Project Runway All Stars: Unflappable Flappers

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Last week’s episode featured glitter and gold and Christmas magic; this week’s episode featured weeping, backstabbing, and fights to the (fashion) death. I like that Lifetime is presenting a fair and balanced view of the holiday season!

Carolyn tells the designers that they’ll be designing a twenties-style dress for a modern woman, which immediately makes me wonder whether this challenge was filmed before The Great Gatsby’s release date was pushed back. Maybe it was initially intended as a tie-in to the film? (Or maybe I’m just reaching for reasons why there have been two period challenges in a single season.) Each designer is given an “invitation” to a social soiree, afternoon garden party, or after-hours speakeasy, and will face off against the designer who randomly chose the same invitation they did. In each pair of designers (who are working separately), only one designer can be in the top; the other will be in the bottom. While I always appreciate it when All Stars tries to shake things up a bit, when this judging format was used on regular Runway this past season, all it accomplished was rewarding some shoddy work and preventing strong designs from getting the win. Onward! Joshua and Emilio are assigned afternoon garden party; Uli and Laura are assigned social soiree; and Ivy and Anthony Ryan are assigned speakeasy.

The designers head to the workroom to sketch, where Joshua asks Laura if she’s planning to use any feathers in the design of her social soiree dress. Laura responds, “Hell no. I don’t need feathers to compensate for my design.” Uli’s sitting right there, and she’s used feathers throughout the competition, so it’s a low, intentional blow, but that’s what I’ve come to expect from Laura this season.

After a quick trip to Mood, the designers get to work, and Laura reveals that her brilliant anti-feathers plan is to use fur instead, which seems risky. Anthony Ryan and Ivy butt heads in their close workspace, and while I usually take Anthony Ryan’s side, it does seem like he’s inching more and more into her workspace every minute. The bickering is engrossing enough, but I’m distracted by how few designers are left. The end really is drawing near! (Or nearer, at the very least.)

When Joanna comes by for her critiques, she looks at Joshua’s work first, and deems one of the panels on his dress “too marsupial.” After she looks at Emilio’s print, she wonders whether it’s youthful enough, and his face falls as he realizes that it does look like fabric you’d find on your grandmother’s couch, as Joanna had suggested. The editrix likes the mixture of textures and experimentation with trousers in Laura’s look, then worries that the judges are going to take Uli to task for doing something so similar to what she’s done in the past. Uli counters by saying that she thinks the judges would be equally critical if she shied away from feathers, beads, and other embellishments in a twenties challenge. Joanna is so enamored with Anthony Ryan’s feathered caplet that she threatens to steal it, but spends most of Ivy’s critique goading her into saying nasty things about Anthony Ryan.

The morning of the runway show, the designers sit in their pairs, some of them with cocktails and period hairpieces. The hairpieces are cute, but do you really want to hear Isaac Mizrahi tell you your design is garbage while you’re standing there wearing a sparkly headband? The guest judges this week are Gretchen Mol and Jenny Packham, both of whom have some very strong insights and are a great fit for the subject of the challenge. Some of this week’s looks are a little slapdash, which makes total sense: Twenties looks are about detailing, something you can’t do successfully in a one-day challenge.

While Emilio, Uli, and Anthony Ryan come out on top, Anthony Ryan takes the win (a bit of a surprise, given the effusive response to Uli’s dress). Laura, Joshua, and Ivy wind up in the bottom three, and Laura’s sent home. I’m pretty shocked, since Ivy’s been in the bottom three multiple times, and both Ivy and Laura are very shocked, too. Laura sounds much more gracious as she says good-bye than she has all season. That can’t be an easy thing to accomplish, so good for her. But seriously: Ivy is in the final five?

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