Project Recap: Halloween Comes Early

Bob Mackie -- or the "Sultan of Sequins," as Tim Gunn so flamboyantly introduced him -- was the designer judge and the inspiration for this week's challenge on Project Runway. Master of Madonna's sparkling bodice, Diana Ross's sequined head and hips and Cher's tinseled titties, Mackie is the go-to guy for stage-wear.

So the designers had to design a stage costume -- not fashion, as Mackie stressed -- for none other than white-haired siren Christina Aguilera (also serving as the fourth judge this week). She's rocked the bedazzled hotpant and the plunging neckline. She's worked cornrows to corsets. This wasn't going to be an easy challenge for so many designers who have either understated style or fairly refined inspirations. But even with a hard challenge, combining Mackie and Aguilera meant Project Runway finally got back the flamboyant gay spirit that Lifetime seemed to have sucked out of it -- even if only for two-minute spurts here and there.

It was obvious who had issues from the moment the crew returned from Mood with their glitzed out fabrics, and the incredibly confident -- and just as bitchy -- Irina said as much. But she was wrong in several cases.

Christopher was excited about designing for Aguilera but was manufacturing some strange double outfit -- one would get ripped open to reveal a sexier and sparklier number beneath ... ideally. He had the right materials and the right energy, but his construction looked shady from the get-go. I didn't have a problem with the bubble-skirted outer-fit had it been for a teen girl, but it seemed real wrong for Aguilera. Plus, come Tim Time, the under-look was lame. And I don't mean the shiny fabric, I mean L-on-the-forehead lame. Even Tim said, "There is a primness to this whole look. If you're going to have a reveal, it should be super-sexy slut or something." Made me laugh out loud. And rewind five times.

Gordana went in looking strong with some gorgeous fabric but ended up in a beading nightmare; every time she made a cut, her baubles fell off the dress. She started over fresh on Day Two and thanked the fashion gods she had won immunity the week before (this, by the way, is the last week that word will be uttered). Let's not even discuss her abominable evening gown with malformed nipples, because she's safe and it's not an issue.

Nicolas, whose idol is Bob Mackie and who was clearly totally stoked beyond belief about the challenge, seemed to have a handle on things until Tim told him he thought it looked too much like his frozen ice glue-head from a few weeks back. He reigned it in, edited some feathers and actually turned out a cute li'l showgirl number. I do want him to work in some color though. The boy has worked with enough white and platinum as of this challenge.

Irina, who likes to badmouth Carol Hannah and Shirin to her model and to America, ended up one for two on her fabric prediction when it came to the diminutive duo. Both of her sworn enemies stood pondering their fabrics for a bit in the beginning, and she would've liked them both to fall on their faces, but only one actually did while the other kicked ass and won the challenge. And we'll get to who did what, but for now, let's just say that at no time did I find anything I saw Irina working on interesting, and aside from Gordana (who had immunity, remember), Irina was the only one who was neither on top or bottom come results-time. Yeah, know why? Because her weird kinda-navy dress was truly unremarkable. Totally mediocre. I realize she's talented, but I think the vitriol she's been spewing is starting to taint her work. It wasn't spirited at all, and after everyone made great efforts to avoid Ice Capades-like outfits, her garment looked the most like one. Well done, Ice Queen.

Logan and Althea were fairly strong, with Althea beating him out this time on construction and Logan acing Althea in terms of concept. Her "9-foot sequined evening gown" would be perfect for performing a song like "Beautiful," and her strips of sequined fabric woven in with reversed pieces of the same fabric made for an eye-catching texture that even Mackie complimented. Logan got his length wrong and didn't push his "punk princess" to a punk-enough level, but the seed and potential were there ... even if Aguilera felt it looked a bit cavewoman what with the sleeveless fur shrug and the zebra print.

So ... about Carol Hannah and our local girl Shirin Askari. Let me describe the two's creations just a bit, and I'm guessing you'll figure out relatively quickly wether or not I'll be writing another Project Recap this season:

Carol Hannah began with no real design and a grab bag of every shiny fabric she could get her hands on. Shirin seemed equally timid and immediately questioned her "Dracula red" fabric, which never made it onto her look. But that's the last time the two had similar issues.

Tim's take on Carol Hannah's mid-way was one of pleasant surprise. He complimented her incorporation of the sequins and commended her decision to keep the dress full-length rather than risk the dreaded ice-skater costume if she pulled off the skirt. Ultimately, Nina Garcia (thank God she came back) called it glamorous, and Aguilera said she could see herself in it ... which um, I think, was kinda the point, Christina. Mackie loved CH's use of various shades and finishes of black on the feathers, sequins and fabric. Although they would've liked a reveal (what is it with the reveal? Does every skirt need to come off?), everyone gave it a thumbs-up.

Shirin, however, received a rather tragic review from Tim, and at one point was going to start over completely mid-way through the second day. I wish she had, honestly, because her look was so much like a cross between bad Beyonce fashion (from back in the early days -- you know you remember) and a pageant dress I sort of felt like I was rubbernecking a train wreck. The sad thing was, Shirin knew it, but just couldn't pull the miracle out of her ass to save it.

Unlike last week, a little patterned stitching was never going to save this dress. The criss-cross bondage neckline and the swishy sequined skirt didn't jibe, and Heidi even called it a "perfect Halloween outfit" likening it to a witch's costume in need of a pointy hat. Nina thought it had a Carmen Miranda moment at the bottom ... and I suppose I'd agree if Miranda were a Goth.

It seemed clear that Nina was trying to say something to save Shirin when she said that she knew she had talent and a "very meticulous hand." And truly, after two weeks in the bottom, I thought three strikes meant Christopher would be out for sure. Especially over Shirin. After all, while his concept was sweet, he gave a poorly executed Lady Marmalade outfit, and as Nina said, Aguilera has certainly been there and done that.

But while Makie likened Chris' outfit to "the road company of the Pussycat Dolls," the Genie in a Bottle loved Christopher's vision of her covering a Cyndi Lauper song and then revealing another outfit as she broke into an Aguilera original. I think she was the reason he stayed ... and Shirin was auffed for a too-big dress that in no way channeled the 1940s glamour she was going for, but instead clashed in style, overwhelmed its designer and underwhelmed the judges.

It's assinine, really, that Christopher is still freaking there after crafting the shiny shirtdress, the foil bubble, a corset Makie wouldn't put on the back-row chorus girl and, well, shit, all that damn crying. Maybe if the same panel of judges were there week after week, there would be some consistency (I mean seriously, Michael and Nina -- did you people not sign on to be on a weekly TV show? Show up or don't expect us viewers to, K?). But I'm assuming the producers have everything to do with the Christopher versus Shirin decision, and if I were them, at this point I'd want Irina to STFU too.

While there's no need for me to provide a recap anymore now that our last local gal has bid NYC auf weidersehen, I will say this about the next episode: I was excited for Nicolas to call Irina a bitch this week, and on the previews it looks like she will yet again be an issue -- at least according to Carol Hannah. And -- oh, hell, I cannot wait -- Heidi is going to tell someone, "It was just ugly." Yikes. Awesome yikes.

Oh, and for the record, as it stands I'm rooting for Carol Hannah FTW.

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Merritt Martin
Contact: Merritt Martin