Last night's was my favorite kind of episode: the "unconventional materials challenge". Seeing how each designer responds to being pushed out of their comfort zone is very telling and the end results are usually a grab bag of fantastic disasters and unexpected successes.

Homegrown designer and two-time challenge winner Gretchen Jones was worried that her look would end up "cheeseball." Here she is discussing her shimmery pencil skirt with Tim Gunn, who is not nearly as worried as she is:

But how did it go over with the judges?

Like gangbuster! I'm glad Gretchen didn't win solely because I like her too much to have that big of a target on her back. However, I thought her look was far and away the best on the runway. Each separate piece was made beautifully and they went together like whoa.


I want to say more about Gretchen but first let's turn our attention to the winner this week, Andy. I have to agree with Gretchen's repeated statement that Andy's aesthetic is a lot like student work. He seems to be testing the waters a lot, still figuring out who he is as a designer. Sometimes those tests yield something great, though, and his design this week was pretty eye-popping. I didn't like the movement on the model and the fact that he had some help finishing it in time is a little ehhhh, but it's beautiful work. And the fact that it's made completely out of ribbon is stunning.


But back to Gretchen. She started out this episode pure class but, through a mix of selective editing and being free and loose with her opinions of other designers' work, didn't come off that well. I think it's important that she never stoops to talking about the other designers' personalities and is overall pretty kind and courteous. Girl definitely has a big head, though. Does she deserve to? Absolutely - to my mind she's won three challenges in a row - but moments like telling AJ he was "just being sensitive because [he was] on the bottom" were pretty cringe-worthy.

I also appreciate that she and Valerie seem to have a really healthy relationship, Valerie being her top competitor. Valerie has showed strong in each challenge and I really thought her elegant napkin dress had a chance of winning here. I wasn't as taken with the bare, strappy back, but the front is gorgeous.


I also loved Mondo's piece. It was both crazy and understated, which is my favorite design aesthetic. It also moved on his model better than other fussed over pieces like Ivy's Jim Henson thing or Michael C's flamenco dress, which both hung on their models like sacks. Mondo is definitely my dark horse candidate.

Of course, Sarah's "sad and boring" palm tree dress got her kicked off, as well it should have. Casanova's was a total mess that flew in the face of the challenge criteria ("I don't want to experiment," he says to Ivy) but at least it was fun to look at and tailored relatively well. Plus he's too weird of a character for the producers to let go yet.

Michael C irritated me all episode with his catty talking-heads about everyone else. I know some folks tune into Project Runway for the bitchiness, but it only interests me if someone has the work to back it up and I think Michael's stuff is a snooze. Tim, however, delighted me with his usual mix of insight and good humor. Him laughing at Kristin's "wooly balls" was a Project Runway moment for the scrapbooks, as was his telling peach to "take the coal out of [her] rear end and turn it into a diamond". Only Tim could say that and have it sound kind of sweet.

Oh yeah, and Ivy was taken away in an ambulance. Exhaustion? Not eating enough? We won't know until next week. It's possible Sarah will get a second chance...

Stray notes and quotes
Valerie and Tim talking about My Fair Lady was a dream.
"I prefer the wooly balls." - Tim Gunn
Casanova really brutalized those "plush puppies."
I loved the cut from Casanova buying all the table cloths back to Tim telling them not to use table cloths as Casanova looked on in open-mouthed confusion.
Casanova's piece according to Michael Kors: a transvestite flamenco dancer at a funeral.
Gretchen's too rad to be the villain this season. But how does she find time to go around and critique everyone else's stuff and remind people to keep their stations clean?