Project Runway All Stars Recap: It’s A Fancy Dress Party!

Ok kiddos, it’s episode two of Project Runway All Stars and just as the clothes are sharper, so is the scrutiny! These designers don’t mess around and don’t hesitate to go brutal in the isolation interviews. And the judges expect much, much more from the little sewing wizards they’ve employed to make Project Runway relevant again.

This week’s challenge was to create a high-end, glamorous, “couture” evening gown for a night at the opera. The directives are issued by famed evening wear design duo Badgley Mischka, who demands “classic, elegant, and head-turning”.

On any other given Project Runway, I would only guarantee the head turning, but it would be more of the train wreck variety; however in All Star flavor things are a little more Caviar than Cool-Whip.

The designers have $350 and one mere day to design this outfit for arias and I have to say couture in a day? No comprende. Couture implies careful details and usually takes eons, as Austin described. Luckily, the judges are only looking for “couture touches.” The touches being the operative word. Touch is important, is it not?


At Mood, Kenly selects Minnie Mouse fabric and it’s hideous. Michael Costello is very confident and decides on a red dress and low-and-behold so does April. Michael catches her in Mood selecting red and has a hissy. These two must be sharing a brain because last week they also got the same fabric. If Michael dyes his hair an unwise Gaga Grey we’re in trouble! Michael decides to go with black and immediately upon returning to the workroom, April starts dying a portion of her red fabric black to create an ombre effect. Luckily, Michael was occupied with sequins by that point.

Joanna Coles, mentor at large, shows up to issue some advice on how to not F—k things up. Joanna asks a lot of insightful questions about the designer’s processes, materials and what will make this stand out as their creation. It was refreshing. She counsels Michael of being mindful of the wearer’s body and preventing a potential nip slip, which as Jerell points out is “tacky.” Not in some circles…

Joanna also wonders what Anthony is going to do to take his all white gown out of Kleinfeld’s and into Hollywood territory. Anthony explains that bridal gowns don’t have plunging necklines. Oh Anthony – not in the south they don’t!

In the workroom, there is a lot of focus on the work and little drama. Ok, none. People are collaborating and working diligently without nonsense. Kara is experiencing a lot of self-doubt, which prompts Mondo to label her the least skilled designer.

Anthony decides this is actually the “really, really, really pumped up prom dress” challenge and the judges better be ready for the necessary short cuts and half assed-ness that will inevitably arise given the lack of time.

Ok, let’s trash discuss some looks!

Kenly: Southern Sophisticate Barbie. Where is her big giant floppy hat? That bow! The color! The debutante skirt. Kenly’s aesthetic is starting look dated in a bad way. I feel like this was headed to the country club formal circa 1955.

Gordana: I was surprised by the color, but didn’t mind it even though it was 80’s bridesmaid at its finest. My biggest issues were the lack of elegance and refinement. The color with the sheer elements, the chain bib beading, the low-cut back – it was more high class escort in post-communist Ukraine than classy night at the opera. I could see plenty of celebrities gravitating towards this, but like the judges pointed out early on that’s a whole different crowd than the opera!

In some ways this was unconventional and interesting, but it was one detail too many. I liked the sheer panels on the front, but in the back it was distractingly busy. It had great proportions though and the material moved well. I also thought the shape was classic.

Rami – This was a mess of too many ideas, not well meshed together. Frankly, it wasn’t flattering and the proportions were odd. It broke up the body too much cutting her in threes – off the shoulder, tight at the waist and then tight again at the hip. Then the full skirt. From the side there was a lot of odd bunching in the stomach area – not cute.

I, personally, am not a fan of that slammerkin/harlot – style off the shoulder sleeve and this was a little Scarlett O’Hara grabs the bed sheets (she already used the curtains) and it doesn’t work out well. For someone as impeccable as Rami this had some sloppiness and serious flaws. I did like the color, which was fresh, bright and unexpected.

Mila: I like it, but pretty predictable. Mila is boring me this season. This was ok, but it’s been done a million times.

Mondo: So sixties. So stunning. So fun. I’m a total sucker for an opulent Betty Draper costume. Couldn’t you just see her wearing this!? I thought the patterned silver was interesting, the bow in the back, while a bit large was fantastic, and the fit was spot on. Mondo always does a lot of details, but it never gets jumbled. While this was probably a little too referential of a by-gone era I don’t care, I love it. I appreciate that Mondo always has his own approach and he never strays from his own thinking. I’m glad Mondo is back.

Jerell: This was a hot mess. Valley Of The Dolls slutty nighties. We went from Mondo with sixties done right, to Sixties done wrong with Jerell. This is one of Don Draper’s mistresses (Bobbi, that one who was married to the comedian). There was too much volume, zero fit and the fur bra was bizarre and unflattering – it was a like a bib or Flintstone’s. Not appealing. The only detail I liked was the sheer back and I thought the gold fabric was beautiful, but needed to be used differently.

Top Three:

Congratulations Austin: Austin had serious worries about living up to the expectations surrounding him, but as soon as his dress swanned onto the runway I knew he was a contender for the win. It was chic, elegant, understated, glamorous and striking all at once. I loved the tulle and the lame together, which can go tacky in an instant, but looked luxe and sensual. It was easily a red carpet show stopper, but classic enough to transition to the Met.

It was a perfect Halston goes modern moment and the judges were instantly enthralled. They called it “fresh, classic, and expensive,” and raved about the refined touches. Isaac appreciated that the gown was modest without being stuffy and thought it was the “freshest” gown on the runway. One of the Badgley Mishkas loved that it was tasteful and praised the impeccable execution.

Michael: Issac was right – Michael’s dress was the exact opposite of Austin’s. While I could see Cate Blanchett wearing Austin’s gown, Michael’s belonged to Kate Beckinsdale (not Kimmie Kakes). When it walked onto the runway it was pretty breathtaking and you couldn’t look away. He had thought about ever angle and made the details very circumspect. Like the judges, my favorite thing was the covered up front with the extremely daring back.

The judges could not believe it took only a day to make with all the beading, which looked impeccable. While this is striking and beautiful, I have to agree with Isaac – it doesn’t look original. It looks like Ricardo Tisci for Givenchy to me. Michael has a knack for this very opulent style and he embraces the theatrical aspect of clothing without going costume. He should work for Chris March.

Anthony: When Anthony was describing his gown, I was thinking ‘oh no,’ but it actually turned out amazing. The plunge wasn’t as extreme as I envisioned and the construction was impeccable. I agree with the judges that it seemed more red carpet than opera. It definitely was not bridal!

Isaac was appreciative of the intentional drapery, which was specifically placed to create the shape. It spoke to Anthony’s skill level, that unlike Anya, he wasn’t relying on draping to create a form for the dress. It’s impressive that Anthony boned a whole dress in 24-hours.

I’m not commenting on the styling critique because that’s a ridiculous approach the judges have started taking to criticize or promote garments. Accessories and styling can be changed in a second. Hello, that’s what stylists are for.

Bottom Three:

Good-bye Sweet P! Sweet P seemed out of her element the whole time. This was a mess from beginning to end. It looked like a maternity dress; the fabric was too stiff and voluminous and it just jutted out oddly at the waist. The judges called it a dirndl skirt. I hated the bodice – Georgina was right it looked like a granny bathing suit. Even worse, the execution was sloppy and unrefined. The fabric looked cheap. This was certainly not a ballgown.

The judges liked the colors, but wished she had used the print fabric from the skirt for the bodice. Sweet P admits she had thought of doing that but decided against it, regretfully. Farwell Sweet P. — Next time go with your gut!

April: There was too much going on and none of it was impeccably completed. The judges were right to criticize her for being overly ambitious given the time constraints. April had some semblance of good ideas, but it got too jumbled and ambiguous because she didn’t have time to properly work through any of them. I think what saved her was that she did incorporate her own aesthetic into the gown and it had a point of view, or it would have if things had gone right.

The construction of the bodice was a mess and the asymmetrical neckline looked sloppy. “Tortured and rushed,” were the words used by the judges.

Kara: I personally liked the fabric, but it certainly didn’t look like a Kara Janx dress, as Georgina pointed out. It wasn’t exactly striking and I think the shape was too elementary with no extra details. Isaac thought the +-proportions were off – it was too high-waisted. It needed a little zhu-zhu and that belt wasn’t enough.

One of the Badgley Mishka’s loved it though and called it charming. I go back and forth – I like it, but it seems a little misplaced in the concept of where it’s going. I also think it channeled Jackie Kennedy in the White House.

Next week: A flamboyant cocktail dress for Miss Piggy — who is also the guest judge!