Oh, God. Oh, God! Oh, Goddddddd! There is a moment near the end of the fourth episode of Project Runway that is so cringe-inducing, so weirdly shocking, and so awkward that I am still beset by paroxysms of secondhand embarrassment so strong that I can hardly catch my breath. Oh Godddd! I will never recover from this thing that did not happen to me and affects me in no way, shape, or form. I can’t even talk about it right now. I need a palate cleanser. And a mild sedative. Let’s change the subject.
Right up until the moment that I am not talking about yet, I had been fully prepared to pull out my big book of double entendres and tell you this week was all about the bottoms. The challenge is to make a chic, fun upcycled look for Karlie herself, which she’ll rock at a CFDA event in Paris. The designers skip Mode and go ham on a Goodwill at which almost everyone buys stacks of jeans, pants, and skirts. See? Bottoms. I hadn’t thought of this going in but (I know this will shock you) I am not a fashion designer. The key is the yardage that bottoms offer. This is especially important for someone like Kloss who is very tall, has long legs, and doesn’t want to wear anything too short. You’re not going to get the fabric you need ripping the stitches out of a Little League t-shirt.
Another view of bottomland: the Bottom Three. It has been a long time since I’ve seen an episode of Project Runway that so clearly indicated who would be in the bottom, even before the looks made it to the runway. The previews are continuing to push this Sergio villain edit that is just not materializing and I find it very strange. I think he’s just a pushy person but I have trouble believing he’s going to ascend or descend to anything close to a villain. So, if this isn’t the week of Sergio’s comeuppance, what is it? We finally get to know Chelsey Carter a little more after weeks of hovering in the periphery, and we even get some sorely needed info on Melanie Trygg, who was approaching Ann from Arrested Development levels of anonymity.
But it becomes clear that the focus on them is just backstory, whereas the continued focus on Shavi and Tyler which began last week spells trouble. Or, as the beleaguered Tyler put it “At this point I am Project Runway’s most popular bottom.” Well, that’s about as spicy as I can get without being arrested by Nina personally, so I will move on to some superlatives and, of course, that moment.
Best Upcycle Material
Everybody grabbed all the denim they could get their hands on―Chelsey picked up 15 pairs; Nancy made a wide-bottom skirt with eight or nine. But the most versatile material for my money has got to be a skirt. The yardage! You can do anything with it, like Brittany who creates billowy sleeves out of a pleated skirt. Make a shirt from a skirt, everyone!
Worst Upcycle Material
So. Many. Blazers. At times the runway looked like a drag show where the theme was “Annie Lennox in the ‘Sweet Dreams Are Made of This’ music video.” It sounds like fun but it gets old quick. It should be said that the winning look was an actually inventive take on a blazer dress. But it should also be said that Shavi’s look, which combined three blazers, two pants, and a dress to create a motorcycle jacket-inspired top and pinstriped pencil skirt was described by guest judge Laverne Cox as “dystopian, bargain basement office party.” My word!
Most Stylish Stylist
The contestants get guidance this week from Karlie’s stylist Karla Welch and she is a dream. I love the way she knows Karlie’s taste inside and out and subtly shades the aspects where the client’s taste diverge from her own. And I absolutely love the prescriptive advice she gives. I truly love prescriptive advice. If you know how to fix something I’m making, don’t wait for me to get there, just tell me. We can go have mimosas with all the time we’ll save by you just bossing me around. Karla straight up tells Chelsey to just make the wide-leg pants that she’s wearing on the day of the Goodwill shopping trip for her design. She cuts to the quick with Delvin and Nancy. I love someone who has answers!
Most Uninspired Inspiration
Marquise, whose blazer with shoulder cut-outs (one of ELLE.com’s biggest style regrets of the decade) lands him in the bottom three with Shavi and Tyler, is asked what about his look reflects Karlie’s inspiration. His answer? “…She’s tall.” Okay.
Sergio may not be the villain but that doesn’t stop his barrage of supercilious statements and weird non sequiturs like when he inserts himself into Tyler’s process with unasked for advice and remarks “If I die and I’m the only one who knows that specific thing, then it dies from the world.” Hon, we’re talking about gold buttons on a sailor pant, not the solution to climate change.
Most Money Ever
The designers all get $150 to spend at Goodwill, which is essentially a fortune.
Worst Moment of My Entire Life
Okay. We have to do this. I’m still shaking, but it may just be the chill from my shoulder cutouts. So, to review: the assignment was to make something cool and chic for Karlie Kloss to wear to a CFDA event in Paris. We’re talking fashion on fashion; cutting edge stuff. But also tailored to Karlie’s taste. I think it’s fair to say that Tyler just gets lost in the sauce with this one. He keeps bringing up First Ladies, Jackie O, and Kennebunkport. Karlie is from St. Louis and Jackie O was 5’7″ so what’s the story here, hon? I could psychoanalyze this misstep for days but suffice it to say: his first inclination is to do a sailor-y Reno Sweeney-style wide pant but then at the last minute he crafts a dark pencil skirt and a white, high-collared sleeves blouse with a tuxedo ruffle. The judges hate it and for good reason, I suppose. It’s a conservative look that would better work on a job interview at Fox News than at a fashion party in Paris.
So, things don’t look good for Tyler and he knows it, but he’s proud of the look. He later says he’s going to remake it for himself and use it in his drag act (his persona, Kimberly Onassis, is a first lady, you’ll recall). Fine, fine. The judges are still not here for it. “I cannot see Karlie wearing this anywhere,” Brandon remarks. And Tyler replies, “Not even to dinner with the Kushners?”
AND ALL OF THE AIR WHOOSHES OUT OF THE ROOM LIKE A BOMB WENT OFF. Every judge’s face is tight, but Karlie experiences a range of emotions that I haven’t seen since Matthew McConaughey watched the video in Interstellar. First is shock, then genuine surprise, confusion, and then a head tilt that read “I know you just did not” as clear as day.
It’s so weighted and so fraught and so terrible that I really wanted the screen to just go black like the end of The Sopranos. I thought for a long time about what the issue was. Are we not allowed to acknowledge that Karlie Kloss is married to Joshua Kushner, brother of Jared Kushner, controversial advisor to the president? (And if we’re not, please delete this sentence and all following and end this recap with a black screen.) Does the mere mention of the Kushners seem like an insult? I think it’s maybe a smidge of that, but mostly I think it’s that Tyler’s defense of himself was both specific and pointed. He didn’t say “not even to dinner with your in-laws,” which itself would have still been a bit too much. And he didn’t say “not even to a CFDA event in Kennebunkport?” By putting Karlie’s family’s name in his mouth, he took something that was professional and about his development and made it about her and the things he reads about her life in the tabloids. He later made it clear that he didn’t mean anything by it, but it’s the sort of slip of the tongue that, I think, reveals an internal line of thought. Whenever this has happened to me, I felt the bone deep embarrassment not only for saying something gauche but for being revealed. It was profoundly confusing and strange moment with sharp edges all around, something that’s rare for a show as genial as this.
Winning Look (and also my Favorite Look)
Victoria successfully deconstructs two full men’s suits and makes them into an asymmetrical belted wrap dress with cutouts. “This to me is the only piece that actually feels like a fully formed idea that was executed to perfection,” Elaine says. So congratulations to Victoria and let’s never speak of this episode again.