“Project Runway” recap 10.7: A whole lotta black dresses, with a side of sexism

Last week on Project Runway, Ven pissed off the entire world, while Gunnar emerged as the surprising sweetest gay of Season 10. This week, I’m hoping to not have my emotions whipped into a fury, and just be able to enjoy some really great designs again. Will it happen? Who the hell knows, but I’m trying to be optimistic!

What I do know is that this week’s challenge is a big one. The designers are brought to meet Tim at the flagship Lord & Taylor store in Manhattan, where they’re greeted by Lord & Taylor’s president, Bonnie Brooks, along with nine other dresses on display made by contestants from the previous nine Project Runway seasons. The idea is this: to celebrate 10 seasons of Project Runway, Lord & Taylor is going to put these nine dresses — plus the dress by the winner of this challenge — into production, to be sold at the flagship store and online. In addition, the winning look will be displayed in the window of the Lord & Taylor store on 5th Avenue.

In my view, this is one of the biggest challenges they’ve ever had. The winning look won’t just be worn on a runway or by a celebrity, but will be in production — anybody will be able to buy it. OK, “anybody” meaning any woman who’s able to afford a sophisticated Lord & Taylor dress, which they inform the contestants has to be able to run between $200 and $300. So, not me. But, you know, other people!

I’m also curious about how the dresses from the previous designers arrived at the store, since they weren’t designs I remembered from previous seasons — but I do have a horrible memory — and they also aren’t necessarily made by the winners of each season. For instance, I saw designs by Mondo and Chris March up there. Were there competitions between old designers to get their dresses chosen as well? Or are they in fact just old dresses from the show? Basically, I just want a way to see Mondo and Chris March again.

Regardless, they also don’t go to Mood — gasp! — as they’re using the fabric Lord & Taylor manufacturers use. They sketch their dresses and head back to Parsons. The difficulty with this challenge is they have to design an upscale feminine look that’s still mass production ready, something that’s fashionable but not too avant garde. And, for one reason or another, all the girls seem to be having more difficulty than the guys. Perhaps it’s because while most of the male designers this season have the girly dress conquered, a lot of the ladies actually like doing structured, badass, funky outside-the-box designs more. As Sonjia says, “It’s like the guys are more feminine than the girls are.” This is actually a really interest thought to explore on gender and design.

Ven, however, has another take on it. He says, “I think men are usually stronger designers, while women are a little more practical.” Oh, right! Stronger! More practical! That’s what the issue is! This sounds like such a weirdly out-of-tune patriarchal judgment that I wonder if Ven is living inside an episode of Mad Men. Dudes have the strength to make all the decisions and the big bucks in society while the ladies just stick to cleaning the house and being secretaries — you know, practical things. Yes, our pretty little minds could never reach the creative level of men. Huh? The fact that the president of Lord & Taylor is in fact a woman, and that every single guest judge on this season so far has been a woman, must just be anomalies, right? What the hell are you even talking about?

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