<i>Project Runway</i> Episode 10 Recap: The Fabric of Their Lives

The gang created high-fashion looks in the attempt to win an unprecedented $20K prize, but when an additional ready-to-wear challenge was sprung on them some people got thrown off their game.
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Well, my hysterical weeping has finally subsided and I'm ready to recap. But first, an announcement: Next week I will not be writing a recap, because I will be out of the country with no access to email, let alone iTunes. In my stead, my dear friend Owen, who also covered for me once back in April, will be recapping the show on his blog, While Not Making Other Plans. If you're unable or unwilling to venture outside of HuffPost, however, Holly Cara Price also recaps the show right here on Style. And, of course, across the interwebs there are countless other places to get your ProjRun fix. But I'll be back! So even if you cheat while I'm gone, come back into my lovin' arms on October 18th -- deal?

Previously on: The gang created high-fashion looks in the attempt to win an unprecedented $20K prize, but when an additional ready-to-wear challenge was sprung on them some people got thrown off their game. Valerie missed the mark on both of her looks, turning out a hideous bridal gown and confusing asymmetrical jumper, respectively, but Ivy's downmarket crepe paper Little Mermaid costumes eked out the loss and she was sent home. Mondo scored his second consecutive win and, with it, some drinking money.

We begin, as always, the morning after, as the designers awaken with their fashion hangovers -- puffy-faced and bed-headed, down but not aufed -- to face another runway day. In the ladies' bunker, Valerie is still amazed that she is back at the Atlas apartments, and not en route to Cleveland on the sad (Brother sewing machine-sponsored) steamship full of gray-faced peasants that I assume transports all of the eliminated contestants back home to their motherlands. "I hate that Ivy's gone," she interviews. "She was the other half of Latasian, the only one that laughed at my jokes--" wait, back up. The other half of "Latasian"?! It's official, you guys: the editors hate the audience. Why else would they have kept from us what sounds like the greatest multi-racial pop group since Hot Sundae?

In the guy's suite, Michael C. asks Mondo, "Bitch, how does it feel to win twice in a row?" Bitch, er, Mondo, says it's "unreal." Andy is smarting a little from not winning the $20K challenge, but says that it's been great to get praise for something that's so indicative of who he is as a designer. As they leave for the runway, a chalkboard is visible on which someone has written "TMV." What is this TMV? Is it a ProjRun version of The Jersey Shore's GTL? Maybe "Theater, Manscaping, Vagabondage" or "T.G.I. Friday's, Macrame, Vamping"?

At Parson's, Heidi comes out to show off her counting skills. "There are seven of you left," she says brightly, and then basically leaves.

The designers enter the workroom to find HP computers plastered with their childhood photos.
Someone says, "I'm gonna cry!" which is totally foreshadowing, because I wept more during this episode than when Jin and Sun drowned on Lost.

But before we cry, we will laugh. Specifically, at this:

A young Michael C. models April's shorts from the Philip Treacy challenge.

And this:

This Yankee Doodle sweetheart would grow up to love Jagermeister... and morgues.

More than one child-contestant is dressed as a harlequin, which says something, I think.


I, of course, am not one to talk.


But in my defense, yes, I was raised in the Moulin Rouge, and yes, I both harvested rice and told fortunes.

Tim comes in with the executive global something or other of HP, Tracey Trachta (who should totally marry someone with the last name "Traila" if she's not already attached). "We've downloaded pictures from your lives because having a personal dossier will be very important in this challenge," Papa Gunn explains. They're bringing back the HP challenge from last season, in which the designers create their own textiles, but with a slight twist: the textile has to be inspired by something personal (perhaps to avoid another navel-gazing initial print... ahem, ESOSA). "We are our own muse," Val interviews. "Exciting--but daunting!"

In the one hour the contestants have to create their textiles, we learn some of the stories behind the photos. For example, MC remembers that before the above snapshot was taken, he was actually wearing a skirt and twirling around in it, but his mom made him take it off. If Michael C. is in fact straight, he is the gayest straight man ever, and I am counting Jon Cryer (no offense, Duckman). MC goes on to say that his family--his brother Spanky and sister Peaches, specifically (YES REALLY)--are kind of crazy, and that all of the Costellos wear bracelets to ward off the evil eye, known in some cultures as Gretchen. So his textile incorporates the evil eye, which looks kind of like a Bomb Pop-slash-cue ball.

Valerie, meanwhile, has fond memories of standing in the driveway with her sister waiting for their dad to bring home the rest of their shirts.


No, but seriously, Val's dad built their house, and so she wants to honor him with a blueprint-inspired textile.

Gretchen grew up in the Southwest and so is doing a graphic interpretation of a squash blossom or a sun bonnet--both Native American jewelry designs her mother wore. She'll also pay homage to her youth by topping off the look with a beret made of shower caps.


Fine, I'll admit it, she was adorable. My heart's not completely charred.

April has decided to make a print that represents her parent's divorce. It's a tree with fractured, bleeding heart-shaped branches, which sounds cheesy but actually has a cool, haunted, Edward Gorey look to it. April describes it as stark and romantic, and then starts crying in her interview. BUT WAIT. Save some of your tears. For THIS:

Mondo tells us that he came out to his mom when he was 17, but that she told him not to tell anyone else in his family, especially not his dad. "Not that I don't love my mom," he says, "But I have to be myself." Mondo shows April his print, which is a bright pink, black, and yellow geometric pattern.

"It's very Mondo," she interviews. "But he won't talk about the story behind it."

I don't know whether the producers coerced him or not (more on this later), but Mondo tells us the story: The textile is based on a plus sign that represents his HIV positive status. He's kept it a secret for ten years--at least from his parents and family. "I can't hide anymore," he says, wiping away tears. "I can't live like this. I am a better person than just being a coward."

How Tim expects us to go to Mood at a time like this is beyond me.

But off to Mood we go, because God forbid we didn't spend part of our 90 minutes visiting Swatch, the tiny dog who lives in a house full of fabric just waiting to be pooped on.

Back at Parsons, Tim comes back in to announce some special guests. "Be nice to them!" he warns. Gretchen thinks it might be old contestants, and her lip curls as she no doubt imagines Jason and his bowler of infinite douchedom. Christopher worries that it's a client who won't understand or like the prints they've designed. But the door creaks open to reveal....


Valerie's mom comes in first, and Val bursts into tears. "Yes, I am that girl," she says in a talking head. I cry at Hallmark commercials." Or at least that's what I think she said, because I was too busy sobbing to get an accurate transcription. (And I have no excuse, because my mom lives six blocks from me).

Mondo and Andy's moms follow, and both of them break down. Andy even takes his glasses off so that he can weep more efficiently.

"By the way, everyone's bawling like little babies," Gretchen sneers in an interview, and for a split second I decide that once and for all she is dead to me, but it's made clear pretty quickly that she's just jealous. Choking up, she explains that her mom has a hard life and has to take care of her step-father, who's in a wheelchair, so she probably won't be able to come. Girlfriend, a network that employs a full staff of hair gays at all times can swing a plane ticket and a nursemaid. And sure enough... Gretchen's mom walks in and Gretchen crumples.

MC's mom (and son) and April's mom follow. Michael C. says he couldn't be a man and not cry. April's mom looks like Stifler's mom. Christopher was expecting his mom but got his partner JJ instead. Not that he minded. A Gchat I had with Owen on Friday comes to mind:

Owen: It was a weird mix of family that came to visit
It was a lot of moms and then christopher's husband
Who was definitely in conjugal visit mode.
Understandably so
me: ha. Yes, Chris is hot. but so milquetoasty
Owen: True, I just meant they'd been separated for a while
me: Hahaha. Sorry, of course my mind went elsewhere
Owen: I mean, if it's your mom you go for a walk around the city. If it's your spouse, you go have sex in atlas while everyone is out walking around with their moms.

So, yeah, of course Chris doesn't mind not seeing his mom, because he's getting laid. Also, I made a Crying Collage!

April didn't have a good crying shot with her mom; mostly they just admired each other like a live-action Barbie and Skipper.

Tim announces that he is suspending the rest of the work day so that the designers can hang with their families. Chris and JJ hold hands and stroll around town (later he interviews that having JJ in New York "is like fuel...like engine fuel...like spaceship enginge fuel." Dude, we all know you got some, okay? Stop rubbing it in.) April and her mom get pedicures. Val and her mom get pizza. Andy and his mom go to the High Line to have a heart to heart, but I can't really pay attention because Andy's mom has chola eyebrows. Michael C. and his mom and son go out to eat. He complains about the other designers hating on him, and his mom is pretty blase. She reminds me of Judge Wilbur from My Two Dads. Mondo and his mom also go to the High Line, where she gives him a bracelet and he contemplates telling her his secret, ultimately deciding against it because it's her first visit to New York and he doesn't want to ruin it for her.

[I'm assuming there is a crazy night out at the Boom Boom Room that we don't get to see, with hedonistic, Hangover-like stills of April flipping bottles of Jager like Tom Cruise in Cocktail and Michael C. doing the Single Ladies dance wearing only his briefs and Tim using his tie as a Warriors-style head bandana.]

Try getting that image out your head now.


Lights up on: The next morning at Atlas. The moms are gone, and it's Valerie's 29th birthday. (I hope she asked for an incredibly stressful twelve-hour day making clothes out of something that looks like laser tag wrapping paper, because that's what she's getting). Having the moms around have put things in perspective for some (Gretchen says she realizes that she's here "for more than just me") and distracted others ("I need to pull it together," Andy interviews. "I'm kind of just done.")

The fabrics are waiting at Parsons and everyone is super excited. Mondo gives Valerie a "Happy birthday" pin. "Happy 43rd," he deadpans. Ha.

Tim comes to check in. His first stop is with April, who explains her divorce print, which is like the Giving Tree but sadder and more litigious. Tim responds to the emotion behind it but warns that the judges won't, so April needs to bring a critical eye to the design. Next he stops by Michael's station. Michael has crafted an odd, menswear-looking strapless bodice using the evil eye print and yellow piping. Tim says that it's exquisitely done but needs to fit perfectly. Chris is working on a blouse made from his textile, an abstract blue and gray print inspired by the waters of San Francisco (when will people learn that water is not a compelling design muse?) that he's pairing with a pant. Tim is worried that the pant is overdesigned. I am worried that no one is pluralizing the word "pant."

Next up is Andy, who readily admits that he doesn't know what he's doing, and seems to believe that as long as he calls the circles on his fabric "memory bubbles" they will relate to his past. Tim likes Gretchen's big, vaguely Native American print but doesn't like the yoke she's slapped on the ass of her black satin pant(s). Valerie is making a structured, 80s-looking bodice and a skirt made of tons of little triangles, as she is wont to do. Tim thinks it looks like an ice-skating outfit and warns her not to make it a "pu pu platter." See what he did there? He called her dress poop to her face. TG is a master of innuendo.

Tim's final stop is with Mondo, who is vague about the meaning of his print but says that it's about who he is. Tim thinks it's beautiful. In fact, Tim thinks all of the prints are great, and even gets choked up talking about it. (I should have titled this recap "The Crying Game," but that might have been misleading, seeing as no one's print is a subtle reveal of their secret penis.)

The next morning, in the boys' room, Andy interviews that he doesn't like his look, and that "just OK is never good enough." Gretchen will have you know that she also does not like Andy's look, and thinks MC's textile "witchy" (previously, during Tim's critiques, she gave Christopher's work a C-plus; I bet you anything she keeps her own scorecards). Michael tells the rest of the boys that he thinks all of them will make it back to the apartment, while Valerie confides in the ladies that she's fine being safe but finally just wants to win one. "I think yours will be in the top," April says, and even Valerie knows that's some jive talk:

Bish, please.

The gang decamps to Parsons, with Mondo rocking an enviable coif that recalls some combination of Purple Rain-era Prince and Janelle Monae.


Speaking of hair, Michael C. sings a bizarre made-up country song about chopping it off. "Michael has grown on me," Andy interviews. I'm not surprised. Get stuck in a room long enough with something and you'll start talking to it eventually.


Garnier hair salon! L'Oreal Paris makeup room! Piperlime accessories wall! Any last words? Andy decides that he likes his look but that it doesn't look like him. Valerie maintains that her dress is fashion-forward.

Out on the runway, Heidi emerges in a hideous printed minidress and metallic green belt that reminds me of all of the black light posters I was exposed to in college. Two of her seven dwarfs, Bronzey and Bitchy, are in attendance as usual, as is fashion designer Rachel Roy. Let's get this party started, people. When I get that feeling, I need textile healing.




I know he claims they're "memory bubbles," but this top sure looks like stonewashed denim to me. Unfortunately it's also the most interesting part of the outfit--those shorts and that werid vest look cheap and generic, like a Contempo Casuals business suit that got modified by a promiscuous Catholic schoolgirl looking for an Aerosmith video to inspire.



This is actually my favorite look of April's this season. It still has her signature black and unkempt pieces of flair, but the silhouette is cleaner and softer than usual, and no matter what you think of the print (I'm on the fence), the white is a welcome break from the nonstop parade of nearly indistinguishable black outfits she's sent down the last few runways. Of course, I'm grading on a curve, but I really think this is cute.



YAWN. This is the Ann Taylor Loft sale rack. And what is the emotional significance of squeegees in Christopher's life?

Barring some drastic turnaround, he's going home next I think.



I like all of this, in theory. In theory, tight, high-waisted satin capri pants are flattering to a woman's body. In theory, those shoes would not make you want to saw off your own feet at the ankles just to free yourself. In theory, that print is interesting and that top is kind of breezy and effortlessly sexy.

In practice, however, it doesn't hold up. In practice those pants would make 99% of adult women look like Goldie Hawn in the opening scenes of Death Becomes her, when she's living in sweatpants and subsisting entirely on tubs of frosting. In practice those shoes will sever your tendons. In practice the print doesn't read well and looks kind of random and messy. I still like the design of the top, though. Golf clap!



Even though Christopher's was hella boring and Andy's was tacky, this might be my least favorite look from the challenge. First there's the print--which looks like the background of a cheap video game--coupled with the weird, trompe l'oeil menswear bodice with the mustard-colored piping. Add to that the two-toned skirt and yellow pumps, and it's just... ugly. Just plain ugly.



Can Mondo just win already? Again his is by far the best work of the episode. I love the jacket and the graphic cowl-neck top, and the pants.... well, I can appreciate the beauty of the pants as a fashion statement piece. I like the colors. I admire what the pattern represents. They are far too loud and far too high to look good on most women, but I enjoy looking at them. My one real criticism is the tiny penis this model has grown. Maybe this is The Crying Game...



I'm going to start positive: I unabashedly like the top. It's retro and, as Nina loves to say, sexy but not vulgar (although it could fit better). With a black pencil skirt, honey, that look would kill. But, sadly, that is not a black pencil skirt. Val's go-to petal shapes failed her here; they fall completely flat, making it look like the skirt was once much fuller but has spent a number of weeks vacuum-sealed in a suitcase. I also hate the textile pattern. It looks like the lasers you see inexplicably shooting through the background of almost every school portrait between 1985 and 1990. And the blue fabric hanging from the bottom looks like a mistake--it's fashion hemorrhoids!


Since there are only seven designer left, no one is safe; the judges want to talk to all of them.

They start with Gretchen. Heidi likes the print and the silhouette. MK loves the pants, saying that the model looks like Olivia Newton John in Grease but more "disco-earthy," whatever the hell that means. He wishes the print was placed more artistically, likening one of the squash blossoms to a "fried egg on her boob." But he's happy to see Gretchen make something that can't be entirely described as "lady of the canyon." Nina disagrees, saying that overall she was disappointed and expected more from Gretchen. Rachel Roy says that on her scorecard she wrote, "almost."

Michael Costello explains his evil eye motif by calling his family "crooked." MK acknowledges that MC was smart enough to know that the print wasn't "wow" and that he designed into it. But he also points out that the top looks like a men's tie threaded through a belt. Heidi, of course, likes that part. "It makes it look funny like a joke," MK argues. Nina thinks proper styling could have helped the look a lot, and she and Heidi agree that everything is too "matchy-matchy."

On to Chris's dishwater blouse. Rachel Roy says that she doesn't see water in the print, apart from the fact that it's blue. Nina calls the pieces "fine clothes, but not fashion," saying that she expects to see outstanding work. Heidi agrees that it was nice, safe, and boring. "The last thing you want people to say is that it was 'nice.'" MK notes.

Andy yet again tries to pass off faded denim as "memory bubbles." Rachel Roy says she likes the painterly print but finds the outfit "confusing and upsetting." She says that shorts that short should be sexy, but they're not. Nina thinks it's sad. MK thinks Andy dumbed himself down and went with something banal. He also thinks the pleats on the chest are weird, and make her breasts look like sleepy eyes. (You guys! Michael Kors: obsessed with funbags. Who knew?)


April explains her divorce-inspired print. MK says that he got the friction, and that it's consistent with the rest of her work. Nina found the print "charming" (Really, Nina? Bleeding, fractured hearts?). April's print was both Rachel and Heidi's favorite, although Heidi doesn't care for the "poufy" skirt.

Poor Valerie tells the panel that she's attempting to honor her father with her see-through laser dress, and Heidi immediately sees a resemblance between this and the Party Glitters dress:


"It's still napkins," MK agrees, "A napkin apron." He hates the blue underslip. Nina observes that the overall effect of the dress is very heavy. Rachel wonders if things would be different if the top had been fit just right, but she sounds unconvinced.

Finally, not by coincidence, I think we can agree, is Mondo. He says that when he was little he made construction paper collages for his mother, which was an influence, but that the print is also symbolism for who he is now, and that it's very personal. "I wish I knew what the story was!" Nina laughs.

[Time out]

Here's what I think, for the record, about Mondo's confession: He strikes me as a relatively private and shy person, albeit one who is voluntarily on a reality TV show. But somehow I don't think he expected to come out about his HIV status on television. (Of course, it's possible that the producers knew about it before filming--maybe medical records, or part of the interview process--and tailor-made this challenge to nudge him. Remember that last season the textile did not have to be deeply personal. But maybe I'm being paranoid, and I hope so.) What I do believe is that the judges knew something was up before the runway show (I'm sure that, as soon as Mondo made his confession in that talking head, the Lifetime honchos were clued in) and that they asked about the story on purpose to get him to spill. I'd like to think that it was his decision, and his decision only, to come out with it in the end in front of everybody. Which brings me back to the runway.

[Time in]

The judges loves Mondo's outfit, obviously, because it is clearly the best one, but everyone wonders aloud what the inspiration could possibly be. Rachel Roy goes so far as to say, "The print looks perfect, and no one's life is that perfect."

There is a beat after the judges say their piece and then Mondo speaks up. "Nina," he says, "You wanted to know what the story was. The symbolism in the pant is actually pluses, positive signs, and I've been HIV positive for 10 years." The judges don't show much emotion, but the other designers do--Valerie and Michael C. even start to cry. "I feel a lot better," Mondo says, smiling. "I feel free."

Damn, I'm crying again right now writing this. It's just... the fact that this episode aired the same week that the news broke about Tyler Clementi, Asher Brown, and Seth Walsh, the same week that people of all ages and sexual orientations issued statements and video messages--some as a part of the It Gets Better project on YouTube--to reach out to struggling gay teens... it's just incredibly important, and moving. No one should have to hide who they really are. Mondo's confession may have made for good TV, but it also made for an important message. To... you know, all of the closeted gays that watch Project Runway. Okay, well, at least Glee is on Fox.

Backstage, Gretchen ruins the moment almost immediately. "I feel really grateful that I was able to be here and take part in you opening up the way you did," she says. Which is a perfect example of why she is so generally insufferable--she cannot see beyond herself. Mondo kindly ignores her and tells the gang that he felt like that was the right moment to tell everyone, "and maybe help someone in the same situation." It was funny, he admits, that Nina pressed him so much on knowing the story. Mmmmm hmmmmm. Okay, I'll stop being so skeptical. Mondo interviews that he feels that someone was guiding him and that he was supposed to speak at that moment. "I feel really good," he sighs. "Maybe I'll start being nicer." Aw. Mondo is some kind of hybrid of Daria and George Bailey and I want to keep him in my pocket.

Back on the runway, April is the first one safe. Heidi tells Mondo that he made a joyful print that the judges responded to, and that he took a difficult inspiration and made something beautiful. And... Mondo wins! THREE-PEAT, BITCHES!!!! He is visibly overcome, and cries in April's arms back in the designer lounge. Gretchen is in, followed by Michael C. and Christopher. Which means that Andy and Val are left in the bottom.

The judges liked Andy's print but were confused by the design, whereas Valerie's outfit looked like two bad dresses glued together.

Andy is ... IN.

Which means that Val is hitchin' a ride on that steamship to Cleveland after all.

As expected, she goes out with class. She does a cute "aw, shucks" snap when Heidi tells her auf weidersehen. And then, backstage, she basically acts out the penultimate scene from the Wizard of Oz, saying goodbye to each designer individually. "You're very brave, Mondo. You do have a brain, Michael C.! You do have a heart, Gretchen! Yeah, it's a watch, but at least it's a start, beeyotch."

Next time: Owen will recap! Heidi is the client! Is Mondo being rude? And the cheating accusations finally (maybe) come to light.

As always, if you like these recaps, check out my blog or become a fan on Facebook!

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