“Project Runway” recap: It took a boy in a dress


Oh, the challenge of designing for the “real woman”! This challenge always provides so many great opportunities for joy and empathy, opportunities which some designers grab on to while others let them fall away into the abyss. This episode provided so many highs and lows for my emotional spectrum that I might have a hard time writing a controlled recap, but I’ll do my best.

Turns out the first person to fail with this episode was really Lifetime, or the Project Runway execs, or whoever has the episode-naming rights. When I clicked on my DVR to catch up on this episode, I got to see that it was titled “Fix My Friend.” Awesome. Can we please take a giant step back from the notion of having to “fix” people, society? Cool. Thanks for working with me on that, because it sucks.

So, as the title implies, this challenge involves people who believe a certain friend in their life needs a little boost, in their style and their life. Naturally, there are a wide variety of women who are involved, and everyone accepts that designing for different sized women is a challenge when you’re used to designing for a size 0 week after week. However, the only person who proves to immediately be an asshole about it is Ven. After he first meets his client, he tells the camera that he is “shocked, and very disappointed.”

Well! How sad for you that just looking at a completely normal woman disappoints you! Oh, can you not hear this tiny violin I am playing for you? He continues to whine throughout the rest of the episode that it’s “unfair” to have to work with a “plus sized” woman while other people have skinny women. Poor, poor baby. Life is so hard for you.

He continues to show even more of the devil spawn which apparently lives inside of him when he talks to Tim Gunn, describing her “before” picture as a “nightmare,” essentially describing her as the largest and most monstrous being he has ever met. I think that he somehow believed Tim would sympathize with him, proving that he doesn’t know Tim at all. When Tim asks, “Well, what size is she?” Ven replies, “Oh my God, I don’t know,” and then with a horrified laugh, “I’m thinking…14?!”

OH NO! Not a 14!! Is this woman a freak of nature?! If she is, I must be an abomination, because I am–Ven, you might want to take a deep breath and sit down for this–a size 16. I know, it’s amazing that I can even find clothes that fit me! It’s a good thing you didn’t have to work with me, Ven! Especially because I think I look hella good and want to tell the world that I’m a size 16! I know, I am so weird! I must also have “no fashion sense,” as you keep telling everyone about your own client, who might I add was wearing a pretty cute shirt when you first met her!

Okay. Okay. Deep breath, Jill. Let’s take a step away from rage for a moment, even though rage is so fun. Because across the room, there is a completely different scene unfolding, and it will melt your heart. Gunnar is the only designer who openly says that he is “excited” about this challenge, because taking “normal” women and making them feel good is what he lives for. Thank goodness, Gunnar. You are immediately my favorite person right now. His model is, in my view, also pretty similar in size to Ven’s, but Gunnar never once views this as a downside or even comes to complaining about it. He is sassy, fun, and warm when talking with his client, and near the end of their first meeting, she starts to cry. When he asks, “Why the tears?,” she chokes something out that sounds like, “I’m just happy.” Then they hug! And I start crying too because I can’t deal with people crying out of happiness for themselves! Legit, y’all, there are tears all over my face! 

Gunnar tells the camera that her spirit is going to get him through the challenge. He says, “It’s funny how a random person can step in at the right moment to help you out, and not even know that they’re doing that.” Look, Gunnar, I’m already crying, okay? Cool it with the strangely accurate and unexpectedly heart-warming statements.

The other highlight of the new client-designer relationships is Fabio and Ko-Rely, who is a super duper fly adorably dykey tomboy. She doesn’t like wearing girly clothes because she doesn’t like to be sexualized. She’s wearing flannel. She’s a film student. She also got a completely rad haircut halfway through this episode. Listen, girl is pretty dreamy.

During the time in the workroom, we also start to delve into some cute Sharing Time, reaching that point in the season when the numbers have been whittled down to a point where we can actually start to get to know some of these designers. They chat about their siblings for a little while; Fabio video chats with his boyfriend, an exchange which is too cute for words. His boyfriend even makes their cat say hello. Oh, the gays. We also learn that Dmitry used to be a professional ballroom dancer before he moved to the US. I repeat: Dmitry used to be a ballroom dancer. And all the happy-shocked reaction GIFs entered my head and danced all around.

It’s also clear from the comments in last week’s recaps that there are lots of mixed feelings about Elena, which I understand. But thankfully the Elena from last week and the Elena from this week are almost opposite creatures; Elena this week is laughing and joking and pretty much being hilarious, all while wearing this crazy bright pink lipstick. She also seems to work well with her client. Dmitry dryly notes that it’s the first time he’s ever seen her be nice to someone. The Dmitry-Elena dynamic is my favorite. I hope they make out in secret.

Alicia, meanwhile, is once again quietly drifting into the background, but this time while she quietly works, she’s creating a little pink dress. Yeah, a little pink dress–the complete opposite of what she normally makes. It’s unclear how exactly it will turn out, but it’s always great to see people pushing outside of their comfort zone, especially without whining incessantly about it.

After more workroom time which includes Ven making his client cry–I just…can’t–it’s runway time. If you’re suffering from Ven-induced-rage, take a deep breath and make yourself feel better by examining what a wonderful dress Heidi Klum is rocking today:

I always love watching these “real women” get to walk down the runway, because the ones who are feeling good about themselves know how to WORK. IT. Gunnar’s client is so happy that she is practically bouncing, sashaying her fine self all over that thang. It’s hard not to smile from ear to ear just looking at her, which is what all the judges are doing.

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