Five years ago, I wrote a blog post about the fashion choices of dog handlers after watching the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
I had no idea that this piece would receive the most engagement of any piece of mine to date. It would seem that many others have watched dog shows like Westminster and Crufts on TV and have questioned the wide array of sequined suits and clodhopper shoes on the female handlers. While there may not be a designated dress code, there is an unspoken tradition of wearing ill-fitting, dated clothes, and not a lot has changed in the years that have passed since my original piece went live.
I didn’t write this piece in an effort to be rude or mean spirited, and if I had to do it all over again I probably would have phrased things differently. I was writing for a fashion blog, not a dog show blog, and I wasn’t pretending to be a dog handler or to know all the ins and outs of that job. Handler fashion seemed to be a well-known point of interest, and I thought it would be fun and lighthearted — even helpful and informative. Quite a few commenters agreed with me:
“Watching the AKC and it’s ridiculous how much the suits worn by the female handlers are distracting from the dogs — Several are wearing shiny taffeta suits in horrendous colors — the standard should be revised to dark colors — You never get distracted by what the [male] handlers are wearing!”
“The women handlers all look so dowdy, not only because of the length of the skirts and the flat shoes, but because the clothes they wear are downright ugly…What is this with tradition that women have to wear skirts? Why the need for bling, sparkles? I don’t get it. It is a sporting event not a formal gala.”
“I just watched the Purina show again. I am so happy people are talking about this. I think women should as a group begin to change things. Let’s put things on a level playing field with the men. I say well-tailored pant suits are the way to go. Why do women have to wear skirts and jackets? This is 2015 not 1950! And who says you have to bling?! Men don’t wear a tux! If you all start making the change it will eventually catch on.”
“I’m watching the National Dog Show and became so distracted by the women handlers attire that I decided to try to find out why the continued dowdy outfits. Do not understand why they can’t wear a pantsuit that fits.”
“I’m flabbergasted by the comically-atrocious attire…the dog world needs MORE posts like this!”
Others were less than thrilled, and I can understand why. While makeover shows and “fashion police” style articles were common when the piece was written, these days fashion is far more live-and-let-live. That certainly isn’t to say no one passes judgement anymore, but acceptance of personal style is far more widespread.
But dog show handlers don’t seem to dress the way they do because they want to. They seem to feel like they have to, and I refuse to believe that’s true.
My initial call-out was for handlers to look for better fitting, modern suiting that still addressed their practical requirements:
If you’ve ever watched a dog show in your life, you’ve seen the shoes. They’re rough. I fully understand the need for comfort and practicality, but I have never believed function and style are mutually exclusive. Ballet flats seemed like a logical alternative to a cloddy sneaker, but that suggestion was not well received.
“Ballet flats would slip on the carpeted floor.”
“No ballet flats…your feet hurt like murder after a few hours. Just looking at battle flats makes my feet ache.”
“Everyone who does not show dogs comments on our dowdy shoes. Yes, sketcher type shoes are pretty popular because they’re comfortable for most people and you can run in them. Even if you’re showing a toy breed, the carpet can be very slippery and you don’t want to fall in the ring. I know it looks silly to wear a skirt with these type of shoes, but it would look much sillier to wear heels to a dog show and then fall down.”
Others understood where I was coming from:
“The shoes are awful, and not likely supportive since some of their ankles roll inward. I am all about comfort, especially in footwear; many brands such as Clarks, BOC, Born, uniform or safety shoes without steel toes can be very comfortable and somewhat stylish. A well-fitting shoe with arch support, cushioned sole, and covers the instep is most supportive and comfortable. Even a low heel (up to 2”) especially in a wedge can be very comfortable.”
I will say that the specific flats I suggested may not have been the best choice. I chose flats with ankle straps to address the issue of them slipping, but they didn’t have much traction and didn’t look particularly comfortable for a full day in the show ring. The good news is that comfort footwear has come a long way in the past five years! Brands like Trotters, Walking Cradles, Abeo, Dansko, BeautiFeel, and Borns all have ballet flat options that are perfectly stylish and ready to run around the ring.
Interestingly enough, there are some handlers who have very strong shoe game but lose it from the ankles up. Bright, intrusive colors, sequins, and awkward seam lines might seem like a choice that would “wow” the judges, but it ends up distracting from the dogs.
Apparently, this isn’t by chance, but commonplace advice among handlers.
“I was always told to wear bright blues, greens etc., because my black dog will stand out against those colors so the judge can easily see the dogs. If I wear a dark black or navy colored skirt I would blend right into my dog. This is why you will see such crazy colors in the ring, those people are trying to help their dogs stand out from them. So in their defense, that’s why their outfits are so ‘loud.’”
“I show golden retrievers and I can dress in black and be fine. But someone who is showing a black lab…should not dress in black, but an eye catching color, so the judge notices them in the crowd.”
I’m all for a bold color moment if it’s the right bold color. I’ve seen handlers wear reds and corals and pull them off beautifully, and certain blue tones can work.
But shiny beaded skirts and jackets? Or glossy gold buttons? Or brocade? At a certain point, you’re not standing out for the right reasons anymore.
I also don’t particularly follow the logic that the dog won’t stand out next to a neutral color. For one, black isn’t the only neutral option — a light grey would work with most dog breeds, and navy is a great alternative to black.
Also, since most handlers wear skirts that cut off at the knee, the majority of the dog would be seen next to the handlers’ legs, not their outfit.
I would think dresses or pants would be no-brainer alternatives for handlers. Dresses with pockets are commonplace now, but you never see them in the ring — as one commented on my original post,
“There is no unspoken rule about dresses, separates are just easier.”
But why? Isn’t one piece to throw on easier to think about than two or three pieces if you’re wearing a skirt suit? And as for pants, they seem to solve every requirement handlers have, and in 2019, why not?
They have pockets and a waistband. They come in all colors. You don’t have to think about them riding up when you bend over. They cover the majority of a shoe. They cover the legs, so no need for panty hose.
Boy, did I hear an earful about panty hose. From a practical standpoint, it’s worth mentioning that panty hose make it easier for your skirt to slide up or your shoe to slip off. They’re also generally uncomfortable, tight, and sweaty. But you wouldn’t think that from the comments I received.
“I can tell that the person that wrote this article is a young twit. Get this through your heads young people: EVERYONE DOES NOT HAVE GOOD LOOKING LEGS. I’ll be damned if I go out without pantyhose on and have a draft going up my you know what.”
“I’m wearing pantyhose for the rest of my life, no matter what others think.”
“I’m older. I grew up wearing pantyhose and I’m comfortable wearing them. I’ve found that fashion has changed today, and younger women just don’t wear pantyhose anymore. But it does make your legs look better. When I’m watching the news, the weathergirls never wear pantyhose and you can tell. To me, they just look like they’re freezing and their legs just don’t look as good.”
“I don’t want to wear just pants for the rest of my life. If I wear a skirt, I wear pantyhose. I also don’t want to wear opaque tights all the time if I’m wearing a skirt.”
If you adore your panty hose, I guess to each their own. It seems we have the dog show industry to thank for keeping them on the market.
I have been grateful over the years to hear from frustrated handlers who wish the unwritten “dress code” were different:
“My first dog show I really didn’t research proper attire and got a comment later that the judge made said that if I had dressed better my dog would have placed better.”
“I am new to the dog show world and the ‘dress code’ stinks! If we are running our dogs, we should wear running shoes and if we need pockets we should wear pants, or skirts that have pockets, or heaven forbid dresses. It is time to look at comfort and convenience. I for one will wear dresses with pockets and running shoes!”
“I would advocate a dress policy which required all handlers to wear black pants with black jackets and black shoes. The men never look ludicrous; the women, almost always.”
“I also am relatively new to the dog show world (about 1 year). I also agree that many of the women handlers wear skirt suits/dresses that seem over the top, if not downright silly. I have been told that’s what I need to wear if I want to win. I have refused….I, like a few others above, wear pants and a nice blouse with a blazer or light sweater. I might even wear a pant suit for a big show. That really should be more than acceptable. I don’t know whether my choice of dress has hurt my dog, but if it has, shame on the dog show judges and anyone who supports dresses and skirts only if you want to be a successful woman handler. We are in the 21st century!”
“I show dogs in Australia and here the shiny, ill-fitting skirt suit (many of them imported from the U.S.) is also the choice of the majority of female dog exhibitors. Eeeeeek! My dogs are beautiful and win! I want to compliment them with my dress. Whether we care to acknowledge it or not, a judge cannot help but be subconsciously influenced by the presentation of handlers.”
“I show dogs, have for years, and I look for cheap clothing where ever I can, BUT I also learned to sew. I put pockets in jackets, skirts, dresses almost everything I buy.”
“I’ve only worn dress pants because they had pockets. On top I’ve worn a classic cardigan (buttoned) or a jacquard woven jacket (buttoned). I have since discovered the bait pouch on a strap around waist, but I still want pockets — I dare not leave my cell or keys at the grooming table…I appreciate reading the opinions, and wish that slacks were more appropriate. However I notice the “winners” all seem to have a tailored skirt suit. Really bugs me to think I would have to develop a skirt suit wardrobe…I guess to get anywhere in this dog show business I have to do what I see the other winners doing.”
I don’t know if I have a perfect answer for handlers. It seems if you buck tradition you may be judged more harshly than your dog, and if you maintain tradition you run the risk of looking ridiculous. That’s a lose-lose situation, and as a mere spectator I’m not going to pretend to understand the effort it takes to toe that line.
No one feels good wearing something they don’t want to wear. No one feels good being told they have to wear something they don’t want to wear. I think for any profession, you have to look and feel your best in order to succeed, and if you’re confident in your outfit, it will show in your performance.
Too bad the dogs don’t understand the struggle.
All My Glasses Frames
I always struggle analyzing and reviewing the Met Costume Gala; it's the ultimate red carpet fashion parade, and there are no real standards of what is or isn't "good" because everything is so over-the-top.
This year's exhibit theme was "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination," which added a level of controversy to the gala. Frustrated Catholics called the fashion parade heretical and claimed the Met was appropriating their culture. This is a hard point to argue, as the Met had support from the Sistine Chapel sacristy and the exhibit was a partnership with The Vatican. The goal of the exhibit was to "examine fashion's ongoing engagement with the devotional practices and traditions of Catholicism," which feels pretty respectful to me.
It also might be mildly hypocritical to complain about a Catholic exhibit being cultural appropriation if you didn't also complain about the "China: Through the Looking Glass" exhibit a few years back.
And it's one thing to be confused or frustrated by the stars attending the gala, but it's another to criticize the exhibit itself, which is STUNNING.
But anyway. You're not here for my analysis of people's objections to the gala, you're here for PRETTY DRESSES. That's what it's all about.
Who Wore it Better?
Evan Rachel Wood in Altuzarra and Katy Perry in Versace
Katy's look is fine for the stage, but at the end of the day she looks like a pop star trying to be cool at the Met. Evan's longtime partnership with Altuzarra really shines, and her wings are far more effortless (can we just picture Katy trying to walk through a door with those cumbersome things?)
Lili Reinhart in H&M and Zendaya in Versace
This is a tie in my book. Zendaya was the perfect Joan of Arc, but Lili's dress portrayed romance and femininity within its strength. Both were styled to perfection and were a unique departure from a sea of gold gowns.
Gold with a Slit
Gabrielle Union in Prabal Gurung and Jasmine Sanders in H&M
Supposedly Gabrielle wore yellow because it's the color of the Vatican flag, but unfortunately she looked like an out-of-place highlighter. Because she added the matchy-matchy shoe and the oddly contrasting silver jewelry, everything about the look was just off. Jasmine's gown, on the other hand, looked like molten metal and the draping was perfection.
Priyanka Chopra in Ralph Lauren and Scarlett Johansson in Marchesa
Scarlett wore Marchesa to stand up for Georgina Chapman in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and to make the point that the sins of a man should not effect the career of a woman. I completely agree, and it's a gorgeous dress...for the Oscars. The Met Gala is all about bold statements, and this gown is so pretty and soft that it falls flat. Priyanka's dress is simple but daring, and the color couldn't be any better for her.
Headpieces and Trains
Sarah Jessica Parker in Dolce & Gabanna and Cardi B in Moschino
Sarah Jessica Parker is the queen of the Met Gala and often takes the theme VERY seriously. This year she went so far as to wear a nativity scene on her head. Even so, because of the shape of her gown, the look wasn't overwhelming and the styling was spot on. Cardi B's look was way too much of a good thing. I like the headpiece, but without the necklace. I like the sleeves, but without the gloves. I like the dress, but without the duvet-cover train. If she was trying to knock off Beyonce's maternity Grammy's look, it just wasn't successful.
Photos Courtesy of EOnline and Fashionista.
This year's Academy Awards was filled with powerful messages of standing up for human rights, celebrating our differences, and supporting marginalized groups. The #TimesUp movement promoted wearing bright colors on the red carpet to display the wide array of people affected by injustice. Symbolism aside, there were also a lot of pretty dresses. And really...that's what this is about.
Who Wore it Better?
Gal Godot in Givenchy vs. Jennifer Lawrence in Dior
Both of these ladies were presenters, but one of them looked like, well, a presenter, and the other looked like she was nominated for every award in the book. Gal's beaded fringe Givenchy was one of the best looks of the night, and her glamazon jewelry is worthy of Daisy Gatsby. JLaw's gown looks like a cheap prom dress in comparison, and her hair and makeup was just wrong for the overall look.
Emma Stone in Louis Vuitton vs. Armie Hammer in Armani
We all know I'm not a fan of non-traditional suits on men during the Oscars, and we all know I am a fan of Emma Stone playing with menswear, but in this case the tables are turned for me. Emma's look is way, way too casual for the Oscars, and she has pulled out more formal pants and jumpsuits in previous years that would have suited the event better. I'm all for breaking the glass ceiling, but there is a certain level of decorum at the Oscars that just demands a gown. Armie's suit is luxe, sharp, and suits the formality of the event.
Black and Gold
Lupita Nyong’o in Atelier Versace vs. Sandra Bullock in Louis Vuitton
Sandra's dress isn't terrible, but her styling killed it; wearing her hair down and piling on the eyeshadow makes her look heavy-handed and dark. Lupita, on the other hand, looks like a light, bright, golden goddess. She's a flawless Wakandan queen, and she can do no wrong on the red carpet.
Sally Hawkins in Armani Privé vs. Laurie Metcalf in Christian Siriano
I have grown up watching these two fantastic actresses on the screen, and I was thrilled to see them both nominated. The Shape of Water may have taken the awards, but Laurie was a clear winner on the carpet. Her Siriano gown fit beautifully and her styling was clean and polished. Sally's gown is frumpy and unflattering on her petite frame, and whoever did her hair should be immediately fired.
Soirse Ronan in Calvin Klein by Appointment vs. Viola Davis in Michael Kors
Viola Davis is hit-or-miss on the carpet, and this was a very, very definite miss. If Barbie was making a doll of Viola, maybe this would be an appropriate look to model, but it was all wrong for the Oscars. The neon color was terribly unflattering, and the cheap jewelry and matchy-matchy bag just made things worse. And her hair. HER HAIR. I'm all for letting your natural hair do what natural hair does, but slicking back the top was a terrible choice. Soirse's look was simple, sweet, and reminded me of Gwynneth Paltrow's infamous 1999 Oscar dress.
Photos courtesy of EOnline, Vogue, and DailyMailCeleb.
This was definitely a Runway to remember and not remotely what anyone expected. Twitter was going insane during the show, and I'm not sure anyone could agree on who they liked best or who they thought should win, but everyone definitely had an opinion and if will definitely be a season to remember.
I was sorry that Margarita was eliminated first because I really loved her collection. The judges were skeptical about her resort-wear aesthetic and just didn't love it in the end, but I firmly believe she has a clientele that and she has the talent to thrive.
Her first few looks featured an abstract tropical fish print, which could have gone crazy really quickly, but the ease of her shapes toned the looks down just enough to still be wearable, and the beadwork is phenomenal.
The looks that I think ended up being Margarita's downfall were the overtly Puerto Rican designs. They looked a little too "West Side Story" salsa dance-ey, and while there is definitely a market for them they didn't exactly fit the vibe of the rest of the collection.
Margarita's striped jumpsuit hit all the right notes for me. The stripe print made the model look like a tall glass of water, and the waist detailing was intricate and flattering. Anthropologie could sell a hundred of these tomorrow.
The red satin pieces were some of my favorites in Margarita's collection. The draping and fabrication was so rich and luxurious, and she kept them within her island aesthetic by pairing them with her wacky print. I'm thrilled that she paired her beaded bomber jacket with a more simply-shaped dress to give it a stand-out moment.
Margarita's model Jasmine owned the entire season with her BOOM BOOM POW skirt reveal. The entire fashion industry has not seen a plus model strut her stuff in a swimsuit with this level of energy, and I lost my mind watching it. It was a fashion moment we'll never forget.
The last two looks were the epitome of how to end a fashion show. Give them color, give them pattern, and give them drama.
Regardless of being eliminated, Margarita can be very proud of what she showed. She made her mark and I think we'll hear a lot more from her.
As I suspected after his preview, Brandon's collection was a whole lot of the same. I feel bad because he was so devastated to be sent home, but in comparison to the other designers he just didn't make par. They are all very Brandon, all very cool, and there is definitely a market for his clothes, but in the context of a fashion show, they fell flat coming out one right after the other. I don't even have commentary on his outfits because none of them stand out for me...so...here they are?
I'm sure Brandon has a great future in fashion ahead of him. After all, he's only 23, and because he made such a mark throughout the season he should have no trouble finding success.
Ayana had the most potential to win going into the finale process, but I was definitely nervous for her after her preview. In the end, I think she pulled off some fantastic work, but she was stuck with several mini-collections that didn't vibe well together for my personal taste.
She started off with several sportswear looks. The white textured fabric was cool, but the silver metallic was clingy in all the wrong places for her models, and they just didn't fit with the luxury details of the rest of her collection.
The next few pieces, which Ayana previewed for the judges, were definitely the most successful. The frayed material and tone-on-tone fabrics were textured, layered, and interesting.
Once this muddy floral became a key player in the collection, I started to get mixed feelings. I liked it in combination with the light textured skirt-over-pants, but then she brought back the shiny silver and it just didn't make sense to me. The ruffles were a little too 70's inspired for my taste and they didn't seem to make sense with the rest of the collection.
Then Ayana came out with these silky, layered looks that reminded me of 1920's Hollywood leisure looks. Don't get me wrong, they were beautiful, and the layers flowed and flipped down the runway like nothing I've ever seen, but they gave me the impression that Ayana didn't really know what girl she was trying to sell to or what story she was trying to tell.
But alas, all was forgiven with this finale look. I mean...holy crap. This is one of the most stunning gowns I've ever seen, not just on Runway, but in my life. The way Ayana manipulated the veil is incredible, and this look will go down in Project Runway history.
In the end, Ayana just wanted to show too much and her collection was unfocused. That said, her talent is unmistakable, and her portrayal of a modest aesthetic in a cool, contemporary way has put her on the map.
After the judges' preview, Kentaro was so sure he was going to lose that he felt free to do whatever he wanted. This definitely worked to his advantage, and it's clear that when he loosens up and steps outside his box, magic happens.
The first few black-and-white looks were intricate and detailed from every angle. I didn't think it was possible to make a white, stiff cotton workable, but somehow the shapes just make sense. The painted details and juxtaposition in fabric lengths were so unique.
The transition in the color story was very well done. The cut-out top was fantastic on its own, but to tease with another black-and-white look from the front while turning it into a blush look from the back was brilliant.
Kentaro got a lot of flak throughout the season for not creating very flattering looks for curvier models, and I admit that this was not my favorite in his collection. I appreciated that it was a more wearable, ballet-inspired piece, but the fit issues in the bodice were definitely noticeable and it wasn't very successful.
I'm willing to forgive the last misstep due to the exquisite beauty in his next lineup of pieces. The blush look he showed in his preview was made even better with some post-preview tailoring and styling edits.
The red pieces (and yes, they are red - the photos make them look orange) showcased Kentaro's draping skills and were feminine but daring looks. They were a perfect balance of simplicity and drama.
His last two pieces were not quite as interesting - I would have preferred the white slip dress to have been placed earlier in the collection, and the finale piece would have packed more punch with a red-fabric underlay instead of the white. That said, they definitely felt like they were part of the collection and had a soft, delicate flow down the runway.
Kentaro was a controversial choice for the win. A lot of people felt that Brandon was robbed given his work throughout the season, and many others thought that Ayana's modest aesthetic deserved to be showcased. Personally, I think Margarita made more leaps and bounds throughout the season and she had the most dramatic collection of the bunch.
Each of the designers had completely different aesthetics, so it was really a toss-up as to who the judges would be drawn to. All in all, I can't be mad that Kentaro won. He has a delightful personality, and due to his age it would be more difficult for him to break into the industry without Project Runway's help. I'm proud of how he made it through the ups and downs of the season and stayed true to his vision to the end.
Photo credits to www.mylifetime.com
The pre-fashion-week home visits are my favorites, and it's always a good way to tell who is in good standing and who may be in trouble. There have never been five home visits before, so Tim Gunn had his work cut out for him to make his way all across the country to guide the designers through their visions.
If you remember from the last episode, the judges only *guaranteed* three spots for Fashion Week, so the designers had to show the judges a two-look preview to decide who was officially moving forward. In the past they have done this with three-look previews, and I think that's a better system to allow the designers to showcase a beginning, middle, and end to their collections. A lot of them struggled with choosing two looks that fully represented every aspect of their collections, and it didn't feel like a very fair system.
But hey, they didn't ask me.
Brandon's collection was very Brandon and obviously the judges loved it. I was a tiny bit horrified by his flamingo print (and by a tiny bit horrified, I mean I was yelling at the TV about flamingos for a solid hour.) As far as I could tell, he used the flamingos in every single look, and I would think he might get in trouble for creating 10 of what is essentially the same look with the same fabric. I can appreciate that he treated some of the fabric to create a lighter version of the same print, but in comparison to the other textile work he's done throughout the season it felt a bit lazy.
The first look Brandon showed the judges was a mixed bag. I liked the pants, though a paper-bag waist is sometimes tricky to wear. The top was not as successful, which Zac Posen was quick to point out. If he swaps the top out for a simpler tank he should be in good shape.
The second look was much more successful, and his styling with the backpack was sporty and cute. I like the shapes he's created, but I'm not sure they're original enough to get him to the top. In the preview of the finale episode, it shows him sleeping while the other designers are hard at work doing finishing touches; his over-confidence might get the best of him.
Margarita told the judges she would "bring it," and she certainly did. While her print is a love-it-or-hate-it situation, I loved that she took her inspiration from her family's 80's couch, and she kept her styling chic and cool. In comparison to the other designers she has the loudest color story, which will definitely help her stand out in the pack.
While I completely loathe the hyper-flared pants in her first preview look, I can appreciate their value from a fashion show standpoint. They remind me of Kelly Dempsey's work a few seasons back. She was smart to style the pants with a simple, but beautifully draped top, and overall it was very thoughtful and well presented.
The judges were not crazy about this look, and I felt bad because Tim basically told Margarita to style the look in this way; she wanted to pair the bodysuit with the bomber jacket, and Tim directed her to make a new pair of shorts to tone down the look. While it certainly isn't the most original thing we've seen on the runway, the detail in the bomber jacket is absolutely stunning, and styled correctly I think it could work. As the judges said, she needs to take her designs off the beach and into New York; if she mixes-and-matches her pieces together in the right way, she could put on a great show.
Kentaro is making me nervous. At the home visit he said his design inspiration was based on different aspects of classical music, but in front of the judges he described a Japanese beach, which Tim looked very visibly confused about. Tim also warned him about his level of cohesion, and he would have been wise to take Tim's advice. He currently has a lot of exquisite but disjointed pieces, and it will take some careful edits to make it work as a collection. He didn't help himself with his styling, which Nina Garcia immediately loathed. Given his original classical music inspiration, I was surprised he went in a samurai direction, and I think he will be better off to go with softer, more romantic hair and makeup to suit his clothing.
I have no idea why Kentaro made his first look or bothered to show it to the judges. It looks like it's made out of basic muslin, and the stiff, weird black appendage sticking out of the model's hip has no form or function. I suspect Tim will guide him to scrap this entire look, and I hope he's able to pull off something last-minute that looks more luxurious.
The judges loved Kentaro's second preview look, and I wouldn't agree with them more. The draping is gorgeous and the movement in the skirt danced down the runway. The majority of his collection pieces seem to reflect this same feeling, so if he maintains this direction in his pieces he should be alright. So far Kentaro hasn't shown a great desire or ability to take direction or critique, so I hope he is able to make it work.
After reviewing the entire season's best, I realized that Ayana had more winning looks in my book than any other designer, so I was waiting with bated breath to see her collection. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed. She definitely picked her two best looks for her preview; the rest of her collection seems to be filled with drab, dingy grandma dresses. I desperately hope she is able to amp-up her pieces and style them in a way that makes them, well. Less awful. Right now I'm far from impressed.
Ayana's first preview look is very reminiscent of things she made throughout the season, and it's definitely the coolest look in her collection as far as I could tell. I loved that it was monochromatic but still multi-dimensional in texture and shape.
I was surprised Ayana showed this as her second look since the pants are nearly identical to the first look - then again, all she had to show beyond this were really ugly dresses, so I guess this was her only option. The detailing on the top is pretty, but it isn't a very interesting shape and has zero wow-factor. Showing this to the judges also might have given them the impression that her entire color story is this taupe-ey silver, and I don't think they'll be pleasantly surprised by her dirty-looking greens and browns.
And last but not least, our dear, dear Kenya. I really wanted to love Kenya's collection on the whole, and she had a lot of wonderful pieces, but in the end she focused too much on quality fabrication and less on styling and design.
I think Kenya shot herself in the foot a little bit by pairing this crop top/pants look with a flowy, beachy cover-up. The fabric of the cover-up is stunning, but the look was originally paired with a sleek, structured, pearl-embellished jacket, which was a lot more modern and finished-looking. This look left the judges confused about her overall design sensibility.
Kenya also had trouble with being assigned a model who could only fit into one of her looks. Given Kenya's skill in designing plus-size clothing I don't know why she didn't have more options that would fit her, but she was left with only one dress to work with, and an ill-fitting dress at that. Tim advised her to pair the dress with this cover-up, which the judges hated. I would tend to agree - the dress needed something to give it more of a wow-factor, but I'm not sure a soft, flowy cover-up worked over such a structured dress (a similar issue to her first look.)
In the end, the judges didn't feel like Kenya's collection rose to the level of the other contestants and she was not included in the top four to show at fashion week. Unfortunately, I agree with their decision. She had a lot of potential, but she needed more time to develop and receive mentorship to guide her through her styling.
I feel like at this point, it's a given that Brandon will win, and while I respect his designs and appreciate his talent, I don't really want him to win with that flamingo print. If Ayana had chosen different fabrics I think she would still have a fighting chance, and while I love Margarita's color story I'm not sure her designs are accessible enough for the judges to get on board. I don't even know if Kentaro's collection is in the running at all.
All that said, the judges have a tendency to do the opposite of what anyone expects, so WE SHALL SEE!!
Photo credits to www.mylifetime.com
It's hard to believe that we already made it to part one of the Project Runway Season 16 Finale, especially because I didn't blog any part of this season. I think I ended up audibly yelling all my thoughts and feelings about what went down on the show and then forgot to actually write any of it down; I sincerely apologize for depriving you of Runway Recaps.
This season was full of drama and scandal, but also had some delightful elements that kept it fresh and exciting after all these years. I loved that the show featured models ranging from size two to 22, and the "model confessionals" and extra behind-the-scenes footage was a nice addition.
This season also had some of the best designs in the show's history, and I wanted to take a brief look back at the best-of-the-best throughout each episode thus far. These looks were not necessarily the official challenge winners or the favorites of the judges, but they deserve recognition all the same.
***SEASON SPOILERS AHEAD - READ AT YOUR OWN RISK***
Episode 1: Red Carpet Challenge
Creating a Hawaiian floral look is risky at best, but Deyonte completely nailed it. The way he cut apart and broke up the large-scale floral made it look painterly and abstract, and the silhouette on his curvy model was stunning. A well-deserved challenge win for week one!
Episode 1: Red Carpet Challenge
I was very upset that Ayana didn't get recognized for this look. The hand-pieced floral is intricate and beautiful, and the color combination of the grey and green is fresh and unexpected. Her modest aesthetic is unique and inspiring, and she still managed to make her model look sexy while completely covered in this gown. I could tell immediately that she had talent, and I'm glad she's made it so far in the season.
Episode 2: Unconventional Team Challenge
This was one of the more disappointing team challenge episodes in the show's history. I understand making clothes out of garbage and recyclable materials is difficult, but the creativity was lacking overall - except for this look. Ayana took her team's color scheme and ran with it, adding texture and hand-made textiles wherever she could, which resulted in a multi-dimensional, editorial piece.
Episode 3: Dance, Innovation and Movement Challenge
I so, so wish Amy had been able to make it farther along in the season. She made innovative, transformational pieces right and left, and I would have loved to see a collection from her. This look featured a jumpsuit that could be flipped upside-down and worn as a hoodie. My brain is still trying to wrap around how anyone could even conceive that idea, and it looked so sporty and cool on the runway.
Episode 3: Dance, Innovation and Movement Challenge
This was the first episode where Brandon's work stood out to me. All the loops and fastens give it a bit of a steampunk vibe while still staying modern and cool.
Episode 4: Heidi Klum Intimates Challenge
I'm all about a good Gatsby reference, Michael's hit all the right deco notes while still representing the Heidi Klum Intimates brand. In spite of it being a straight slip, it still manages to be shapely and would look great on any figure. The color, pattern, and strap detail is delightfully feminine, and maintains modesty while still exuding sexiness.
Episode 5: Good and Evil Challenge
This was by far Kenya's best look of the season. I never would have thought to take the inspiration of evil and turn it into the baddest boss lady in a satin pantsuit, and it somehow works on every level. It has simple, clean lines but is still dark and dramatic.
Episode 5: Good and Evil Challenge
Can. We. Say. Beyonce. Model Liris completely killed it in Michael's look, and I still can't comprehend that this gown only has one seam. Talk about talent in tailoring. The feather detail could have gone so tacky so fast, but it's royal and regal in all the best ways.
Episode 6: Models Off-Duty Challenge
I knew Kentaro had potential, and he really lived up to it with this challenge. I loved how he and his model mutually connected through their understanding of Japanese culture, and he used that connection to his advantage in his inspiration. This challenge of creating an Instagram-worthy look was fulfilled and embodied new, editorial streetwear.
Episode 7: Menswear-Inspired JCPenny Challenge
Kentaro whipped out another great look for the menswear-inspired challenge, and he and Brandon made a fantastic team. The "brothers" created an entire retail collection's worth of mix-and-match pieces in a sleek, athleisure, masculine-to-feminine aesthetic. There's something for everyone in this collection and it suits the JCPenny market perfectly.
Episode 7: Menswear-Inspired JCPenny Challenge
As much as I loved Brandon and Kentaro's pieces, Margarita's dress was a flawless, stand-out piece for her. It was a sweet, feminine take on a men's shirt, and the ruching, slits, and asymmetry worked together beautifully. I was thrilled that she won and that this look was reproduced by JCPenny - it was actually one of the better Project Runway re-productions in the show's history, so if you got it before it sold out, congratulations! (And congrats to Margarita as well.)
Episode 8: Client On-the-Go Challenge
Kentaro's client needed a multi-purpose dress that she could wear to an Indian wedding, and he absolutely delivered. The color was a bold and outstanding choice, his minimalist print complimented it perfectly, and the pleated details in the back were a simple but impactful touch. I was pretty bummed that he didn't win this challenge, but if he makes a fashion week collection anywhere close to this I'll be a happy camper.
Episode 9: Shopkins Avant Garde Challenge
There were a lot of fantastic looks in this episode, but Ayana deserved a special shout-out. How she created this in a single day is baffling, and I could totally see a version of it at the Met Gala.
Episode 9: Shopkins Avant Garde Challenge
This was another gloriously feminine dress from Margarita. I was worried about her in the workroom, and this level of draping can go very wrong very quickly, but in the end her model looked like she was floating on a glittery unicorn cloud.
Episode 9: Shopkins Avant Garde Challenge
I wasn't sure what to think about Michael's "melting disco ball" inspiration, but it ended up working really well on the runway. He definitely deserves all the props for managing to sculpt and tailor sequins, and since the challenge prize involved reproduction on a Shopkins doll, I understand why he won. It was a really cool, fantastical look.
Episode 10: Lexus Unconventional Challenge
Throughout the season, Ayana continued to pull out all the stops. This is probably the best unconventional challenge design I've ever seen. I mean, she created a leather-look top with a mosaic collar, a painted textile, a floating ballgown skirt and a headpiece. HOW. It's conceptual and impeccable, and she proved herself to be the one to watch.
Episode 11: Warrior Woman Challenge
Ayana blew me away once again in this episode. She took the challenge in an unexpected direction, her tailoring was flawless, and I love a girl who pulls off a stripe-on-stripe.
Episode 12: Winter Wonderland Challenge
Brandon's looks are most successful when he stays away from his strappy-tied aesthetic (which, while a favorite of the judges, is a little gimmicky to me at this point.) This design was clearly his but he pushed his creativity and he played around with layering in a fresh way.
Episode 12: Winter Wonderland Challenge
Kentaro had some ups and downs throughout the season, but this was a major comeback for him. I think he described it as looking like whipped cream...or a marshmallow? Some type of white dessert. Whatever. It looks fantastic. I never would have considered shorts in the winter, but in this fabrication and styled with the leg warmers it just all works.
Part one of the season finale is featuring five designers: Brandon, Kentaro, Ayana, Margarita, and Kenya. Only THREE of them are guaranteed spots at Fashion Week, which is stressful and terrifying. I'll be hitting you up soon with my takes on the designer's collection previews and, of course, you'll get my season finale recap after it airs next week.
Thanks a million for reading and waiting patiently for my two cents.
What are your thoughts? Who do you think will win this sweet sixteen season??
Photo credits to www.mylifetime.com