Project Runway Season 17, Episode 11 Recap: This Woman’s Work

Culture

This week’s challenge is to create dream dresses for “the real women of New York City.” What they mean by this is women who work in service to some aspect of New York City—sanitation worker, EMTs, teacher, etc. The “real” here is meant to convey that the people the contestants will be designing for are not professional models nor are they involved in the fashion world. This will prove to be an obstacle to some of the designers for whom the real world of prom dress and retirement dinner attire is an affront to their couture aesthetics. On one hand, I get this. On the other hand, I’ve seen the cerulean scene in The Devil Wears Prada just like everybody else so… I don’t really see what the issue is.

There’s a not insignificant part of me that wishes that this episode was focusing on designing for the fake women of New York City instead. Just a bunch of backstabbers and double-crossers in evening wear. This is what I would like, Nina. Can we please discuss this?

The challenge

The designers get a text Christian inviting them to meet him in his store, The Curated (which is STUNNING!). Christian welcomes the clients, uniformed women from the Department of Sanitation, the NYPD, the Post Office, the FDNY, the ferry and a teacher, among others. The designers get paired up and get to follow the women to work to get acquainted.

Garo is working with Debra, a U.S. Postal Worker. Debra wants to “float like an angel.” If I were a betting man, I’d say Garo was going to install angel wings on a corset.

Hester is paired with Dina, a police office. You would think that rainbow, punk rocker Hester would clash with an officer of the law, but they have a surprisingly low drama partnership. Hester is a little stressed about the conventional nature of Dina’s wish for a hot pink bodice and long skirt, but Dina seems happy.

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Hester and Dina.

Bravo

Sebastian has Nicole, a sanitation worker. They ride in a garbage truck! Nicole, who is not yet engaged, wants Sebastian to design her a sparkly engagement dress. We stan a clear communication icon. She’s going to Secret herself a diamond.

Tessa has Maria, an EMT. Maria tells Tessa that she wants something pink and short. Tessa is shewk. Tessa’s like, “What if you wore a jumpsuit that’s brown or black?” Obsessed with Tessa’s determination to stay on her personal brand, no matter what. In the end, Tessa decides that she needs to stay true to herself by giving Maria pants, a top and a skirt. You honestly have to laugh.

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Giphy

Jamall is working with 19-year-old Angela, who is a ferry deckhand. Angela is asking for a red prom dress with a train and sheer arms, which is very much not Jamall’s style. Internally, Jamall is like “What if your prom was ‘puffer jacket’ themed.” I kid because I love. Also, I want to go to a puffer jacket prom.

Bishme get Jacklyn, a school teacher. She wants something sky blue and flowy. She runs him through a math problem that initially stumps him: “A bat and two balls cost one dollar and ten cents. The bat is a dollar more than the ball. How much is the ball?” Apparently the answer is five cents, which blows Bishme’s mind and prompts him to quiz people throughout the episode. No one gets it. And, to be honest, I thought I got it but the more I think about it, the less I think I get it. A some point I was sure that the correct answer was two and one half cents. That’s not even possible!

After the initial fitting, Jacklyn is so delighted by the experience that she writes Bishme a thank you note! What a wonderful person!

The workroom

All of the designers, to some extent, are a little salty about having to work in the world of normie fashion, but Tessa and Jamall are particularly vexed about creating dream looks that aren’t quite avant garde and definitely don’t follow their aesthetics. When Christian visits Tessa, Tessa blatantly tells him that Maria loves dark colors. This woman is wild. Christian reminds her that this is a dream dress challenge so maybe pants aren’t the look here. She rips the seams out of the pants and turns them into pants.

Later, backstage just before the runway, the designers and the makeup artists are putting the finishing touches on their designs when a question from Christian prompts Tessa to take a scissors to her design. I’m screaming. Tessa’s design includes a thick black belt with silver hoops attached to it. Each loop has a very pale pink, grey, or black strip of chiffon tied to it and the chiffon has started to fray, so she starts cutting it off.

The runway

The guest judge for this channel is the preeminent diva and Christian Siriano muse Danielle Brooks. She lights up the room because she lights up every room she walks into.

Garo’s client, Debra, looks astounding, and yes, angelic, in a form-fitting purple mid-length dress that has a slight flair at the bottom and a structured off-the-shoulder collar and a detachable chiffon cape. Danielle Brooks peeps the corset (yes, there’s still a corset; I’ll take my money now, please) and asks if it’s comfortable. Debra says she can get dance in it for sure. Danielle loves the cape and wants to wear it! GIVE HER THE CAPE! Nina is so impressed but this design, especially since she has previously questioned Garo’s taste.

Sebastian’s design is a revelation, a pale peach, shimmering A-line dress with a huge architectural bow attached to the waist. Nicole absolutely slays the runway. Brandon asks her if she has a pageant history; it turns out she just gave up the title of Ms. Staten Island. A reveal! Elaine says that the dress is a poole dress and it feels dated. The other judges don’t agree.

Hester’s simple skirt retains some Hester touches, like a laced back and a flared skirt. Nina thinks she looks glamorous and comfortable. However, Brandon identifies an identity crisis, saying that Hester has ceded too much of her own aesthetic trying to satisfy her client’s look.

To Tessa’s credit, Maria looks great walking down the runway in a sort of industrial black dress and the remaining chiffon and slits in the skirt give it a shredded look. Karlie says that this is more of Tessa’s dream dress. Tessa starts talking a mile a minute like a suspect in the interrogation room on Law & Order. She claims that Maria didn’t really know what she wanted and that she said she liked pale pink. That’s not what the tape said, but I don’t know. I’ll leave this one up to Lenny Briscoe. Nina asks if it’s a lack of passion or if she was playing it safe. Tessa says she was trying to show something other than her regular minimalist aesthetic and the camera catches a raised eyebrow from Nina that matches the raised eyebrow on my own face. This is… still kind of minimalist.

Bishme’s full-length, blue peplum dress is, indeed, a dream, with a plunging neckline and ruching basically everywhere. Jacklyn loves it and looks dynamite. The judges love it, too.

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Sebastian

Bravo

Jamall has faithfully delivered a red, floor-length, sleeveless prom dress with a train. He worries that Angela is uncomfortable. Nina picks up on this, too. “It was a mess,” she says. “It was falling apart.” Elaine adds that Jamall’s execution on curvy women is not up to par. Jamall says that this experience has been a huge learning curve for him, having never designed for curvy women before. Brandon points out that Jamall used “a non-stretch drape on a bodycon dress” and surmises that there are basic construction issues at play here.

Garo, Bishme, and Sebastian are the top three, with Sebastian taking the win.

This leaves Hester, Tessa, and Jamall in the bottom. Poor Jamall! He gets the nicest sendoff ever. It’s clear that the judges believe that he’s destined for greatness.

Who I’m rooting for this week

Danielle Brooks, Nicole’s engagement, and Jamall

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