Missy Schwartz
December 13, 2007 AT 03:51 PM EST

Project Runway

TV Show
Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn, Nina Garcia, Zac Posen
Current Status
In Season

”Project Runway” recap: Real-woman attack!

Nine hundred sixty-nine. Is it the number of times Christian said that word? The amount of sequins and pearls on Steven’s wedding dress? The gallons of tears shed by Ricky? Nope. It’s the total pounds last night’s models have lost. So without further ado, let’s give those 11 women a round of applause for their accomplishment. And while we’re at it, let’s thank them for inspiring a challenge that finally met the high creative standards we’ve grown to expect on Project Runway. I was beginning to think all we’d be getting this season was more of the same old go shopping at Mood, then make an outfit! tasks, which were fast becoming bo-oo-ring. But refashioning the newly slimmed-down ladies’ former favorite outfits? All right! The final looks may not have rocked my world, but at least they were the product of inventiveness. Plus, they were geared toward what the show so enjoys calling ”the everyday woman.”

Or, in the fashion world: those insane people who still eat carbs. When the first model’s silhouette appeared in the runway’s illuminated logo screen, the designers looked alternately amused, surprised, and confused. ”It looked like a crazy fairy princess or transvestites or something,” said Sweet P. ‘Cause, you know, if a silhouette isn’t a size zero, it’s just gotta be enchanted royalty or a bunch of cross-dressers. Steven proved that he’s watched PR before — or at the very least, last season — when he wondered if the women appearing before them could be the groups’ sisters or mothers. Decent theory — if he’d actually recognized any of them as his own relative! The prize for best euphemistic use of the English language goes to Jillian, who described the women’s outfits as ”really tremendous clothing.” Well sure, if by ”tremendous” you mean ”god-awful leftovers from the fall 1987 Sears catalogue.”

For the third time in a row, Sweet P was the last to get picked/paired with a model. But it didn’t seem to matter, since she managed to bang out a decent-looking (albeit pea green) dress. (Could have done without the black hose, though.) And besides, Heidi had already assigned Steven the most tremendousoutfit to retool: a big, white, polyester-satin wedding gown covered in lots and lots o’ embellishments and lace. As soon as he explained to Tim Gunn that he was going to spend his $10 budget on black stretch material for a dress, it was pretty clear he was in trouble. Yes, it was gaudy polyester and all, but couldn’t he have made a pretty, fun, white frock? I’m thinking something along the lines of what Molly Ringwald did in Pretty in Pink, when she recycled Annie Potts’ old pink prom dress. Oh, and dude, glue? Glue? Did nutty Vincent’s attempt at pasting together a so-called couture gown last season teach you nothing?

Maybe Heidi simply assigned the wedding dress to the wrong person. Because there was someone in the workroom last night who was dying to get his hands on that ball of synthetic meringue: Chris March. Chris is back! His return was cause for celebration in the workroom (and in my apartment). Of course, it came at the bittersweet price of losing Jack. He had the terrible luck of getting a MRSA infection (a very serious type of staph), and as it worsened, he had to wrestle with the decision to leave the competition. It was heartbreaking to see him so upset. But taking care of himself obviously far outweighs trying to tough it out on a reality show. We wish you well, Jack.

Chris wasn’t the only person whose return filled me with glee. There was also Tim Gunn. Now, I know he hasn’t been totally absent the past four episodes, but his screen time has been pretty minimal. Last night, however, he finally got his due, causing the whole team to giggle over his inadvertent innuendo about making bad mistakes at 3 a.m. ”I really am an old fart,” he said. ”My brain didn’t even go there.” Which is precisely why we love you so, Mr. Gunn.

Anyway, back to work. As Steven fretted over the lousy card he drew this time around, Kevin (a.k.a the Beard, a.k.a. Mr. Fatone, a.k.a. I’m Straight, Goddamn It!) was ”like, game on!” because he ”loves making clothes for real people.” (Guy’s got a point; designing for imaginary friends is such a bummer.) Across the room, Ricky’s model expressed her approval of his design, which of course sent him back to his old weepy ways. (For once, the guy didn’t choke last night. Perhaps it was thanks to all that preening he did in front of the mirror in the altered jeans and gold lamé pumps? ) Meanwhile, Christian’s model explained she wore no prints, colors, dresses, skirts, or anything that would show her arms. But if you thought Christian was going to let a silly thing like a fussy customer bring him down, you don’t know Christian. ”I’m really confident,” he announced with characteristic modesty.

And guess what? He had every right to be confident. His jeans, T-shirt, and pin-tucked jacket were the best designs of the night. The look was modern, flattered his model, and deserved to win. Kevin’s strapless thingy was probably Christian’s toughest competition, and the Bearded One got it right when he said he’d turned his model into a Charlie’s Angel. Alas, Michael Kors is so over black leggings. (Join the club, Kors. Next week, will you please call a moratorium on skinny jeans as well?)

NEXT: Michael bashes the French

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