vlog if the women are the designers’ mothers. She is worried she might snap if someone ‘talks badly to her mama.’ Jerell is confused in his vlog because he thinks these women are someone’s mothers, but “I don’t see Korto’s or mine” he says.
Heidi tells the group these women will be an important part of the challenge but they are not the clients. “Awesome, because none of us want to design an old lady outfit, to be honest,” Leanne vlogs chirpily. How startlingly tactful of you, Leanne. I’m sure these women are thrilled to hear they are officially ‘old ladies’ at 50. At any rate, Heidi shows who they will be designing for. A line of younger women appears and stands beside the older women. Jerell worries in voiceover that the younger women are high school age and they will have to design prom dresses. That challenge was done last season though. The show doesn’t actually repeat challenges that often; the Gristedes grocery challenge and the digital photo inspiration challenge are the only two I can think of. And those were not in consecutive seasons. So two prom dress challenges two seasons running would be unusual.
Heidi gives more details. The younger women are recent college graduates. Their mothers, standing beside them, would like them to have a makeover to ready them for the job market. The women now introduce themselves. The daughters give their ages; the mothers pointedly do not, but it shouldn’t matter. The daughters are the actual clients. The mothers are only there to ‘help’ and to oversee the work a bit. Button Bag gets put to work for once; he must be happy. Heidi chooses designers’ names and pairs them with the mother/daughter teams beginning from Heidi’s right. Kenley’s name is drawn first and she likes her client Anna’s style. Anna wears a large plaid shirt, glasses, and a large bleached streak in her dark hair. Korto’s name is pulled next, and gets Megan. Megan has shoulder length curly hair and a chartreuse tank top. Korto gives a resigned wave Megan’s way.
Joe is paired with Laura, a slightly larger young lady. Laura wears a purple sleeveless tank, a yellow and black checked ‘outdoor’ scarf, and a black skirt. Her hair is burgundy. If her taste is as muddled as her outfit seems, I predict trouble and confusion as she tries to communicate her wishes to Joe. Leanne is matched with Holly. Holly seems fresh scrubbed, basic and ‘all American’ – a good style match for Leanne, I think. Also, something about the Holly Hobbie lookalike Leanne drawing a client named Holly appeals. Suede is matched with Avital. The two have matching peroxide hair, although Suede has a blue streak and Avital has four inches of dark roots. The last team by default is Jerell and Caitlin. Caitlin is tall, thin, and lanky, with close-cropped hair, bleached bangs, large sunglasses atop her head and a green, V-neck T-shirt. She smiles shyly as her mother beams a large smile her way.
Teams chosen, everyone goes to the workroom. Tim enters and informs the designers they will meet with their clients for 30 minutes, then shop at Mood with a $100 budget. As Tim leaves, Joe begins worrying: If the mother likes it, the daughter won’t, yada yada. He has daughters at home and says he has seen this dynamic up close. The clients come in and everyone introduces themselves up close. Kenley and Anna hit it off immediately, each convinced they got the best pick. Anna is a buyer for an accessories firm, and likes vintage clothing. Megan tells Korto she likes dresses, and is about to attend medical school or graduate school. She will work in a laboratory at the school as well. Megan’s mom Amy tells Korto that her daughter looks great in classic or in funky clothes. Korto sees herself as a “hip mom” who should be able to relate to a 21-year-old. Korto plans to make a wrap dress that “moves” for Megan so she can work in it.
Caitlin tells Jerell she was trained as a printmaker and wants to be a painter’s assistant. Jerell likes that they are both “tall and lanky and awkward.” Caitlin tells him she is more androgynous than “girly.” Jerell sketches a “high waist pencil skirt, blousy top, and man-style cardigan.” At Leanne’s work table, Holly is saying in a loud voice that she wants to be taken seriously and “not look like a kid.” Too bad she isn’t saying she doesn’t want to sound like a megaphone. Give our ears a break, Holly. Leanne quietly listens. She seems in danger of being overwhelmed by the talky mother/daughter team, but her eyes are calm, her mouth firm. Holly’s mother Ellie chatters away at Leanne, peppering her with questions and advice. Holly tells Leanne that Ellie would buy “anything with animals.” Well, would they buy a Leannimal?
Suede asks Avital what she majored in. Avital is a photographer and wants something she can go to a job interview in as well as work in. She says she often photographs from ground level and “rolls around a lot.” Her mother Yaffa echoes Avital’s concerns. Suede vlogs in the third person that he does not want to “go down that pant road.” Meanwhile, at Joe’s work station, Laura’s mother Janet cautions Joe against her daughter “losing her identity.” It isn’t clear just what that identity might be, based upon what she’s worn to Parsons. Joe plans a skirt suit for Laura. Laura wants the jacket to “still be sexy.” Joe says he will make it “fit you in the right places.” Laura’s mother looks away, frowning as if Joe was discussing making Laura a thong.
Conference time over, the group heads to Mood, minus their clients, to shop. Korto buys some “burlappy cotton” and some leather. She jokes that since Stella is gone, she is the new “queen of leathah.” Joe shops in the menswear section. Tim looks at the bolt of navy pinstripe fabric and quips, “This looks like me.” Kenley muses aloud: “I’m going to make the prettiest dress in the world.” Suede wants a “Pucci-esque print with purple in it.” He finds exactly that, so brags in the third person. Time’s up and the group pays and begins to leave. Tim waves goodbye to Swatch. Who is Swatch? A dog in a chair! Mood has a mascot? Cute.
Back at Parsons, work begins. We see Leanne’s color sketch. It looks like a 1950s coat dress. The jacket is a bit Chanel – square and grey. The skirt is a bit like a swing dress. It could end up very chic, or dowdy. We learn that Leanne’s first job was for a small fashion house. She says she decided back then that she’d rather have her own fashion line. Joe vlogs that his first job was for Gucci and he was “bitten by the fashion bug very early on.” We see old photos of them both. Both have round, baby faces. They look so young! Joe looks the most changed, since his first job was probably two decades prior. We also see Kenley’s post-college photograph. She looks the same, but it wasn’t that long ago. She says she has been through many jobs and obstacles and has fought her way through them.
Jerell’s first job was for McDonald’s. His old photo looks like a model’s head shot (and he is an ex-model). He looks about 12 in the photo but is probably in his late teens. He says that he got a lot of free food there, and “bad skin from standing over a fryer.” Tim enters the room and sends in the clients. There will be thirty minutes for a fitting. As I had feared, the daughter with the fussiest style is also proving to be the fussiest client. Laura doesn’t have a small objection – she dislikes the very fabric of Joe’s creation. Laura’s mother Ellie reassures Laura she will look sharp. Joe thinks he can “make Laura happy in the final look.” Korto’s client wears a short wrap dress in a large green and white print. Megan isn’t saying a lot, but doesn’t seem thrilled. Megan’s mother appraises the look, nodding silently.
Kenley fits the floral top she has made onto her client. “Isn’t this print amazing? I love it. Wow,” Kenley enthuses. Jerell vlogs that Kenley can make “one hell of a fifties dress, but that’s all she serves up.” Kenley’s client seems very pleased, however. Leanne’s clients are not pleased at all. The mother thinks the embellishments weigh her daughter’s bustline down. “You look flat chested” she says. Futhermore, she says, if they saw that outfit in a department store they would “pass it by as unflattering.” Jerell vlogs that they were all waiting to see who would get the “Hedda Lettuce in this challenge, and it seems like it might be Leanne.” Hedda Lettuce was a client in a previous challenge who had a lot to say about her designer’s ideas – none of it favorable. Tim returns to the workroom and the clients leave. Leanne wearily wonders if she will have to redo all her “hard work.” Korto sympathizes.
Nine PM, three hours until the end of the first work day. Suede drapes his “purple Pucci-esque” fabric across his dress dummy and likes it so much he decides to “sell Avital on the dress idea.” As Joe adds “crazy color” to his client’s dark pinstripe jacket, Jerell drily asks him whether a lot of girls have pocket squares. Joe leans forward and wearily rolls his eyes. Kenley vlogs that Joe’s outfit is a “bad 1980s suit.” Look at the vintage pot calling the ‘80s kettle black. In the workroom, Jerell asks Kenley if he can borrow a pocket square. She brings him a scrap of her purple floral fabric, giggling all the way. Jerell tucks the scrap into his shirt pocket. To a large extent this pantomime rolls off Joe’s back. “Opinions are like… no, I won’t say that” he laughs in his vlog clip. As the group leaves at the end of the work day, Jerell calls over his shoulder, “Come on Joe. You can work on Nancy Reagan tomorrow.” Reagan was, of course, First Lady during the 1980s and famous for her power suits.
The next morning, only the daughters are there for their fittings. Joe hopes the judges will appreciate the fit and tailoring in his garment. Jerell has his client stand atop a chair so he can adjust her hemline. Leanne shows her client Holly the reconfigured garment. Holly gasps; she loves it. Avital thinks Suede’s print dress is “gorgeous” and says she would wear it. “Instead of the pant?” Suede asks, and she says yes. Tim enters the room and introduces special guest Jeanie Syfu. Jeanie is lead stylist at Tresemme. She will help the designers advise their clients as to the hair and makeup styles for the runway show. Jeanie adds that the winning look will appear in Elle magazine. Just so it isn’t a cover shot appearing in every episode of Project Runway next season, I think that’s good. The designers and clients and Jeanie exchange ideas in the Tresemme salon. The cuts aren’t changing much but many will get a new color.
Time for Tim. He approaches Suede’s design first. He is concerned that the sleeves and pockets are uneven and the jacket looks sloppy. As for Joe’s pinstripe suit, Tim thinks it looks more banker than graphic designer. Joe counters that he “wasn’t relating to the field.” Tim counters that the point of the challenge was the field the clients are entering. Joe vlogs that he is “not concerned.” Oh, when will they ever learn? As for Jerell, he tells Tim he can tell his client “feels beautiful” in his design. Tim looks at the assembled outfit on the dress dummy. He utilizes that word designers must love to hear during Tim Time: “stunning.” Jerell lights up and thanks Tim. Tim looks at the back of the cardigan jacket more closely. He advises Jerell to "watch every centimeter" – of the fit, I assume. Tim can’t give outright instructions so he lets the emphases his voice gives bring all the clues.
Next, Tim asks Kenley about her outfit. Kenley insists her client loves it. Tim says it would be “just as adorable” if the tulle didn’t protrude from beneath the skirt’s hemline quite as far. Kenley replies with a curt “mm-hm.” She vlogs, “I’m not gonna listen to that.” In the workroom, Tim sighs almost imperceptibly and thanks Kenley for her time. Tim advises the group to use their time wisely and he exits. Joe and Korto begin chatting about their daughters. Joe seems thrown by the "mother-daughter dynamic" as he keeps calling it. Something about the conversation prompts him to phone home. Joe exchanges googly talk and “I love you” assurances with his family. “No, I miss YOU more” is the jist of the conversation. Sometimes this type of thing means a designer is about to be sent home; the editors will let us see a bit more of them first. But Joe’s done this same scene in a prior episode, so who knows.
We see the designers chatting with each other in their Atlas apartments after the work day ends. Basically they are all talking against Suede’s design. Kenley says Suede “is not a good designer, because he can’t interpret his style into different looks.” Look who’s talking, Miss Fifties. Not content to stop there, she vlogs that Suede is "horrible" and a “poseur.” Kenley, they are not making a sequel to Mean Girls. Just stop it, okay?
Next morning at Parsons, the college grads try on their outfits. In an hour they will be sent to hair and makeup. Today the styling ‘makeover’ will count for some of the points in the judges’ scores. Styling is always considered but today it is a specific part of the challenge. Leanne and Joe fuss over the jackets on their clients. Kenley pronounces her own design “perfect.” As she and her client leave the room for Tresemme salon, Jerell quips, “Miniature Kenley.” In the salon, Jeanie wants Avital to have darker hair and “really shattered layers.” Avital has said at the consultation earlier that she doesn’t want her hair cut much shorter; her boyfriend loves it long. Anna’s hair is now dark and shiny instead of dry looking with a big bleached chunk. Holly’s hair also looks more sleek and grownup. After being made up as well, the clients return to the workroom for finishing touches. Tim gives a ten minute warning. Jerell vlogs that Suede’s design is “very 1992.” Tim leads everyone to the runway.
Heidi appears there in a big smile and a single strap, dark green mini dress. Her hair is styled casually, down and straight. She introduces the regular judges Michael and Nina, along with the guest judge, designer Cynthia Rowley. Cynthia says a cheerful “Hi.” We see the designers waving hello back, and – what is that on Jerell’s head? Moving on… Heidi reminds them all the winner will be featured in a Tresemme ad in Elle magazine and the loser will be out. “Let’s start the show,” Heidi says. The clients’ mothers are seated next to the designers; the mothers look happy, even thrilled, to be there.
Joe’s client is first down the runway. Laura is a graphic designer. She wears a navy pinstripe skirt suit with a red white and blue striped shirt underneath. It is all obviously menswear fabric. The shirt is poorly fitted and stiff. It seems to add bulk to the client. The skirt is simple and knee length. Ellie is in what seem to be happy tears. Leanne’s client Holly is next. She is in a dark dress with a boxy grey jacket. The jacket is in a soft material that makes the look a bit less harsh. However there is something a bit too youthful about the vague line of the jacket and the simple dress. I can almost see an Eloise straw hat perched atop her head, although of course there isn’t one. The point had been to make Holly seem older and more authoritative. I’m not sure this does. As for the description: A boxy grey jacket, cropped at the waist, with a strip of dark grey fabric from one shoulder to the other in a ‘swoosh’ formation. There is a vertical grey stripe down the middle of the jacket front, with three large light grey buttons at the top of it. The collar is round and loose. There is another dark grey ‘swoosh’ line across the back of the jacket. Holly opens the jacket to reveal a purple vertical stripe in the bodice of the plain dark dress. Ellie is grinning.
Jerell’s client Caitlin is trained as a printmaker and aspires to be an artist’s assistant. Her short hair is slightly different, all dark now, with stringy edges. Her makeup is a bit orangey and plain; but she seems happy, and comfortable in her new look. The outfit’s palette has a narrow range, overall dark and muddy tones. As promised, Jerell has made a “mannish cardigan” with a slim skirt and ruffly blouse. The skirt is mid-thigh length, which adds some spice. Caitlin is tall and slim with long legs, and Jerell has played up her attributes. The detailing on the back of the cardigan is beautifully done; the fit is perfect on Caitlin. Not everyone could carry off that long cardigan without looking like a bowling pin, but she can. The back of the cardigan jacket is a long rectangle shape basically but Jerell added a snappy little accent belt in back. There is a lighter brown fabric at the bottom edge. Caitlin’s mom seems thrilled.
Korto’s client Megan is a biologist and will work in a school laboratory while continuing her education. She models a green, white, and black print wrap dress topped by a leather jacket. The jacket is light brown and very fitted. There is a high, sort of Nehru-style collar, thin black piping breaking up the jacket’s surface, and a keyhole neckline. The jacket’s silhouette is flattering and slimming, but I’m having trouble imagining where the client would wear this. Not on a job interview or in a lab with corrosive chemicals I’m guessing. Maybe out to the bar to kibbitz with colleagues after work. Megan and her mom do seem happy though. As for the makeover, Megan’s hair is still frizzy but the cut is rounder and shorter. The color seems the same, despite Jeanie’s stated plan during the consultation, to add “chunks of copper”. The outfit is flattering to Megan, although the hemline seems a bit short as she leaves the runway. It’s to the point where, if Megan sat down, the dress would hike up to her thigh. I’m not sure that would be great news while interviewing, or working in a lab.
Suede’s client Avital is out next. The biggest change is Avital’s hair. It has gone from peroxide-blond to dark brown. The texture is bouncy and shiny, as opposed to the prior straw-dryness that didn’t seem to move. She looks much prettier and younger than before. However she seems to speed-walk down the runway. Is she self-conscious? She removes her jacket very quickly too, nearly tearing it off. Suede’s jacket has flounces at the cuffs. There are also purple ribbons at the cuffs and criss crossing over the sideways pockets. It is a slightly hippie-ish look. I like it but admittedly I’d have worn it in the early ‘90s. The 1960s/1970s fashions enjoyed a bit of a resurgence then. Jerell may have been right but I still like the jacket, myself. Anyhow, the dress underneath is pretty and purple. Its neckline is angled toward one shoulder similar to a toga. Two thin purple straps reach from the lower side of that neckline and criss cross over her bare back. The hemline is knee length. Avital exits very quickly as her mother Yaffa watches her, beaming.
Kenley’s client Anna’s hair looks pretty but her makeup is way too heavy. She wears her thick glasses which compete with the hair ornament she’s been given. “Miniature Kenley” indeed. There is a print blouse topped by a burgundy skirt and vest and a high, flesh-tone belt. The skirt is bunchy, the vest small and tight. The outfit makes her belly look bare, and adds pounds to her hips. The tulle still sticks out below the hemline. This outfit does Anna no favors but her mother Nancy seems to like it. Nancy and Kenley exchange giggles in the audience. Now the runway show is over. Heidi requests that the mothers leave so the judging can begin. The designers and clients all step onto the runway.
Now the designers all must explain their work. Kenley says she thinks Anna would look cute in Elle magazine. The judges don’t seem to mind this boast; they merely laugh. Heidi tells Kenley, “You found a little Mini Me!” Nina, Cynthia and Michael all like the outfit, calling it “charming.” Joe is next and says he wanted his client to look professional. Cynthia says suits are not the only option. Heidi asks Laura if she likes it. Laura says she prefers it without the jacket. Michael Kors thinks it looks like a 60-year-old woman’s idea of professional. He mentions the pocket square, which sets Kenley off in a fit of giggles. Joe glares at Kenley. Kenley and her Mini Me continue their cascade of surreal giggles. They even sound alike. See, we all knew cloning was bad and wrong.
Korto says about her client Megan: “She loves every shade of green.” Michael Kors thinks the design looks like a girl of 21. Heidi asks if Megan likes it. Megan loves it. Cynthia loves the “really cool” jacket, and Nina thinks it is well made, modern, and professional. As for Leanne and Holly, Leanne explains Holly is looking for a teaching job. Nina requests to see under the jacket. The judges sigh in visible relief as they see the dress. Cynthia Rowley even says it was a much needed relief. Everyone seems more relaxed, as if they had feared having to send Leanne home. Nina feels the silky, blue and purple dress is “much more charming than the jacket.” Michael thinks Leanne should’ve shown off her client’s “cute little body” and Cynthia thinks the outfit should have been more casual and comfortable. Leanne silently nods.
Jerell tells the judges Caitlin wanted something androgynous and got it. The judges all love Caitlin and her new look. “I love this hair; I love this look; you’re hired,” Heidi raves. Heidi needs a printmaker? Cynthia thinks the outfit is great on Caitlin’s body type. Nina says she likes the “juxtaposition of the casualness, the oversize cardigan with the frilly blouse.” Heidi asks Caitlin how she liked working with Jerell. “It was great from the beginning; he made me feel pretty so that made it even better,” she enthuses. “You are pretty, girl,” Jerell replies.
Lastly, Suede describes his client, Avital. He says, as a photographer, she wanted something “strong and artistic.” Cynthia thinks the jacket is “gratuitous” and doesn’t go with the dress. Kors says he would never in a “zillion years guess photographer.” Suede justifies the slightly dressy dress by claiming Avital wanted something that could go from day to evening. “Just change your clothes,” sniffs Cynthia Rowley. Michael Kors snuffles, and Heidi smiles. Nina really dislikes the jacket: “That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I will say no more.” Suede enunciates, “Ouch.”
Heidi excuses the group of designers and the judges compare notes. They love Jerell’s work and feel he really transformed Caitlin. They also liked Kenley’s work. Nina praises Kenley’s ability to “find prints and patterns,” especially “whimsical ones.” Michael Kors thinks Korto’s jacket for Megan was “the most perfectly tailored of any of the jackets we saw today.” Cynthia thinks the jacket “looked really expensive.” By way of contrast, they think Suede’s jacket for Avital was “a disaster.” They feel it aged her and seemed “from another decade.” They also disliked Leanne’s outfit for Holly. “It was really old fashioned,” Kors disapproves. As for Joe, “really out of touch” is Cynthia’s dismissive summation. “Becky Home Ec-y” Michael Kors says, comparing it to something sewn in a high school home economics class. Further, he describes it as something “you could wear to a Working Girl party.” He is referring to the 1988 film starring Melanie Griffith. She portrayed an overtly ambitious office worker who had bad taste in clothing.
Heidi recalls the designers. Korto is still in. Korto thanks Heidi simply, and leaves. Heidi congratulates this challenge’s winner: Jerell. Heidi reminds him that his look will be featured in Elle magazine. (Which fashion magazine has a product tie-in to this show, again? I’ve forgotten!) Jerell thanks the judges and says he really appreciates it. Kenley rolls her eyes and her mouth pinches into a frown. Jerell and his odd, leafy hat go backstage with a “Yay” and hug Korto. Vlog Jerell gives a cute, “Hell yeah!”
Heidi tells Kenley “good work” and excuses her from the runway. Kenley’s eyes water. “Thanks,” Kenley snaps, and she exits. Leanne is also in and can leave. Only Joe and Suede left. “Joe, you took a beautiful girl and aged her twenty-five years. Your look was a drab cliche.” Heidi turns to Suede and admonishes, “Your design was dated, overworked, and completely impractical.” Both men look tense but impassive. Joe is out. He looks upset but smiles and nods. Suede tensely exhales. Suede leaves the runway thanking everyone quietly. In his vlog comments, Joe again refers to his daughters. He says one of them always thought Heidi says “outsey daisy” instead of hearing “auf wiedersehn.” He says today was his “outsey daisy.” He says he feels good about his work on the show. Backstage, none of the other designers rise to their feet or hug Joe. Tim hugs Joe and says he “will be missed, tremendously.”
As Joe packs up his things upstairs in the workroom his voiceover narrates (once again) that he was in this competition for his daughters’ sakes. He wants them to always follow their dreams. “Don’t let anybody stop you,” he says, which is good advice. The lights go out on Joe’s work table. Then, we are shown footage of the photo shoot for Jerell and Caitlin’s Tresemme ad. In the finished ad there is a small photo of Jeanie Syfu styling Caitlin. There are also larger photos: a photo of Caitlin and Jerell standing together, and a photo of Caitlin from the waist up. She is wearing the blouse and skirt, no jacket. She is looking off to the side. The photo has a gamine, elfish quality. Overall the print ad is fairly subdued. Jerell says this prize is the “cherry on the cake.”
Next episode sounds intriguing. LL Cool J is the guest judge. The challenge somehow relates to music. In the previews Tim promises “the most unique show” thus far. An exasperated-sounding Tim cautions Kenley about her “sarcasm and facetiousness.” Let’s all wait while Kenley runs for her dictionary. And then asks how to spell the words. “What does Tim know, anyway?” is her reply in her vlog. Jerell and Korto seem tired of Kenley’s arrogance but also bemused. Nina patiently attempts to calm a churlish Kenley Collins. Why do they still put up with her? ‘Pretty’ can’t be that novel in their world. That giggle must have all the hypnotic charm of Homer’s Sirens. I don’t get it; even watching her at home feels like an Odyssey to me. See you next time.