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The Project Runway All Stars Designers Just Want To Be Loved By You -- And Betty Boop, Their Latest Muse

Creating a glamorous, playful look for early 20th century cartoon siren Betty Boop proves harder for some designers than others. Who should have gone back to the drawing board?

Our Players

Hello, I'm East Coast Editor Sarah D. Bunting.
Hello, I'm West Coast Editor Tara Ariano.

The Talk

I did not have high hopes for this episode, Tara. Betty Boop's whole tee-hee butt-shimmy thing is a major who-careser for me and always has been, and the time the designers were obligated to spend blowing sunshine up her skirt (and Popeye's -- the character, not the chicken chain, although I'd have preferred the latter, frankly) was time production should have spent figuring out how to translate this annoying product placement to a workable challenge. That said, I didn't have an issue with the outcome, especially because, while I enjoy Joshua as an onscreen personality, his particular aesthetic is not geared to a season win, so it's nice that he gets this.

I'm of two minds about our victor this week. Like you -- and, I suspect, everyone else born after V-E Day -- I have no particular fondness for this character, so I was not about to be thrilled or enraged by any outcome. (And not to get us off into too much of a tangent, but for a show that was until quite recently produced by the beautiful Georgina Chapman's now-disgraced then-husband, celebrating a character who has no attributes other than giggly sex object -- FOR KIDS, SOMEHOW??? -- the premise of this episode feels less vintage than uncomfortably retrograde.) But on the other hand: after all the times one judge or another has sniffed about a designer's taste level, the win goes to the guy who sent down a crop top and visible panties? I doooooon't get it.

I mean, look, I won't wear it, and really only the crop top is any good. That bodysuit, oo-fah, no. But I totally get why it won: he made that little branded Boop silhouette. The other two choices strayed too far off-brand -- Helen's because of the too-business-y grey (according to the judges; my own issue with that look was the predictable and dated neckline)...

...Stanley's because it was a little too vintage-y. Like, you know I'd knock you down to buy that thing if he made it in a dress format, but...so would Tricia Nixon.

The only way I can make sense of Joshua's win is also what forced them to put Helen's look in the top, by default: so many of the designers sent down looks that had no relation to their supposed inspiration. Betty Boop's entire schtick -- and that's using the term very loosely -- is that she's the cartoon version of an old-school pin-up model. If you're not leaning all the way into an hourglass figure with its boobs out, you fucked up. Helen's funereal colour scheme on the bodice was off-brand, but at least she showed some skin, and the polka-dot skirt was sassy and fun. I'm not sure what made, for instance, Ken think it was the Cate Blanchett Is Pregnant During Award Season Again challenge.

HA HA my notes literally say "J. Lo pregnant at the Grammys," so: yeah. Not to mention that all that black doesn't show very well, and isn't young/fun/Hollywood, but for someone who sent a glorified bedskirt down the runway, he sure talked a lot of shit about other designs. Not that some of them didn't merit it. Or that I'd have minded if he took out after Kimberly's. Lady needs to stop with the pieced-pant thing, and I didn't dislike the look, but I can't think of a less Boop-esque silhouette that isn't, like, a pinstriped suit.

A pinstriped suit would have worked better! At least that would evoke the 1920s! Maybe it was just her height and hairstyle, but Kimberly's model was serving me First Aunt Viv From Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, which, last I checked, was not from the first half of the last century. Here's a potentially controversial take: I liked Anthony's? I totally see the slam that the white bit looks like a used Kleenex (hee hee), and it also could have come down a lot more to show some cleav, but the silhouette worked, the sheer dotted swiss under-layer made it sexy without being too indecent (JOSHUA), and the black and white colour scheme would definitely work on Betty Boop.

Not controversial in this work marriage; I liked it too. It needed a couple of tweaks, though, like a belt to cover the seaming at the waist, and the hem of the white portion wasn't finished neatly. But the combination of the bright white and the more lingerie-esque dotted swiss worked for me. What didn't work for me: the auf. I understand that Char's was not good, but it was not utterly not good. The top and the back worked, and yes, she should have given up and redirected herself much more quickly with that fabric...

...but I really can't think of anything good to stay about Edmond's except that he managed to make the fabric look less like a vagina potato print on the second pass. I got Forever 21's 2011 sale rack from that garment, and I really don't see why he stayed and Char went home. What's your take on who should have gotten the boot?

I would have gotten rid of the aforementioned Kimberly, tbh. But between Char and Edmond? I get why Char got the chop. As you say, the fabric was the problem with her -- not just that she chose it on the theory that it would have a lot of motion when it walked (Georgina: "Flowy? In Neoprene?" Exactly!), but that she then couldn't adjust her plans given this disastrous miscalculation. I'm not sure she would have necessarily gone if she had even so much as -- and I'm sorry I keep saying this, but -- PULLED DOWN THE NECKLINE. It still wouldn't have been great, but if it had given the judges a Disney's Little Mermaid feeling, like...at least that's also a cartoon. Edmond's dress looked like flappy labia when it walked...

...but at least he gave us a halter.

And what cartoon is that supposed to remind us of, Vag-aisley The Fabric Elf? ...I didn't hate it that much, actually, but once again I'm mystified by the mistakes Merline gets to make that everyone else gets clocked for. I respected the fabric choice and I didn't hate the look, but I don't think it was so much better than Char's that she should have been let off the hook for piling 17 yards of shit onto her model's front.

Totally. Georgina was right to call so many of them out on whatever groupthink led to all the draping this week -- it's not the Rami Kashou Appreciation Challenge -- but then Georgina also accidentally gets to the heart of what made this runway so underwhelming, which is: no one really gets the Betty Boop character because there is nothing much to get. The inspiration is a bore, you make your own fun.

As I will be doing next time when once again the avant-garde parameters are not adequately explained.

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