Project Runway Menswear Challenge

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Last Wednesday’s episode of Project Runway forced the designers to take on what might be the biggest single challenge on the show to date — menswear. When the 13 remaining designers had to swap their lithe, pretty female models who are always ready to wear every flowing, gauzy gown and Pocahontas-inspired shawl they could throw at them for male models that all needed exact tailoring to look good on the runway, you knew it was going to be an unforgiving challenge full of designer angst.

The surprise challenge was presented by former NFL player and sports broadcaster Tiki Barber, and his debut was the first time that I have witnessed my husband actually perk up and take interest in the show. His final verdict was that it was “ridiculous” to see him on the show, but the stunt did manage to rope in a few more male viewers — at least temporarily. Unlike my husband, most of the designers seemed unfamiliar with Tiki — their reactions were in stark contrast to the previous week’s ecstatic revelation of guest judge Sarah Jessica Parker — with the designer’s sentiments most aptly summarized by Steven, who said, “I know nothing about football except it’s probably the only time on television where spandex is acceptable.”

The designers were frantic about the challenge almost from the get-go, and rightfully so since tailoring a suit is one of the hardest things to do. I’ve been sewing with varying degrees of commitment for over 12 years, and I’ve still never tried to take on a full suit. But the thing to remember is that the challenge didn’t really require them to make a suit. Yes, the outfit had to be TV appropriate for Tiki, but several of the savvier designers made perfectly respectable outfits from a well tailored pair of pants and avoided the inherent pitfalls of constructing a suit jacket by pairing them with a knit top, a vest or even — in Kit’s case — a jacket made of fleece which is much more forgiving than traditional wool.

The hits were fairly good, though none of the designers had a lot of experience with menswear so nothing seemed too cutting edge. Jack ended up winning the challenge with a simple striped shirt with a bias-cut pocket and well made black pants. He probably should have included a third piece, but in this challenge keeping things simple was definitely the best strategy.

The misses in this challenge, though, were nothing short of spectacular! Oh, how I felt Sweet P’s pain when her shirt wouldn’t fit her model after she had already re-made it once. And I could certainly relate to Carmen when she declared, “This is why I admire those little old men who sit in those tailor shops all day — that shit is no joke,” while frantically trying to sew her jacket together. Despite their very best efforts, a few of the designers were in some seriously deep shit by the end of this challenge. Though Sweet P just narrowly avoided being eliminated, her good attitude throughout the challenge had me rooting for her the whole time. But she was saved by Carmen’s terrible 80s-looking, Members Only-style jacket and her “creative” use of a piece of fabric to stand in for what should have been a shirt. Carmen was out, Sweet P was in — barely.

Sweet P’s look was marred not only by pants that fit poorly (despite the fact that she traced Jack’s pants to use as a pattern, in a move that some called cheating), but it had the worst fitting shirt I have ever seen. That was until I was alerted to this Cosby Show YouTube video of Theo in a shirt made by his sister, Denise. About the only thing that sets them apart is Sweet P’s attempt to put a tie on the whole mess — this ingenious move truly sets her apart and makes her shirt the hands down winner of the Worst Shirt Ever Made Award. But I love her, and I’m glad she’ll be back for more in tomorrow’s episode.
-- Aubrey Shoe


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