Orientalism, Diapers, Skulls, and a Brilliant Jessica Simpson

Who knew Jessica Simpson was so smart? Now it has long been thought that playing a “dumb blonde” was part of her schtick, and she was actually far from it. Does she honestly think buffaloes have wings? Doubtful. Conversely, does this mean I think she’s a Rhodes scholar? Probably not. But as a judge on Project Runway, her critiques were thoughtful and astute, and she become the voice of logic and reason amidst a sea of madness.

Seriously. Who knew?

I still wish she would hire a stylist who didn’t intensely hate her, would figure out how to dress what is, in fact, a fantastic (and I’m sure very petite) figure, and that she would have declined wearing that silver sequined sack (why, Michael Kors, WHY would you do that to a woman’s body?) that made her look like a sparkly defensive linebacker.

But I digress. We are not here to discuss the intelligence level or fashion missteps of one, Miss Simpson. No, no, my darlings, we are to discuss the sartorial travesty of vomit that was the season finale of Project Runway.

To begin, our final three designers are ushered from their Hilton suite to the most randomly situated reunion show ever. It occurred about ten minutes into the episode, was brief and dull and ultimately pointless, and featured an entire cast heavily drugged with horse tranquilizers.


                   We all love each other. And ketamine. We really love ketamine.

Any discussions of Michael C.’s meltdown that included wall-punching and curling into a fetal position while wailing incoherently (and should have been accompanied by the score from Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci)? Any mention of the infamous team challenge where Gretchen kissed her own backside, led her team in making hideous “And then there’s Maude…” outfits, went insane on the runway and declared her love and hatred of the collection within five minutes, and began the “throwing Michael C. under the bus” remix (because there is no other way to phrase that—not “sacrifical lamb,” “scapegoat,” “whipping boy,” etc.; just an automotive mode of public transport and the hurling of a figure under its carriage)? How about Tim Gunn’s eloquent smack down? Ivy being a terrible “stank-ass bitch” all season and her accusations of cheating against Michael C.? Crazy Jason and his Chaplin-esque bowler hat of doom and tool corset?


Instead, we were treated to a love-fest concerning their growth as designers and their loving togetherness…together…in love…while loving…together. There was a brief question as to whether Miss Gretchen Jones was, in fact, a “bitch” in real life. “I just play one on TV,” she shrugged, smiling coyly with her awful Orange Flip lipstick, her sharp face framed by her perpetually unwashed, uncombed she-mullet. In a somewhat bipolar turn of events, she immediately brought on the crocodile tears, wiping at her dry eyes as she explained in a trembling voice that she, like other strong confident women, was cruelly and unfairly labeled a bitch due to the aforementioned qualities of strength and confidence.

Really? That’s interesting. I know plenty of confident ladies who are perfectly pleasant and kind and don’t feel it necessary to denigrate others. On the flipside, I also am acquainted with a group of immature and insecure girls who must constantly be nasty and heinous to others (even their family members and soi-disant friends) because it is the only way to make themselves feel better. Some of them have issues they are (poorly) dealing with, and some are just horrible, disagreeable people.

So, no, Miss Jones, I think you may just be a bitch.

Following that needless interlude, the final three return to the workroom to put the finishing touches on their collections and experience a final Tim-Thru. Gretchen is going to pump up her styling to make her clothes less “crunchy granola.” To do this, she shall incorporate brighter lipstick and a few pairs of heels. Heels do not pretty clothes make, madam. Andy is completing the tailoring on his silver bikini and cover-up, confused by Tim Gunn’s fear that the twisting fabric rising from the bikini bottoms looks like a very thick, very unfortunate thatch of hair (very happy trail, indeed), and blissfully unaware that he will be a non-entity come final judging. Tim Gunn urges Mondo to scrap the plain black dress he has made, as it doesn’t read “Mondo,” and has none of the brightness and whimsy of the rest of his pieces (and, honestly, I love a good LBD, but how original is it?).

Late that night, Andy, Gretchen, and Mondo return to their suite for a few scant hours of shut-eye before the runway show at Lincoln Center in the morning. We are treated to the necessary introspection and declarations of how much they all want this (hint: more than anyone else), and Gretchen is bizarrely attired in what appears to be a dirty bathmat or bit of insulation. I almost wonder why they bother to sleep, as it must have been near one in the morning before they retired, and the alarms beep loudly again at three. We watch as they get ready. Andy is wearing unflattering cargo pants that make him look as though someone has cruelly sawed off his legs at the knee and stuck the bloody stumps into large sneakers, and have enough material in them to clothe an entire country’s worth of starving children. Mondo is wearing a rather dapper, retro gray suit, his Elvis/Jimmy Neutron pompadour styled to levels heretofore never achieved.



Gretchen’s hair is still gross and unwashed, and her skirt is so sheer as to be see-through, leaving me with a terrifying view of her GIANT panties. It was a terrible harbinger of things to come.

They set off into the New York night, remarking on how they are the “only ones out there” (as several cars very obviously pass by them—and, I would like to point out, they are accompanied by at least one cameraman). Um, isn’t New York the “city that never sleeps”? In due time, they reach Lincoln Center and behold the enormous white runway, which Gretchen proceeds to fling herself upon, as though she wishes to embrace it and make sweet, passionate love to it (ew.). We immediately cut to everyone scrambling to get things together with a note on the bottom of the screen that informs the viewing audience that the show is a mere two hours away (Excuse me, exactly what time do these shows start? This makes it look like it’s taking place at 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning…surely that can’t be right?). Mondo’s models are flaky and not showing up. Andy is hemming chartreuse pants that Tim hates. The “wrangler” (that is seriously the most awesome job title ever) has the models in the wrong order. Somebody has short hair. Heidi is wearing a heinous ketchup-colored three-piece suit. Poor Jessica Simpson looks like a linebacker. Oh God, is very pregnant Nina Garcia wearing a sheer top?! No. No. Wrong. Michael Kors is wearing sunglasses indoors, perhaps to protect his vision from the terrible orange glare of his Oompa-Loompa complexion. Maya Luz from last season (she who left in the middle of a challenge for no freaking reason) is sitting placidly in the audience, looking stoned out of her mind. The eliminated designers are also shown in the audience (weird, as they would have been showing their decoy collections as well—if you pay close attention, you can see April’s “dirty babydoll” models in the background of a few shots).


        Which of these four is going to sound insightful and wise later? Sheer Preggo,
     Chicken of the Sea, I-Wear-My-Sunglasses-at-Night, or Teutonic Heinz Ketchup?

At last, it’s time for the show.

We begin with Gretchen, who is so happy her mother and best friend are there (her mother, particularly, always seems to be around to support her, treating it as a matter of course, and yet this continually surprises our Amazonian lass). She introduces her collection, entitled, hand-to-God, “Running Through Thunder.” Great. More kitschy faux-Native American BS. And Gretchen, sweetheart, a little word to the wise: thunder is a noise. You cannot run through sounds. Just saying.

First up:

Barf. A giant gray diaper (that also looks slightly sheer—what is up with all the see-through business?), hideous clunky clogs, tacky geometric jewelry, and a jacket in various shades of baby poop. As I said: barf.


This is probably one of her better pieces that, were it not for the weird sleeve that looks like she was attacked by a puma, and again with the clogs (and the fact that you can totally see the white pasties on the model’s nipples), would be perfectly tolerable for an elementary school teacher in 1993.


This top looks almost exactly like the top half of the last dress (except it is in a slightly different pattern and slightly different shade of poo). The bizarre dark inseam patchwork on the pants make it look like the model soiled herself. What is up with this poo theme?? The less said about the hat eating that poor girl’s head, the better.


This isn’t bad, I guess. More shades of baby poo, of course; that’s a given by now. But, you know, I could totally see Gloria Bunker-Stivic from All in the Family wearing this—were it not for the fact that the crotch of the pants is steadily consuming this model’s “lady business.” And more tacky triangle necklaces.


Barf Barf. More gray giant adult diapers, that cheap looking necklace again, a baggy gray shirt that looks all stretched out and weird (that old shirt you have that you sleep in and would never walk out of the house while wearing), and another head-eating chapeau.


I…guess I don’t hate this? And hey, look! It’s SAFARI poo brown! I think it would be tremendously unflattering, as anyone who is not a stick creature would be less than enthused to have their bosoms hanging out for the world to see (and flat-chested ladies look like their heads are on backwards), or for the weird pointy business around the hips to give them thunder-thighs. (Then again, the collection IS called “Running Through Thunder”…sigh.)


UGH. SUPER BARF. What IS this? Gladiator sandals that make the girl look as though she has giant pancake feet, MORE giant gray diapers, and what, in my estimation, appears to be one of those short robes boxers wear when they enter the ring. Over…nothing. Not a bra, not a shirt, not a flimsy little camisole. If I walked out in a robe with my breasts essentially exposed, and GIANT underwear, I’m fairly certain I’d be arrested for indecent exposure. Just…barf.


Barf, Barf…again. Huge clogs. This mix of poo prints is awful together, those quasi-pegged, wide-hipped pants would look good on absolutely NO ONE (and hit at the worst possible point—mid-calf), and, what you don’t see, my little chickadees, is that that horrid midriff is backless in the manner of a hospital gown. Gee. Pretty.


Um…didn’t we see this akimbo top already? Like…twice? And more visible boob pasties. And GIANT shorts that look as though they were crafted from a black trash bag. So, let’s see here…poo, hospitals, trash…good job.

Lastly (finally):

Again, I…suppose it’s okay. If the color didn’t remind me of feces. I’m not entirely sure what that’s supposed to be. It’s too casual to be evening wear, but it’s not really work appropriate either, is it? Why the weird vest thing? Why do I feel like I’m looking at a Coldwater Creek catalogue circa 1994?

My thoughts overall: Was that a joke? I want to vomit.

Now on to Monsieur Andy South, who ordered special silks and prints from his ancestral home, Laos, and was inspired by it, and its Buddha Gardens.

First up:

The headpieces are distracting and look rather space-alien-esque. That said, though I don’t think those full capris would be flattering on anyone but the thinnest girl, and I’m not sure how many people would be willing to don apple green vest-capelets, it’s about a gazillion times better than anything Gretchen put down the runway.


This looked a lot better on television, because you could see how delicate and floaty it was. That aside, it’s a pretty dull pair of gray pants and a gray tank top. Nothing to write home about.


It’s…perfectly nice. I’m not particularly excited by it, but it doesn’t make me want to lose my lunch. The top is a little too blousy for my taste, and veers a bit into the maternity wear look.


I like the pop of color, but I’m concerned about what the shorts are doing to that model’s crotch (to explain in the most delicate way possible, I fear that it makes her look, erm, like a man down south). Filmy voile gray top is total yawn-fest.


This looks far less like a giant thatch of hair coming out of the bikini bottom, which is good, but unfortunately, it also looks like the fabric was accidentally tucked in (like coming out of the restroom with one’s shirt tucked into their underwear, or with a trail of toilet paper cascading from the bottom of their shoe). I’m not sure how one gets in and out of this bikini, and I’d worry it would slip off and reveal a bit too much, but overall it’s pretty cool looking.


Extremely pretty—and looked even better on television than in pictures. I love the slinky chain/fringe detail. But as for the modern take on the 1920s flapper dress? Season Three’s Laura Bennett did it first and she did it better.


Is it just me, or do the bottoms totally look like fitted pajama pants? The whole thing kind of looks like fancy pajamas, now that I think about it. Very pretty fancy pajamas, but pajamas nonetheless. And the top is cute, but the cut of the neckline shall ensure that one looks like they have the figure of an adolescent boy.


I actually love this top with all the ruffle business. I think it would look fantastic paired with a great little tailored jacket and a pencil skirt. The stupidly high-waisted wrinkly silver shorts scare me a little though.


The weaving detail on the shirt is awesome. The chartreuse pants are a nice pop to an otherwise gray collection, but I’m not sure they’re very well-fitted or becoming to the model (the Size O lass looks to have wide hips, and I am sure she does not).


I LURVE the intricate pleating work done on the top, and I’m glad he broke it up with a solid, unworked skirt. My favorite look of his collection, by far. I don’t wear acid apple green, but I’d rock this.

My thoughts overall: Sadly, a little ho-hum and dull, but still very pretty. Miles ahead of Gretchen’s monstrosities, and that alone is a fine compliment, I think.

And now the best for the last: Monsieur Mondo Guerra, and his polka dot potpourri of Dia de los Muertos-inspired awesomeness.

First up:

SQUEE! Love it!! I love the mix of prints, I love that black and pink patent leather bag, and I’d buy that shirt in a heartbeat. I’m not loving the shoes or all the business in the models’ hair, but I see where he was going with it.


Another top I’d buy instantly. I do not love nor understand the baubles on the shoes—is that to fight off predators? The shorts are interesting, though I wish when this walked down the runway the camera had focused more on the shirt, which I think is the best piece.


Okay, um, I really do not love this. I actually kind of hate the top. It looks like a sleeping shirt, and all the bauble business with the skull and bow-tie is not really appropriate for anyone over the age of nine. I am the absolute antithesis of a legging fan, but if these were patterned tights paired with a cute little black skirt, and boots, they might be kind of cool.


AHH! I want it!! I adore the little pink and yellow accents, and how he mixed his giant black and white polka dot print with this cool black and brown plaid check. I love the pretty sky blue, and I’m besotted with all the three-quarter-length sleeves. Minus the wackadoo shoes and hairpiece, I’d wear this and strut about proud as a peacock.


I covet this awesome strapless bubble dress with the little pink belt. I’m not normally one for patterned stockings, but these are really kind of cool. The dress is flirty and fun and different. You could put it with heels and have a great evening/party look, or dress it down with a little shrug. Hate the shoes again though.


This top is super-cute! Once again, it would look great wearing out on the town, or paired with some dark trousers and a little jacket. The detail work is fantastic. Skirt is all right, though I’d sooner go with a knee-length one myself.


Those are some seriously crazy plaid pants. But I kind of like them. I wouldn’t wear them, as you need to be a giantess to pull them off, but the vibe works. I love the jacket. The shirt is unique—I’d love to see it paired with jeans and a leather jacket maybe. It’s all very stand-out.


Love love LOVE the top, and I love that he incorporated that print into more than one look. The clutch (same fabric as the skirt in his fourth look) is positively adorable. The skirt is a little space blanket, but I like the skinny yellow belt.


Okay, I will be honest, I was not digging the color-blocked ’80s tunic dress. It’s weird. She looks like a big window.


SUPER SQUEE!! I am in LOVE/infatuated with this gown. It is phenomenal, fantastic, and so different. I love the retro vibe with the pointed shoulders and long sleeves (no, Michael Kors, he should NOT have cut off the sleeves—that’s what makes it so unique and fun and pure awesome!). I’d wear this. I could see Dita Von Teese in this (and, I’ll admit, she’d probably look considerably better in it than I would). It screams MONDO. I heart it times infinity.

My thoughts overall: While there were a few pieces that were a little weird, is this even a competition? No contest. No debate. Mondo won. Mondo won Earth. The End.

And then it was time for THE MADNESS…

After a brief Q&A session between the judges and the designers concerning the inspiration for their collections, what the judges liked, and why each designer thought they ought to win, it was time for the judging.

And then the universe inverted itself, as Heidi Klum and Jessica Simpson became the voices of reason. (And, strangely, Jessica looked as though she had come down with a case of the mumps.)

Poor Andy was out of the running with very little ado, dismissed for being too dull (“Did you guys scare him?” Jessica asked rather shrewdly), and that, as Nina put it, having too much “Orientalism” (Nina, Orientalism is an historical theory concerning the accuracy of interpreting Asian history through the limits of western concepts and language—is that what you meant?). Then an intense near-screeching debate took place over whether Gretchen or Mondo should take the prize. Seriously? Fabulousness versus adult diapers? Mondo had the story—he overcame an old-fashioned upbringing to embrace and love who he was, and does not let his HIV+ status hang over him like a death sentence, but simply become a part of who he was, is, and will be. And he made a bangin’ collection. Perfect reality TV, no? Especially with the recent influx of gay teen suicides and the “It Gets Better!” message.


Jessica and Heidi vehemently argued for Mondo, for his exciting, distinctive, cheerful, whimsical clothes that could be paired with any number of separates. Nina Garcia and Michael Kors, in a fit of drug-induced insanity, argued for Gretchen, shrieking nonsensically about the wearability and sell-ability of her clothes (didn’t they just spend the entire season yelling at people for designing “clothes” and not “fashion”?). First off, even if this is Project Clothes, that argument is absurd. Diapers are not wearable unless you are a non-toilet-trained infant. Nina and Michael squawked about how Mondo’s clothes were too “youthful,” and that a sixty year old woman couldn’t wear them. AGAIN, didn’t we just spend the whole season axing people for being too matronly? That you are designing for grandma? And AGAIN, for that to hold any water, that must mean Mr. Kors and Miss Garcia know of sixty year olds, hip or otherwise, who wear hot pants and backless midriffs. They screamed about Mondo’s having to be restyled to wear out on the street. Well…duh. It’s a runway show. That is the entire freaking point that it’s larger than life. Jessica asked that if you saw Gretchen’s clothes hanging on a rack, would you honestly buy any of them? She said Mondo was fresh and exciting, and none of Gretchen’s had any particular “wow” factor. Heidi claimed that Nina and Michael wanted Gretchen because she was “safe.”

"But Gretchen’s jewelry!!" Nina blustered.
"This is a fashion show, not a jewelry show," Heidi reminded her.
"I wouldn’t wear that polka dot dress," Nina sniffed. (Because whether Nina Garcia would wear it is the criteria now for this show?)
"No, I can’t see you wearing it," Heidi replied coolly. "But I would."
"So would I!" Jessica said. "I’d buy most of those pieces. You can’t say they wouldn’t sell and they’re not wearble. And I think Mondo will always be coming up with new ideas."
"Gretchen is what’s ON TREND!" Michael kvetched. "Um, HELLO! Read a magazine!"
"Gretchen has her finger on the PULSE of what’s happening NOW!" Nina cried.

If diapers and poo brown fabrics are what’s “on trend,” I’m going to shoot myself. On top of that, isn’t a true DESIGNER the one who does their own thing? Who isn’t just rehashing whatever is currently popular? Who SETS the trends, not follows them?

I give more credit to Jessica in all of this, because Heidi, who produces the show and ought to have the final say, is the one who obviously kowtowed to the idiocy of Nina and Michael, declaring Gretchen the winner.

Quoi?? What the #@%$?!

Everything Nina and Michael said went against everything they had argued for all season (and every past season, at that). Were they high on mescaline? What happened? Was it because Lifetime is “Television for Women!” so they cannot have two men win a row? They kept passing Gretchen through for weeks, long after she had so clearly run out of steam and kept making the same awful pieces.

I don’t understand it.

Mondo, I love you, and in my eyes (and many others), you were the true winner. Your story made you that. You won long before your collection ever walked down the runway at Lincoln Center. And you rock an awesome pompadour.

I shall never wear adult diapers, nor should anyone else (barring senility and incontinence).

Pompadour for the win. Always.

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