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Great news, my dear readers: this PR5 is almost over. Of course, the bad news is this season has been lackluster, which results in my disappointment that I’m glad it’s almost over. So raise your glasses and toast to the possibility of some kind of excitement-inducing drama in the final two episodes. Sometimes false hope is better than no hope at all.

On the road with Tim Gunn.

As the judges punted in the last challenge, there are four designers still remaining in the competition as Heidi sends them off to make 10 runway looks with a budget of $8,000 for Fashion Week. Since the judges couldn’t make up their minds (read: producer’s pick didn’t perform as well—or as poorly, depending on perspective—as desired) they will still have to face one more challenge before getting to the tents at Braynt Park. Each collection must feature a wedding dress that represents the designer’s style and reflects the collection, and the wedding dress will be the basis of the four-to-three elimination. They will keep their models from the last challenge, so all hopes of a walkoff fade in a sad little blip. Heidi brings Tim out to bid them farewell and he reminds them that this is a once in a lifetime experience and instructs them to “DO IT” in a tone reminiscent of Nike ad. Before Tim and Heidi walk off into the sun, he reminds them that he’ll visit them in the intervening two months before Fashion Week. Man, I wish there were a way to get Tim Gunn to visit me without actually having to compete on this show.

The designers return to Atlas to pack up their belongings and head home. Kenley feels she was sabotaged at the previous runway show, so she slinks out of Atlas on her own. Korto, Jerell and Leanne get a bit catty about her and depart together. Jerell promises a collection of pure magic while Leanne says she is not going to procrastinate and get right to work.

A mere four weeks later, Tim arrives in Little Rock, Arkansas to visit Korto. She’s rented some workspace in a building that appears to be in the middle of a park. She’s a bit freaked out at the prospect of Tim’s visit. Tim is taken aback by the beauty and luxury of the workspace and asks her what her inspiration for the collection is. She says the nature around her inspired the colors and textures—green grass, snakeskin—and she wanted to infuse a subtle ethnic tone in the work. Most of her garments have beadwork on them; Tim is impressed that she did the beadwork herself. He is a bit put off by the “sexual” shape of a long, slender piece of snakeskin fabric set in the middle of a dress. Let’s face it, he’s saying it looks like “Britney gets out of a limo” shot. He also worries that her wedding dress doesn’t say “wedding” as much as it says “red carpet.” Korto then takes Tim to her home to meet her family and friends. Her husband is there, as is her daughter, who is sporting this cute little tutu skirt. Korto has a ton of friends over, including her drumming partner, so they perform for Tim. As per usual with these home visits, we get a bit of Korto’s back-story, but it isn’t much more than we’ve already learned. She is proud of her Liberian roots and wants to stay close to them; she’s saddened by having to remain out of the country when the revolution came and says her family started over from scratch. Her past gives her strength and she knows her family is proud of her for keeping on with her dream of being a fashion designer.

Tim then goes on to Portland, Oregon to visit Leanne in her apartment. There we briefly meet her boyfriend and take a gander at her not-yet-finished collection. She says she had to clear her head after being in New York, so she spent a lot of time by the water and got inspiration from the waves. Tim is, overall, impressed by her collection but worries that some of the white fabrics are a bit to stark. With his advice, she thinks she is going to dye some of the whites. Tim takes a look at the wedding dress and doesn’t feel it is that cohesive with the rest of the collection; she’ll work on that. Leanne surprises Tim with the suggestion of a bike ride, and he goes along with it, albeit tentatively. Tim doesn’t appear to be much of a bike rider but doesn’t completely fall off the back of the tandem bike. It is quite the sight, though, to see the dapper Mr. Gunn in a suit and bike helmet pedaling through a Portland park. They then sit on a blanket at the park (Tim still in his suit) where Leanne divulges that she started sketching at an early age and came to fashion design at 12 when she made her own ballet costumes. She is proud to have made her dream come true and be a fashion designer.

With three weeks remaining until Fashion Week, Tim visits Jerell at his Los Angeles, California studio. He says his overall point of view for the collection is making eveningwear with mixed textures. His wedding gown has a swooping asymmetrical skirt with this kind of popped out, crazy bust line on the strapless gown. Tim thinks the top needs to be scaled back a bit and needs more support. Tim takes a gander at the other designs, all with multiple textures, types of fabric, and a general sense of “everything and the kitchen sink” thrown on them. He calls out one as being a “lot of look” and suggests Jerell enter into an editing phase. After this gentle but direct criticism, Tim jokingly asks if he can still meet Jerell’s family and friends, an offer, which, of course, no one could turn down. Tim and Jerell meet up with his mom, sister, boyfriend and a group of friends at an apartment. Jerell’s mom and sister are really proud of him and his mother always knew he’d work in a creative field. Jerell tells us that his parents worked really hard to give him and his sister a good life; they started out living in South Central, just a few blocks from where the riots started, and then his parents got them out of the area by his dad taking a long-haul trucking job. Jerell is extremely grateful to his parents’ efforts and their actions gave him the confidence to be creative and follow his dreams. Of course, in typical Jerell fashion, he gets misty-eyed at the recollection, but ends on a positive note, saying he’s going to put on one hell of a fashion show.

Finally, back in the city, Tim makes it across the river to visit Kenley in Brooklyn. She is nervous and hopes that he loves her line; she says she really does respect his opinion, but I wonder if that comment is producer-instigated. He likes her cute apartment and admires the 1940s-era photo of her grandmother. In what can now only be referred to as the Sebelia edit, we get the tearful back-story that Kenley’s grandmother was in fashion in the 1940s and recently died, and Kenley is really sad that she wasn’t around to see her show at Bryant Park because she was such an influential person on Kenley’s fashion sense. Now, I don’t doubt for a minute that Kenley truly misses her grandmother; however, (a) given Suede’s frequent invocation of deceased family members as inspiration, this story would have fit better in an earlier episode and (b) given the heretofore “villain” edit Kenley had, this line of exposition can only be to soften her image. And they only do that for one reason—she’s not going anywhere any time soon. Kenley tells Tim that “Alice in Wonderland” inspired her collection. She shows him some, from the quick glance we get, really nicely done hand painting on fabric, and some cute, typical Kenley dresses. Tim is concerned about the rings of black rope around one of the dressmaker dummies—apparently to be used as some kind of choker necklace. Tim says it invokes the thought of people hanging themselves, but she says she likes to use ropes because she was around so much rope on her dad’s tugboats. Tim takes a gander at the feather-covered wedding dress and he loves it. Kenley thinks she has a huge chance of winning the whole thing, which has me even more worried about the Sebelia edit than before.

One more, for the road.

With six days remaining before the big show at Bryant Park, our final four arrive back in New York. They’re sharing a suite in a Westin in New York; I don’t envy them because the last time I stayed at a Westin, the service was abysmal—apparently fresh towels and maid service is optional, despite the high price of the room. Korto arrives first and is adamant about not sharing one of the two bedrooms with Kenley. She’s glad that Leanne arrives next so they can bunk together. Jerell arrives third, and after greeting him with hugs, he comes to the realization that he’ll be sharing a room with Kenley. Kenley comes in and their conversation ceases and they all kind of mindlessly stare at their glasses of white wine. She kinda/sorta apologizes for being a bitch and then champagne arrives from Tim Gunn. A couple of drinks later, and a sort of peace has been found.

The next morning finds the designers at their workspace unpacking their collections. Tim comes in for a “gather ‘round” session and breaks it to them that they will have to make bridesmaid dresses to accompany their wedding gowns for the four-to-three challenge. They will only have one day, $150, and a lot of stress to make it work. Needless to say, no one is pleased with this turn of events. Without further ado, they head off to Mood to find fabrics. Korto isn’t worried—a bridesmaid dress is just an evening dress made to frou-frou up a wedding. Leanne has a solid idea of her fabrics and gets them, while Tim worries that Jerell’s steel grey fabrics are dark and somber.

Back in the workroom, the designers have until midnight to complete their looks. Leanne is using the bridesmaid dress as an opportunity to show more color. Korto says she is calm and won’t snap at anyone and Kenley reminds her that she did snap at her at the last runway judging. Korto didn’t like being called “bland” but Kenley didn’t like being told her personality should keep her from Fashion Week.

There is little time for more snapping, however, as there are bridesmaid dresses to be made. Jerell is convinced that the dress can be ugly because all bridesmaid dresses are ugly. I have been in exactly one wedding but have been to many more and, despite Korto’s admonishment to the contrary, I have never seen a bridesmaid dress that wasn’t ugly, except where the bride let the maids pick whatever they wanted to wear off the rack.

Tim comes in to check on the designers’ progress. He starts with Kenley who shows him a pleated wrap bubble skirt that is going to be topped off with a boatneck bodice. The dress is in blue jewel-toned fabrics. Tim senses some ambivalence in Kenley’s description of the top, and she whines that she’s still working. Tim, adopting the most paternalistic tone I’ve ever heard him take, says that he likes the tone of the wedding that she’s creating and he’d love to go to it and generally encourages her.

Jerell’s bridesmaid dress is long and made of a shiny light teal fabric and is really long and has a cummerbund in the grey fabric with flowers sticking out of it. Tim worries about puckering in seams of dress, saying it looks sloppy. He advises to make the flower placement look organic and figure out what to do with the sloppy seams and skirt of the dress.

Tim takes a gander at Leanne’s work and can’t help but notice the wedding dress is completely different from the one he saw in Portland; he thinks this version is much better and “makes music” rather than just being technically interesting. Leanne says that she is using the bridesmaid dress to put in more color and will only use the wave design of the bridal dress in the top of the bodice. Tim worries about the long length of the dress and she agrees that she’ll make it shorter.

Finally, Tim reviews Korto’s wedding dresses. He sees two wedding dresses, in the very same color, and worries about the similarity at this point in the competition. He prepares to leave and, with his eyes tearing up, advises the designers to stand by their work, reminds them to leave nothing in the design that they are not confident in, and says he loves them all and cares deeply about each of them. He apologizes for his teary state, but he wants to know he really wants them all to do well and all go on to Fashion Week.


The designers ready themselves to face the penultimate runway challenge at their hotel and then arrive at Parsons to put the finishing touches on their bridesmaid dresses. Korto has a lot of work remaining when Tim brings in the models for their hair, makeup and final fitting. Kenley is pissed off that both Leanne and Korto shortened their dresses; she thought she would have the only short bridesmaid dress. Then, in a shocking move, Korto is overtaken with emotion at the finality of this challenge and even expresses *gasp* love for Kenley.

Out for the runway they all head, and Heidi starts the show by introducing the judges—Michael and Nina—with no guest judge. They survey these designs:

Jerell’s wedding dress is a big ole thing made out of dirty champagne colored fabric. The bustier top has all manner of crap stuck on it; the dress is fitted through the middle and then starts poofing out in a ridiculous way with tulle or something at the legs. His model appears to have trouble walking in it. The bridesmaid dress is still wrinkly, with the shiny fabric not really laying right at all. The cummerbund and flowers are still there, and it’s just kind of plain. In that regard, it is like a whole lot of bridesmaid dresses I’ve seen.

Kenley’s wedding dress is a fitted bodice and top skirt made of white feathers. The top skirt is over layers and layers of white tulle; the skirt comes out wide and full (though not long), much in keeping with her constant 1950s theme. The bridesmaid dress has a short, vertically layered bubble skirt with a simple fitted boatneck sleeveless top.

Korto’s wedding dress is a long dress with a train. It has a lot of pleating details around the collar and the top of the dress. It comes in at the waist with a belt, then is still fitted through the hips, but comes out full at the bottom. The bridesmaid dress is done in the same dark ivory color (I’m guessing—Bravo’s colors are always a bit weird on the broadcast). It is a halter-top dress with flat pleating details on the bodice and a short, full skirt.

Leanne’s wedding dress is in an ivory material. The top is strapless and fitted but doesn’t scream “body cast” like so many wedding dresses do. It’s saved from being body cast-like by the gentle wave fabric at the top of the slight sweetheart neckline. The skirt comes down in two levels of vertical waves. It looks incredibly complicated, yet it reminds me of some kind of party decoration I can’t quite think of. Her bridesmaid dress is in pale, pale seafoam green with the wave detail at the neckline. The skirt is to the knees and pulls in for a slight “bubble” shape.

After the runway show and the models come out for the judging, Michael deems Leanne’s bridal dress beautiful and chic; Nina concurs, noting it was modern and captured her style. She also enjoyed the bridesmaid dress. Leanne says her collection was inspired by waves, and her whole collection reflects the shape and colors of waves. Heidi also loves these looks.

Jerell’s dresses don’t fare as well with the judges. Michael has issues with the “wings” and jewels across the bustline and the jewels under the bustline. He says it is just too much, but Jerell says his aesthetic is opulent and regal. Heidi thinks the wedding dress is a bit messy and the bridesmaid dress is “mummsy.” Nina worries over the greyish color of the wedding dress—it makes it look dirty. She also thinks Jerell did not give the bridesmaid dress much thought. Jerell says he deserves to go to Fashion Week to show how much work he put into his collection.

Right away, Michael points out that Kenley’s wedding dress looks exactly like one shown by Alexander McQueen; Nina agrees. That aside, Michael thinks the dress is beautifully done and, even though there’s a lot of McQueen in the dress, it still is a “Kenley” style. The judges also love the bridesmaid dress and see her style in it.

Finally, Korto’s dresses are not well liked. Heidi says there is way too much going on with the bridal dress and she would not want to wear it. Michael concurs—the wedding dress is overworked. On the other hand, the bridesmaid dress is under-worked and Nina thinks the dresses do not match at all. Korto says she really wants a chance to show at Fashion Week to show she has a winning collection.

During deliberations, the judges like Leanne’s use of architectural construction while still making the clothes beautiful and soft. Kenley gets praise for a job well-done; her fun, kooky, yet meticulous style came through and will make for a good runway show. The judges are puzzled at Korto’s over-use of technique on the bride’s dress and absolutely no excitement in the bridesmaid dress, saying it could be bought at any store. The judges conclude that Jerell just went hog wild with embellishments and ended up with an overwrought set of garments.

The designers are recalled to the runway for the final determination of who will compete for the prizes at Fashion Week. Leanne and Kenley are both in, so it comes down to Korto, whose dresses did not relate to one another, and Jerell, whose designs had too much going on. After a pause, Korto is in and goes back stage for a hug from Kenley, which truly shows Korto was super-stressed. Jerell is out; in his exit interview, he says that if you go to him, you’re going to get a heavily adorned, opulent dress. However, if you want a plain white tee shirt, go to Michael Kors, because that’s what he does. Ohhh, burn! (It is true; I had this plain black tee from Old Navy. Next season in Kors’ ready-to-wear, he had the same shirt for three times the price—and probably from the same factory.)

Next week is the end of the road for this season, and who knows what will happen with PR6, given the status of the litigation. So tune in for what may be the last we see of this show for a while. Right now, my only hope for the PR-related future is continuing to see Tim Gunn keeps on The Late, Late Show giving fashion tips to rednecks.