Thursday, February 28, 2013

Project Runway Season 11, Episode 5: A Little Bit Country...

At the end of the last episode Tim Gunn informed the designers that there was one more thing they had to do that evening... This cliffhanger left me worried/hopeful that we were going to be discussing another cheating incident or designers quitting en masse as per last season.  Sadly the drama was limited to the appearance of the dread button bag as the designers finally lost thier poorly named teams and paired off into duos.

Our intrepid designers were then shuttled to a country themed bar where they were given their next assignment: designing a stage and red carpet look for country star Miranda Lambert.  Now I am not a country music afficianado so I had no idea who this woman was, but I was happy to see that she was not the prototypically waifish starlett and to hear that she likes to embrace her curves.  While the "real woman" challenges can be frustrating as all get out, they are also generally quite revealing. 

In the end I think the designers did a reasonable job and my biggest complaint is not with the quality of the work but rather the choice to show these ensembles on the same delicate models as every other challenge.  Ms. Lambert is not an insubustantial woman (I would estimate that she probably wears a size 10 or so at 5'4") and clothing that looks good on a size 2 amazon will not necessarily flatter her curvier figure.  Given the cash cow that is project runway, I don't see why they couldn't have brought in larger manequins and plus size models for this challenge.  This would give both the audience and the designers a better idea of how the designs would suit thier intended wearer.

The top two teams were Richard/Stanley and Benjamin/Amanda.  Richard ultimately took home the prize for his rocker chick fringed dress.  His dress was a definite make it work moment as the base of his dress was a loose weave black mesh and until a few minutes before the runway it was unlined and completely see through.  In a burst of brilliance he cut up Mood t-shirts that he and Stanley had purchased with some of their extra budget and fashioned them into a simple jersey tube dress.  I agree that the dress will have good movement on stage and likely flatter Miranda.  Richard on the other hand went overboard with the volume on the skirt and cut a bodice which was unflattering and illfitting.  The waistband was lovely and the dress would have had potential if he had created the fullness in the skirt via gores rather than gathering.

Benjamin and Amanda have both been underdogs in past episodes so it was nice to see them both come up on top.  I actually liked Amanda's dress and styling better than Richards (given that they both made short, fringe covered proto-flapper dresses.)  However without seeing how the fringe falls on a fuller figure it is hard to judge whether or not it would be flattering and appropriate for Miranda Lambert.  Benjamin's dress was pretty if a bit plain and with the exception of the weird black fringe over the right breast, I think the clean lines of the dress would be both flattering and attractive so long as the fit is perfect.

On the bottom were Michelle/Matt and Daniel/Samantha.  Matt completely lost his confidence, put together a boring black ensemble that is not only weird but also far too subdued for the stage.  Ultimately he was sent home.  I actually didn't mind Michelle's outfit, barring the enormous fringed necklace.  And the necklace got her ripped apart by the judges.  It almost seemed like self-sabatoge given that she knew what they would say.  In the work room Michelle did a spot-on impression of Nina Garcia's inevitable critique of the necklace.  Honey, if you know the judges will hate it, don't use it!

Samantha's dress was boring but she had immunity so it didn't matter.  Daniel on the other hand had some serious taste issues.  He created a "soutage" effect with strips of leather on a v-neck halter bodice which he paired with a center seamed silk skirt which he fringed with a fork.  It was appalling.  I am starting to suspect that Daniel's early success has gone to his head. 

Despite being safe, my least favorite by far was Patricia.  Given her interesting leatherwork and western aesthetic this should have been  a simple task for her.  And I actually didn't mind the fringe and the bullet holder straps.  But I hated the fabric choice for the body of the dress.  The brown and gold floral was old fashioned and inappropriate.  If the dress had been fashioned in a solid color, maybe a warm cream color or a golden tan for a tone on tone look, it would have been significantly better.  I have to say I was disappointed that she was safe because we didn't get to see Nina and Heidi critique that terrible dress.  Ultimately I think she was lucky to be paired with Layana whose navy blue ruched gown was classy (if a bit dull) and would be incredibly flattering on her intended client.  To some extent Layana seems to be the only person who gave the client's body much thought at all.  For this, I give her props. 

One dress that I like more and more as I see it in photos is Kate's red leather gown.  Provided, red leather easily veers into tacky, but from where I'm sitting that seems appropriate for a country music star.  The long line of the corset bodice would be flattering to the hip and waist if fitted properly.  My biggest concern with this dress is the neckline.  On a large bust that high tight neckline will look like uni-boob in a sausage casing.  Princess seams and a more open neck would be far more flattering.

So that's my take and I'm super excited to see tonights episode with the best guest judge anyone could ask for: Joan Rivers!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Project Runway Season 11, Episode 4: The UNCONVENTIONAL Challenge

I didn't write about last week's episode because it was a total snoozefest.  It was the now ubiquitous "make a dress for Heidi" challenge.  This time the lovely Ms. Klum is hawking a new perfume and she needs a fantasy gown for the commercial and a day dress for the press tour.  Sweet bridal designer Kate got the win for the black and blush corset gown she made with Brazilian bombshell Layana.  Daniel won the "press tour" prize despite the fact that he also made a gown for the commercial... probably because the winner had to come from the winning team and the day dresses were unwearable.  If this was not Project Runway TEAMS, I expect that the press dress win would have gone to snarky cool Michelle for her black and gold leather studded shift.  Funeral director Cindy was auf'd for a truly heinous pink/gold iridescent shantung (Shantung? Really Cindy?) dress which managed to be dowdy and sort of skanky all at the same time.  No wonder Cindy hadn't previously done "sexy" - she clearly doesn't understand the concept. 

And so that brings us to this week.  This week's episode started with some of the clunkiest product placement I have ever had the misfortune of witnessing.  The designers walked in to a room filled with lit "Glade 2-in-1" candles.  Can you imagine the smell?  I imagine that room was sheer hell for days and I am shocked that none of the designers collapsed with a migraine.  In any case, Tim Gunn and Heidi explained that this week's challenge was a "2-in-1" (just like the candles!) and this unconventional challenge would mix "hard and soft" (apparently Heidi's new catch phrase?) by combining two favorite past unconventional challenges and using materials from the florist and the hardware store. 

As an aside, are they out of unconventional challenge ideas? I've long wondered how long it would take before they would have to start repeating and apparently the answer is 11 seasons.

Before beginning the challenge Tim also mentions that the teams need to be balanced.  After three wins in a row, Team "Keeping it Real" (KIR) still have eight designers while the poorly named "Dream Team" are down to 5.  Tim allows the Dream Team to steal two designers from KIR and KIR gets to swipe one of the original Dream Team designers.  The Dream Team wisely grab Stanley and Layana, two strong KIR members while KIR requests that Michelle join them.  Despite having spent most of the last few episodes moaning about being a member of the perpetually losing team, Michelle is none too happy about the switch noting that she has no desire to work with Native American designer Patricia who (and I agree) talks too much and often comes across as bossy and condescending. 

The designer switch turns out to be just what the Dream Team needed.  In Stanley, they finally have an actual leader rather than merely a self-professed "natural" leader Benjamin.  Stanley suggests that the team use Dior New Look as their inspiration, providing a cohesive vision.  Of course on the runway Benjamin states that they were unified by choice of color palette and never mentions Stanley's Dior leadership genius.  But that's why we are all starting to hate stupid Benjamin and his stupid bleached hair...  KIR, on the other hand never decided on any cohesive theme and while there were many excellent looks they were completely unrelated to one another.  This deeply concerns Michelle who states that KIR's looks were made by crazy people but none of those crazy people are staying at the same mental hospital.  Ultimately it is Michelle who suggests a decades theme, "fashion history through flowers" as it were.  Let's take a look shall we?

Team Keeping It Real:

My personal favorites from this team were Kate's larger than life 50's style cocktail dress and Michelle and Richard's Madonna-esque cage dress constructed of mini-blinds and folliage.  My least favorite was Patricia's mother-nature cape which just looked messy to my eye. 
Dream Team:

By far, my favorite on this team was Tu's rope blouse and necklace (which looked like it was made of wood... gorgeous) paired with a yellow and green floral skirt.  I also loved Layana's pink floral birdcage silhouette and Samantha's technique of catching large leaves inside layers of mesh.  I don't think this team had any weak links although Matthew's yellow skirt looks like a hay fever attack about to happen.

In any case, this truly was one of the best runways to date. Heidi declared that there was no losing team this week. Just a winning team and an "almost winning" team. But a winner would be chosen from the first place team and someone from the second place team would be going home. So it's sort of a distinction without a difference. In the end, Dream Team's cohesion put them on top. While KIR's decades idea shockingly made a lot of sense as they explained it, the concept didn't read on the runway so one of them would be auf'd. 
And this is where my opinion parts ways with the judges.  Ultimately the decision came down between Amanda who had some trouble with her green moss (did she not watch Season 2?) but whose end product turned out pretty well, and Joe who created a "futuristic" shapeless sweater dress.  Sadly I think Amanda largely wound up on the bottom because her team threw her under the bus when asked who they thought should go.  Geeky cat-sweater Joe was sweet when explaining that he dreams of a future where fashion is less focused on body-consciousness but in the end he had to clean up his workspace and Amanda survives to fight another day... perhaps a little less trusting of her teammates.  What I cannot understand is how Patricia was not in the bottom with Joe.  Her creation was a disaster.  It looked like a swamp creature had gussied itself up with flowers to go to the carnival.  It was ridiculous... but if I agreed with every call it wouldn't be Project Runway would it?
After saying goodbye to Joe, the episode ended with a peculiar teaser for next week...  Tim came into the work room and stated that there is still some business to be taken care of and the designers are to meet he and Heidi on the runway in ten minutes.  Ominous music plays and the screen reads: "To be Continued..." 
I can't wait to see what's in store for our fearless designers next week!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Funny Girl: The Leopard Coat

When planning the costumes for Funny Girl, one piece I felt very strongly about was procuring a leopard coat for Fanny Brice for the opening and closing scenes.  I had a few reasons for this preference: 1) Barbara in that leopard coat is an iconic image from the movie, 2) a leopard skin coat is very iconic of the late 20's/early 30's time period, and 3) the show takes place largely in a flashback.  Whatever Fanny wears in the opening and closing needs to stand out enough so that when we return to "modern day" at the end of the show the audience recognizes that we are back to where we were in the opening moments...
Sadly, while the theater has an amazing collection of vintage furs, serious amazing, none of them were from any variety of large cat.  So I decided to build my own faux-leopard jacket.

I started by sketching my thoughts for the coat.  This coat had to be long enough to cover both the opening and finale outfits.  Further I wanted something swingy and easy to give that feeling of luxury.  However, the collar had to be high enough to conceal whatever was underneath.   
After sketching out my ideas I dug through my collection of vintage patterns to find something that would be a close match to the silhouette I was looking for.  This Advance pattern from the early 60s was not only in the correct size for my leading lady, but had the ease I hoped to convey.  It proved an excellent base for my design as all I had to do was change the sleeve length, add cuffs, remove the pockets, and add a larger stand collar made from a contracting fur. 

I cut the body of the coat as drafted and cut a lining out of an orange polyester I had in my stash.  The leopard fur was a lightweight material closer to minky than to a real faux-fur, but it has a lovely drape that worked wonderfully for this full style.  As this was a costume which needed to conceal several different costumes, I used large snaps along the front enclosure. 

In the end, I think that this particular garment both fit well and had the impact necessary for the stage.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

V8333: Linings, Sleeves, and Shoulder Pads (Step 78-88)

When we last left off, the body of the jacket and the sleeves were each assembled individually and ready to be attached to complete the fashion fabric shell of the jacket.
Before attaching the sleeves I sewed two rws of easestitching and shrunk out the fullness with a hot steam iron as per the "Courture Tip instructions."  One thing I found interesting was the instruction that for this sleeve cap the the iron can cross the easestitching as far as 1 inch.

The next step is completing the sleeve lining.  According to the instructions, in coture construction the sleeves are lined before they are sewn into the jacket.  I began by assembling the two part sleeve linings and ironing the seam allowances open.

The next step confused me for a while before I figured it out.  First I turned both the sleeve and the lining inside out. Then I lined up the outer sleeve and the lining one on top of another and basted the sleeve to the lining in the seam allowance relatively close to the stitching line.

Then I turned the sleeve so the wrong sides were facing but the entire sleeve was turned inside out... if that makes sense? Oh, just see the picture below...

Then I tucked the sleeve lining under at the edge of the facing, pinned and slipstitched the lining into place at the wrist. 

After completing the sleeve (and pinning the lining out of the way) I basted  and then stitched the sleeve into the armhole.  

I then cut a strip of wool batting to use as a sleeve head and pinned and stitched onto the top of the sleeve witht the raw edges lined up to the raw edges of the set in sleeve. 

Finally I pinned in the shoulder pads to check the fit, before stitching them in permanently.

So I'm getting closer to finishing up... My next step is to assemble the lining.  Stay tuned!

Friday, February 8, 2013

V8333: Finishing the Collar and Building the Sleeves (Steps 67-76)

Hey, remember this?  Back in March and April of 2011 I had tackled Claire Schaeffer's coture tailored suit jacket, pattern V8333.


Sadly, this project fell by the wayside when I moved in the spring of 2011 and was never picked back up... until last night!  Now that the show is up and running, I wanted to make some headway on one of my New Year's resolutions and complete the many UFOs sitting around my sewing room.  So last night I pulled out this particular unfinished project and got my lazy behind back to work!

When we last looked at this jacket, I had more or less finished the collar but gave up on the final "collar" step, handstitching along the gorge line because I had simply run out of steam.  Additionally, while I don't seem to have blogged about it, I apparently started building the sleeves at some point because the sleeves were underlined, the seam connecting the upper and lower sleeve was sewn and pressed, and the hair canvas was applied to the cuff. 

In any case my first step was to finish step 67 and actually finish the collar.  I don't know why I found this so very overwhelming two years ago.  I turned the collar facing under and used fell stitches to attach the facing to the collar. 

I then pressed the collar and put the jacket on my dress form while I finished the sleeves.

After that was done, I finished sewing the sleeve seams, made the sleeve buttonhole, and basted and pressed the sleeve.

I'm excited about finishing this project.  It seems so silly that I stopped so close to the end.  At this point all that's really left to do is attach the sleeves, build and insert the lining, and do finishing work like buttonholes and buttons.  Then I'll make a pencil skirt to go with it (and maybe a trouser... I still have quite a bit of this wool) and I'll have a well fitted classic suit that actually fits!