Neither rain nor sleet nor hail nor bad fashion can keep your friendly mail carrier down, so why not perk up their day with a revamped uniform fashionable enough to strut down the catwalk? That’s the thinking behind this week’s Project Runway challenge. If our budding fashion designers want to make it to Olympus fashion week, they had better transform frumpy into fabulous. The path of proving their designer worthiness has taken them in all directions; from designing an abstract emotion to cupcake-sweet bridal glurge; from corn husk dresses to high-society party swimsuits. Designing for the local letter carrier seems positively mundane by comparison.
Wait a Minute, Mr. Postman!
So what’s the deal with Wendy? Kara Saun thinks her bashing of Kevin in the previous episode was a calculated, crafty move. Now Kara Saun knows better than to trust anyone; lesson learned. Let’s move on, shall we?
Heidi presents the remaining five designers with bulky brown packages, but tells them they must remain unopened for now. How mysterious...it turns out they must open them the next morning at 6:00 a.m. I’d forsake the mystery for a snooze button, myself.
It’s time for the designers to pick their models, and the first four choose the models they used the week before. Austin is the designer left with the difficult choice of eliminating one of the girls. They stand there looking vulnerable in their black silk nighties, forced to be half-naked in a room full of clothed people. Unionize, my little pretties. Austin chooses to leave behind the girl who modeled his design the prior week - namely, Erin. It’s an understandable choice when you consider she was up against Martinique, she of the mile-long legs who can walk like buttah. Erin gets the usual Heidi Klum kiss of dismissal, and she’s off to her three-second confessional, saying she liked the girls and will miss being on the show. Poof! She’s gone.
The designers return to their apartment and puzzle over the packages they’ve been told not to open. Kara Saun remarks that her package is smaller than the others, and Jay tells her it contains nothing more than a Hooters t-shirt. But wait, Jay’s one-man comedy show continues. He’s sure the packages contain babies that they will have to raise for the next eighteen years. That Jay. I could watch him eating from a paper plate and cracking jokes all night.
The designers are awakened before dawn to the excitement of opening their packages, much like Christmas. Austin holds up a pair of slate blue...shorts? It’s like the most disappointing Christmas ever. Yes, not only are they are expected to wear the enclosed uniforms, they are told to make their way to New Jersey to report for duty. How very Apprentice of them. Wendy, dressed in her USPS uniform that includes a pith helmet, startles Kara Saun by lying in wait outside the bathroom. Kara Saun comes out and jumps back in abject fear at the sight. Maybe the uniforms could use a more flattering cut; maybe Wendy is just that scary.
The comedian of the bunch is, of course, Jay, who lets his long tresses down and pretends to be a stoner mailboy. Well, he claimed to be imitating Augustus Gloop - you know, the kid that couldn’t stop eating on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory - but I’m sticking with the stoner mailboy, myself. Austin gets a laugh for mincing across the room in his USPS shorts. You could just pinch his sculpted cheeks, he’s so cute.
The designers are brought to Frank Sinatra’s post office (I’m not kidding - it’s in Hoboken, apparently) to meet Becky, a USPS letter carrier. Becky gives them some guidelines for a redesigned uniform: something functional, comfortable, good-looking but that will still feel like a uniform government employees can wear with pride. To make the challenge more meaningful, they will be living the life of a letter carrier for one day. It’s hokey, but hopefully the designers will be motivated to incorporate function into their fashionable stylings.
Wendy and Austin are paired together, while Jay, Robert and Kara Saun are put together in a group. Each group will join a letter carrier on their route; right away, the designers pepper the letter carriers with questions about their uniform needs. As postal employees, Wendy and Austin don’t measure up. The Chairman of the Board would be rolling his old blue eyes at the sight. Neither can seem to complete the simple tasks, such as pushing the mail cart across the street. Austin thinks they have been given old equipment *gasp* on purpose. When he’s upset he lapses into a pronounced listhp, and as he struggles with the cart, he’s upsthet and *gasp* sthweating.
In contrast, Kara Saun and Jay seem to be having a good time, reminiscing about the friendly neighborhood letter carrier of yesteryear that everyone allegedly knew by name. Jay seems impressed by the scope of the work: “There’s like keys and bags and doors and dogs and reading is involved, and mathematics...” Robert gets scolded for reading a Victoria’s Secret catalog while wearing the uniform; the letter carrier reminds him he is dressed professionally, and as such, is expected to act like a professional. There’s more to the job than they all realized; how will they incorporate what they’ve learned into their design?
Kara Saun, Robert and Jay grab a few moments to discuss Wendy, and her new penchant for blabbing about her fellow contestants to the judges. Kara Saun, who has tried to be kind to everyone, is now saying that the Wendy Pepper who started the contest is not the same woman inhabiting her skin now. It takes a lot to creep out Kara Saun, so congratulations on achieving that, Wendy.
The designers have $100 and forty minutes to purchase the fabric they need for the uniform challenge. They must stay within the color scheme of the postal service, and can choose to design for either summer or winter. Jay’s approach will be to make the uniform fashionable; something with his “stamp” on it. Wendy is observed lusting over some ultra-expensive Italian cotton. Kara has an assortment of fabrics, and Robert performs true to form by enlisting the help of a young shopgirl in a mini-skirt and high heels. “I don’t think my charm will ever die,” he laughs to the camera. If that’s foreshadowing, this episode could very well end in bloodshed and tears.
Back at the workshop, Wendy discovers that someone has drawn on a photograph of her daughter. Cue the dramatic music...Wendy has been violated. We’re not given any hints about the culprit, but the other designers don’t look very surprised. Perhaps it was the whiny, preachy way she delivered a lecture about people waging “psychological warfare;” people look concerned, but no one is sympathizing with Wendy. Jay and Robert tell her that they can’t imagine that anyone in the room would have enough hatred to deface her daughter’s picture. Wendy whines that no one is there to support her. Jay tells the camera that he’d love to know who did it, because he loves that kind of dirt. Aren’t there cameras going 24/7? Maybe there will be a confession or reveal before the series ends, but for now, we’re left to wonder if Wendy ticked off a model, a crew member, a fellow designer, or perhaps, just perhaps, created her own bit of drama. Meanwhile, Wendy wonders if she fits into the fashion industry, seeing as it’s peopled by evil photo-destroyers...which implies she’s cut from a different cloth. See, that backhanded patting herself on the back is what makes her my prime suspect.
The designers are given a mere three hours to design their uniforms, create a pattern, cut, stitch, and assemble the uniform to a tailored, completed look. Three freakin’ hours. It takes me more than three hours to sew a pillowcase from a pre-made pattern. No matter how much drama is shown or how much criticism the designers get from the judges, I’m always impressed by their skills. Go, designers, go!
Robert’s idea is a pant that can be zipped into shorts at a moment’s notice. The zippable pant legs were a stumbling point for Zack on The Amazing Race, but that was long ago on a far, far away television network. Maybe it will be a winning touch to Robert’s design. Jay is going for a winter look, planning a large, slanted logo on the back of a sky blue sweater.
Jay criticizes Wendy’s design for being solely focused on function rather than fashion. That sounds practical, so how bad can it be? We’ll get back to what it looks like a little later, but suffice to say that Wendy thinks the postal service shouldn’t embrace change too fast. Austin, in contrast, is designing a feminine, elegant look that includes a rain-proof cape. Superhero postal workers? It could work.
Tim Gunn arrives to supervise and/or harrass the budding designers. He questions Kara Saun’s use of a drawstring pant, but she points out that it can be worn by a variety of sizes comfortably. She is going for a layered look, which Tim seems very excited about.
Tim is not so thrilled at Wendy’s creation, and decides to intervene before it’s too late. (May I remind you, Tim, that they only have three freakin' hours?) He pulls her aside and informs her that Michael Kors, who is a well-known, widely-worshipped designer who happens to be one of the judges, is firmly entrenched in the idea that Wendy can only design frumpy clothing. Especially offensive is the chunky, velcro-strapped shoe that Wendy has chosen for the model to wear. Admittedly, the shoe looks comfortable; but it would make a model with a size six shoe size look like she was hiding hobbit feet. Wendy is defensive and argumentative about the shoe, which isn’t appreciated by Tim. “This could potentially be your downfall,” he warns.
Who will be the one to go? Jay speculates that Kara Saun will be safe, and thinks he himself is in a good position. He’s worried about Austin, and notes that Robert can talk his way out of anything ... but that he’ll have a hard time explaining his “cartoony” uniform. I don’t know Jay, Robert has charmed his way through six weeks, what’s one more?
Back at the apartment, the designers talk about their hopes and fears. Without explanation, Jay whips a towel off Robert, and he races nude through the apartment. Lovely Bravo doesn’t see fit to pixelate Mr. Charming. Bravo, dear Bravo!
It’s the day of the runway show, and Wendy has taken off by herself to pace the sidewalk in front of the building. She is gesticulating wildly and seems to be practicing a speech. One of the designers notices, and they have a laugh watching her antics from several stories above. Austin thinks that after Wendy is eliminated they will find her vacantly wandering the streets with crazy lady makeup on. By my count, she’s halfway there.
Tim Gunn delivers bad news for Jay: his model, Julia, can’t be there until 5:00, the scheduled time for the runway show. Jay calls her multiple times, looks for a model on the street, and asks all the models to call a friend. The models seem reluctant to undercut their colleague, since she said, like, she would be there, just, like, not until 5:00. The models have circled their wagons protectively around Julia. Now, Robert aka Mr. Charming knows a model or two, and for a while it look like he has convinced one to come down and be in the show, but at 4:57, no model is present. Tim Gunn strides in the room and asks Jay to name his alternative plan. “Austin?” Jay says with a laugh.
Austin plunges into hair and makeup like the trooper he is, and soon he’s wearing the outfit designed for an incredibly skinny, incredibly tall woman. He carries it off with aplomb, and Jay makes the comment that he’s never seen Austin look so butch. What can’t that little fashion diva do?
Heidi notices instantly that one of the designers is missing, and seems delighted at the thought of Austin modeling. Still, she’s got business to attend to. The designers will be judged on their ability to balance form and function. Furthermore, the winner will not receive an exemption in the next challenge, since it’s the penultimate one. “That would be too easy,” she says sternly. She would look right at home with thigh-high patent leather boots and a whip, that one. The judges this week will be Michael Kors, Nina Garcia, and Becky Negich - hey, it’s the letter carrier who hosted their visit to Frank Sinatra’s post office! Is that My Way she's humming?
First up is Wendy’s design, modeled by Melissa. It’s hard to imagine the girl who mesmerized Page Six’s Richard Johnson looking, well, chunky, but Wendy’s design has managed to make the girl look like she’s got the dreaded thunder thighs. The blouse is a regular button down with some princess seams added, which makes the model’s hips look even wider. Interestingly, Wendy has chucked the bulky velcro shoe as Tim Gunn suggested. Laughably, she seems to have given the model her own shoes - some sort of sleek bright red sneaker. The shoes easily outshine the lumpy outfit.
Austin’s design appears behind the lighted screen looking like Darth Vader - well, if he wore a short summer robe. Thankfully, Martinique emerges in a rainproof cape, which she swirls off to reveal a sleeveless top paired with slim-legged Bermuda shorts. Austin calls the look “updated”, but oddly, it evokes the stewardess uniforms of the 1960's, especially with the cape on.
Next is Kara Saun’s layered look for winter. The model wears a loose drawstring pant, tight blue hoodie, white turtle neck, and navy, fur-lined vest. Kara Saun also made a matching fur hat complete with ear flaps. It may not sound that great from my description, but the overall look is sexy working girl. It’s a uniform that J-Lo could wear in a romantic comedy and look like a professional while charming the pants off her co-star.
Robert’s design is next, and Olga struts down the runway in high heels and wide-legged pants. The look is casual - so casual that her midriff is showing, which I doubt the post office is keen to adopt anytime soon. At the end of her walk, Olga zips off one leg to reveal the shorts gimmick. The judges look underwhelmed.
Last is the newest face on the runway, modeling Jay’s version of a winter uniform. With his gamine looks, uber-sculpted cheeks, and comfortable runway stride, Austin nails it, even giving a bored little pirouhette at the end. Maybe he was sucking in his cheeks, but he looked elegant, sophisticated, and oh-so-modelicious. Oh, and Jay’s uniform included pants of a sparkly fabric, high boots, a navy vest, and a light blue turtleneck sweater with the USPS logo on the back. “Butch” is an understatement - if it weren’t for Austin’s trademark hair flip stealing out from underneath his knit cap, Austin would be 100% good ole’ boy.
Kara Saun’s outfit contains a utility belt, to which Becky the letter carrier nods approvingly. Michael Kors adores Kara Saun’s for making the outfit have a sexy feel to it, while still designed with function in mind. The other designers laugh and shake their heads, knowing Kara Saun has sailed her way to another win.
Jay’s outfit is criticized for being too “butchy” for a woman. Austin’s outfit is criticized for being too slim-legged and “costumey” (ouch!) for a regular woman to wear. Michael Kors labels it “Doris Day playing a postal worker.” Austin does earn kudos for jumping in to save Jay, but he only responds that he’s sure Jay would do the same for him. In bizarro world, where female fashion models are Jay’s size, I’m sure that’s true.
Robert explains the inspiration for his zip-off shorts - he wore pants for the challenge, and found that out on the street, he was hot and sweaty. Nina calls the look “unfinished”, and Michael Kors says that the look seems too casual for a uniform. As for Wendy, she explains that she likes the existing uniform, and felt it didn’t need much altering. She added an outside pleat to the shorts, which flare out from the model’s body. Nina comments that the pleat was a horrible choice that make her model look “wide.” Melissa darts a look down at her thighs at the comment. Another night of ripped-up paper for dinner, it seems. But Melissa raises her hand to volunteer that the shorts are comfortable, and that she can feel a breeze on her legs as she wears them.
The designers leave the room, and the judges can really let loose. Postal worker Becky thinks Austin’s was much too tight to wear comfortably ( in his defense, it was stretch material, but that detail seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle). Michael Kors calls the look “prissy,” and Nina thought it evoked Little Red Riding Hood. Their vicious laughter is making me nervous. Not Austin, they can’t be thinking of axing Austin when Wendy is still around!
Kara Saun’s gets heaps of praise, especially from Becky, who says she would wear it every day in the winter. Jay’s is criticized for being too “butch” again by Michael Kors, but gets kudos for being polished and finished. Wendy’s is beyond dowdy; Michael Kors scathingly terms it “matronly.” In his notes, he wrote down the look was “farty.” Becky praises Wendy for getting rid of the traditional pencil pocket and putting more usable pockets over the stomach. It may not be a great look, but it’s functional. Robert’s design is discussed last, and is soundly dismissed by everyone. His design isn’t fashionable, and it certainly isn’t functional. Nina comments that Robert has slipped through the competition on his charm, but hasn’t produced much overall.
The designers are called back in, and the safe designers are excused, in order of their design’s ranking: Kara Saun, Jay, and Austin. As winner of another challenge, Kara Saun kisses each designer on the cheek - except for Wendy, that is. Left to ponder their fate are Wendy and Robert.
Wendy is told that she was supposed to redesign the uniform in a stylish way, and she didn’t. Robert is told that his uniform is unfinished, and too casual for the post office.
Just like that, Wendy is “in.” As she returns to the waiting room, Jay tells her that she keeps coming back “like a cockroach.” Robert laughingly asks Becky if the post office is hiring. That loveable chucklehead. Heidi gives him the kiss of doom and bids him auf Wiedersehen. “Very charming, though,” she adds. I guess he was right - his charm will never die. A thousand years from now, the children will gather by the fireside to hear the story of Robert, the boy whose charm lived forever.
It’s the last challenge before the final, and the designers will create a dress fit for the red carpet. Wendy nabs a roll of fabric that Kara Saun was looking at, leading Kara Saun to comment loudly about unskilled louts who resort to cheating. Me-owch! We see Wendy working on her dress, surrounded by what looks like a pile of fluffy orange feathers. Could we be witnessing the birth of a new muppet character? The judges are shown looking sour-faced at the creations, and Wendy comments that she likes to see people squirm. No, please don’t let Wendy advance to the final three!
I’m almost done with that pillowcase, so send me down feathers at email@example.com.