Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pwoject Wunway

Pwoject Wunway: Are yoow in? Or are yoow oot? Auf weidersehen!

I know I'm in, and have been since the show was on the marvelous Bravo network. What am I talking about?  Project Runway, of course.  The American Idol for fashion designers. There's something about Project Runway that makes me think I'm suddenly a.) a fashion expert,  b.) a personality expert and (most dangerously) c.) a sewing wizard.

I first got hooked back in the Santino days.  Season two when Chloe Adorable Dao won and Nick I-Wear-Pink-With-Confidence Verreros got robbed of a top three spot.  I immediately fell for the sewing room sing-a-longs (I still know all the words to "Daniel Franco, where did you go...? ♫"), male-on-male bickering, Tim Gunn with his "Make it Work!" on constant loop and, or course, the clothes! Those flowing colorful lovely garments made in under 24 hours and out of anything from groceries to foliage to the boldest and brightest fabrics from Mood.  ("Thank you Moooood!!!")

Christian Soriano
I love color!  I have a rule that I must always be wearing at least at two a time.  On the lazy days that I don't follow this rule you will find me down in the dumps, no matter how happy I was before getting dressed.  Color is electric!  Color is life!  Color will win you Project Runway (unless you are Christian Soriano, then you can go as black as you want and still be a winner... so long as you construct collars that reach to the heavens, mountainous shoulders and whack-a-doodle hats.)

Santino & Austin had their own spin-off
After season two aired I immediately had to run out and buy season one on DVD.  Austin Scarlett anyone?  Every season since I've been glued to the tube (except for that first season that they switched to the Lifetime network in L.A. Snooozzze.) 

Clothes!  Color! Characters!  Like Andre, who cried us a river. Laura, the constant preggo.  Jeff, who we called Tattoo Neck for weeks before figuring out his actual name (And, probably still my favorite final collection in series history.)  Chris Marsh, the hair dresser.  No, not cosmetologist.  He made actual garments out of hair weave!  Mondo mod-boy.  Those three straight men they've spread out over the years.  The list goes on and on. 

I loved watching them interact and diagnosing their mental illnesses.  I can tell you, psychologically, why Nick started giving the silent treatment to Santino.  Why everyone was perturbed by Wendy Pepper (Although, I can't tell you how she made it to the finals.  Oh wait, yes I can. Lucky immunity from the Nancy O'Dell challenge.  I believe they ceased giving out immunity that close to the end ever since that little snafu. Poor Austin.) My heart soared when Santino, Andre and Nick would musically harmonize and I'd crack up when Santino would do his Tim Gunn impersonations.  Contestants on the newer  season often try to recapture that camaraderie of season two, but it can't be faked.  You can always spot the fakies by their too loud laughter and their peripheral glances to the camera when they think they've said something funny (Kenley, season 5.)  But, they're still characters and can still be easily diagnosed.  (Narcissistic sociopath.)

Then there's the mentor, Tim Gunn.  He'll come in as the designers are working and guide them along with phrases like, "It's a little costume-y" (the equivalent to Simon Cowell's "It's a little karaoke for me."), "I see alot of puckering. Is that going to be there on the runway?" (to which the designer will always make an immediate beeline for the steam iron instead of restitching the seam) and "You don't want to have a Hiawatha moment." (just happened, it's on right now.)  After his wisdom is properly dispensed, he'll turn on a heel and with pep in his step walk out of the room tossing a "Carry on!" over his shoulder and back into the workroom.  Love the Gunn! I'd like him to be my dapper rich uncle.  He always seems so genuine whenever he tells the cast-offs, "Awww... [name of person who just got booted], I'm sure gonna miss you!"  I believe he really does miss every one of them. 

There's also the three regular judges, Heidi Klum (also the show's host), Michael Kors, and Nee-nah Gah-SEE-ah (fashion editor Nina Garcia).  Michael whines out his critiques.   Heidi tries too hard to be tough.  And, Nina will never budge, so don't even try it.  Every week there's also a celebrity guest judge... which can range in taste anywhere from Zac Posen to Lindsay Lohan.  When the judges are commiserating after the runway show, the guest judge always tries to uselessly pipe in with weak critiques (usually just rewording what Heidi or Nina just said.)  You can separate the true fashion icons from the tabloid stars by noticing which guest judges the regulars actually listen to.  Easiest way to separate the wheat from the chaff (or the pearls from the oysters, if you will.) 

There's something inspiring about the show. The contestants make fashion design, pattern-making and sewing look so easy that I ran out and bought a sewing machine when I first started watching.  Having not touched one since eighth grade sewing class, I instantly jammed up the bobbin within an hour of taking it out of the box.  48 hours later the machine was back at the store and I ran swiftly away before it could follow me home again.

My post-Runway creativity buzz did however produce one garment from start to finish.  This pirate's vest (left.)  I made it from a remnant from the local fabric store.  I patterned it out on old newspaper.  Days later, after several gallons of blood, sweat and tears were shed, I ended up mildly pleased that I got the bottom edges to point outward in a somewhat costume-y way.  The back was embellished with a Halloween shop pirate's flag (as seen here on my nephew on the right.)  And, as you see, it was at least stiffly enough constructed to last through several Halloween seasons and survived one Michigan Halloween's night being worn by a very active young boy over top of a winter coat.  Lovely, maybe not.  But, certainly built to last!

Well, I can live without being able to make a ball gown from scratch.  But, I sure am glad other people possess these skills.  I need to be able to find colorful clothing in my local strip mall. (And, it doesn't hurt to find colorful characters when I switch on my TV either.)

**For more fashion fun. Check out the 1995 Isaac Mizrahi documentary Unzipped (guilty, bubble gum fashion fun) and Robert Altman's Ready to Wear (Pret-a-porte') - from 1994. Faux-fashion-scandolosity.**

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