After all the Sturm und Drang surrounding the current season of Project Runway, tonight’s finale almost feels anticlimactic. How could three short catwalk presentations possibly outdo a year of dramatic kvetching about new locations, network changes, lawsuits, and one very earnest plea that we picket Harvey Weinstein's house? Unless Althea “accidentally” sets Irina on fire backstage, we’re betting it can’t. But because we’re gambling women, we’re also placing odds on which of the three women still standing will emerge from the ashes of the Los Angeles season victorious, and who will go home empty-handed and in need of a warm Tim Gunn embrace. (Warning: If you aren't planning to peek at the finale collections yet, look away! This contains spoilers.)
IRINA: 2 to 1
Though Irina is clearly the most unpleasant of this season’s finalists — and tragically isn’t even any fun to hate — we suspect her superior technical skills will allow her to carry the day. Her collection lacks color, but while that cavalcade of primarily blacks and grays might be a bit depressing, at least it looks like it could all belong to the same bummed-out woman. We’ve seen her knits, leggings, and leather aesthetic done before — and done better, even by her — but given how lackluster the competition is (sorry, girls), we suspect that may not matter. What may matter tomorrow morning is that Irina lifted the contents of an entire New York Magazine article for use as a graphic on one of her T-shirts (pictured above) — which themselves were a redo, because she was scolded for making the first version using other people's art — but considering that this episode has been in the can for approximately 100 years, there’s no way the fact that she’s apparently an inveterate plagiarist could have come into play during the judges’ deliberation. More’s the pity.
View Irina's complete collection.
CAROL HANNAH: 7 to 1
Once we get past the fact that we can't say her name without thinking of Daryl Hannah, which then takes us on a long journey down memory lane toward Splash and Legal Eagles (which next gets us pondering how hot Robert Redford once was, which wait, where are we? Oh, right), we actually like Carol Hannah. As a person, that is. She's bubbly and cute and spunky — all of the things people usually say about their cherished little sisters. And she does have a deft touch with clothes; we just don't see enough of it here. Some of her collection aims for — and nearly hits — the glamour of a Monique Lhuillier or Badgley Mischka show, and the other half looks like one of those designers decided to do a discount collaboration with Chico's. For instance, the eggplant shirt with the rope detail seemed intriguing on the hanger, but when it came down the runway, it had morphed into a tragic tunic adorned with a freaky laughing face composed entirely of matchy-matchy trim; the gold dress with brown-ribbon belt (pictured) is what we'd expect to see wrapped around a box containing the chafing dish we bought off of someone's wedding registry at Macy's. And though we understand why Carol Hannah attempted pants after never doing it during the other challenges, they're not quite up to snuff. Still, her experiments with volume and the fact that she essentially appears to be vomiting her way through the finale — from a virus, not from disgust, as far as we know — should at least keep her from being the first designer banished from the runway.
View Carol Hannah's complete collection.
ALTHEA: 10 to 1
In a faint echo of the whole "Jeffrey Sebelia Is a Big Cheater — OR IS HE?" debacle, the last piece of interpersonal drama in the competition seems to be whether Althea is copying Irina (herself a borrower of other people's intellectual property, which is a trippy loop). We aren't convinced Althea’s doing it deliberately, but that big sweater she made the week after Irina's Aspen-inspired beige cowl-neck won a challenge certainly seemed like an unconscious homage — as does the rest of her collection, which feels like it used said sweater as a jumping-off point. Problematically, Althea is neither as skilled at the nitty-gritty nor as generally talented as Irina, and it shows: Where Irina's line consistently has the same consumer in mind, Althea's is all over the map. There are a few pieces that look designed to appeal to Kristen Stewart, one or two we'd maybe see on Whitney Port, a couple for that same Colorado snow bunny who doesn't actually own skis, a heinous slinky white suit with a torn T-shirt underneath (pictured above; think Jessica Szohr with a dash of Olsen), and a cocktail dress that — at least in photos — appears woefully constructed (Look 10 in the slideshow, if you're wondering). Note to Althea: Giant black headbands do not cohesion make. The show also teased a brouhaha over whether she asked for the same cosmetic styling as Irina did; based on the photos, it does seem like, as with her clothes, Althea did a sloppier version of the same theme. We'd be stunned if the judges don't ding her for it.
View Althea's complete collection.
We can't help wondering whether, on another season, any of these three would've made it this far in the first place, and we can’t imagine that the answer is yes. Laura Bennett would eat these collections for lunch, for example. In fact, that would've been a finale commensurate with the show's off-season drama. Oh well, maybe next time.