Sunday, October 30, 2011

PR: 4-Way Showdown Throwdown

So, the finale has come and gone. And next week, we'll be shown the decoy collections evidently, to which I can only say--it's about time! I'm geeked about that because I'd like to see Laura's collection in motion, and see the others to find if it changes my view on them at all. I also just love the stage performance of a runway show.
So. Anya wins. As I mentioned in a previous post, I was unenthusiastic about the remaining 4 designers' collections anyway, with some notable exceptions. That being said, I can understand why they picked Anya--business. I usually complain when the judges pick someone for what seem to be pure business reasons. In this case, though, there weren't that many outs for them.
Anya is young and has experience being in the public eye. She has an affinity for easy garments that make good resortwear. She is the type of designer that people will seek out so they can have one of her pieces. I'm not sure you could say the same for any of the others.
Viktor is really the more talented designer, but the judges, to my eye, were quite right to point out the inconsistencies in his looks...not missed opportunities, as Nina said, but judgment errors. You really scrap that lovely flowy white dress for a black dress with dominatrix cross straps? See-through all-black blouses are very nineties. I had one. And then I got rid of it when its time had past. There were just some strange decisions on Viktor's part that cost him dearly.
I actually appreciated more of Kimberly's looks than others', which surprised me. She had some clunkers also, but she had some looks that were both practical and beautiful. I also appreciated her use of color, though there was really too much metallic going on, I think.
And then there is Josh. The looks weren't all bad, but as others have pointed out, his color palette is unsophisticated, a factor not mitigated by his shapes. For a few moments, I was very afraid they were going to pick him.
So those are my general observations. Here are some particulars.
Yes--short gold dress, black and white bambooesque print dress, black and white halter dress
No--gold and turquoise jump suit, short blue and print romper
Yes--turquoise top and skirt (I like that top's fit), blue dress, pink pants and black top, white feather top and pant
No--black pants and blue top, drapey thing with pink skirt/dress
Yes--blue print dress (short), blue print dress (long), print top and black skirt
No--black top and leather skirt, black dress with X straps
Yes--Purple opening dress, draped closing dress
No--Laced biker shorts, striped top with red jacket, green skirt, etc.
Best in show--I really think I have to give this to Kimberly's white pants and white feathered top. My lands, that was gorgeous. It stood out in all the good ways. I'd love to have that in my arsenal.
Worst in show--I have to give this to those hideous lace-up shorts of Josh's. I just cannot be convinced that they are attractive in any way, no matter what the judges said.
I hope to do a similar analysis after the decoy show, so stay tuned!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

PR: Laura Laura Laura

I haven't been around for a while, I admit. A lot has been going on with all kinds of tasks piled up, and I'm only getting to this blog now. I apologize.
Since last I posted, we had the mini-collection week and the home visits/3-looks trial.
The mini-collection week was kind of a bummer.
Anya's pieces were okay...I liked the understated structure to them. But the cinnamony two-piece look sort of reminded me of yoga wear and I didn't care for the pointy hem of her black dress, which just made it look like the dress was backward.
Viktor's pieces were highly praised. I really didn't care much for the blouse print he chose. I could see where it was coming from with the skyline thing, but the blouse looked kind of cheap to me.
Kimberly's looks...oh, sheesh. The silver dress was the only thing I liked. No, let me clarify. I liked the coat she made, but it looked slubby on the runway especially because it was so poorly styled. The third look, the orange top and silver skirt, were unsophisticated (Tom and Lorenzo call it out for hoochieness, which is accurate).
And then there is Josh. His looks were just silly. There were pieces that worked, like the white dress with the mesh, and maybe the striped top. But nothing else worked, and certainly not together. The runway judging at this point was equally ridiculous and ill-fitting.
But I'm really annoyed at the judging (and other comments made) of Laura. I loved Laura's pieces. I really did. I liked the circles and the extent to which they were used. I liked the sassiness of it, and the open fretwork of the top of the dress, with the black cap to the sleeve--I thought it was awesome. I could so rock a dress like that. And the dress they complained about looking like a pillowcase? Couldn't disagree more. The top didn't fit properly, it's true. But I liked the ease of it, and I saw the relationship between that dress and the other looks.
Thus, I was completely upset when Laura ultimately went home, after a total lambasting on the runway. In my view, Josh should have gone, and if the producers were really resistant, Kimberly. Laura has much more spunk to her looks, and a much more interesting point of view. Sure, her stuff is often "pretty," but since when is that a bad thing? Women like pretty clothes.

This whole situation (namely Laura's ousting) was made even worse when you sneak a peek at the collections, on or Tom & Lorenzo's blog, for this reason: LAURA'S COLLECTION IS CLEARLY THE BEST. How depressing is that? Her collection is the only one with style and no real inconsistencies. There were one or two pieces I felt meh about, but I feel like Laura's "decoy" collection is the first collection I've really and truly loved in years. Literally years. In fact, Jay McCarroll is the only one I can think of that I really loved as much. The only one I remember, I should say. And guess what? While we don't always see eye to eye, Tom & Lorenzo agree with me. Can you beat that?

In some ways, I lost interest as soon as Laura was auf'd. I didn't really watch the home visits, though I turned in to the second half. I wanted to see who would go home. Surprise! No one.
Here's what happened:
Kimberly had a sleek sparkly dress (plus), a pair of blue pants (plus), a southwest top (minus), a boring blue top (minus), and a poofy pink skirt (minus).
Josh had a crazy muumuu jumpsuit (minus), a pair of pink pants (minus), a weird jacket (neutral), a print/mesh top (minus), and an ill-fitting black dress (minus).
Anya had a brown print dress (plus), a tan coverup (minus), a weird black swimsuit (minus), and a misshapen gold dress (minus).
Viktor had a flowy dress (plus), a white jacket (plus), a cool print dress (plus), a leather overskirt (minus), a pair of print pants (neutral), an embellished top (plus), and a black jacket (plus).
You can do the math. Viktor is obviously in. To my mind, Josh needs to exit, or Anya. Kimberly is safe.
And yet Kimberly and Anya are at the bottom. I will admit that Kimberly didn't pick the best looks from her collection to show the judges. The pieces didn't relate well. That being said, Josh's looks were all shady, whereas Anya had one adequate piece. I know the judges always want to see more Josh, because he's crazy, but they always seem to love Anya, too. I think the judges kind of missed the boat on Kimberly being at the bottom--I didn't necessarily care for what she had, but she does actually have a particular aesthetic that some people to respond to. I felt like the judges missing that is why she was on the bottom, whereas Josh's work, which supposedly has a point of view (even if that is something I don't want to look at) got a free ride.

Since Laura is gone, I couldn't win anyway, so I guess this past week was an academic exercise for me at best. I've seen all the collections and there are pieces I like from Viktor, Kimberly, and Anya. Maybe one or two of Josh's. But all have serious missteps as well. Judging might be interesting, but once again, I sort of feel like they should do what one of our Mid-American Review contest judges did once--reject the finalists we sent them and ask to see a different batch, and hand the crown to Laura.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

PR: Dresses At Last!

Let's have a look at the gimmicks from this week's episode:
Makeup brand emulating birds
Pairs, which turned into...
Head to head competition
Two looks
One high fashion look
But wait--only one look is being shown
Not one, but TWO makeup decision scenes.
20,000 dollar prize...and an advertorial

I'm really tired of the teaming up of the designers. This is yet another reason why I think the show is struggling. Sometimes they do it when it's not even related to or needed in the challenge. For this week, for instance, why pretend to team them up? Why not just announce that they are picking buttons for head-to-head competition? That whole scenario was clunky as composed.

Another of the things I'm tired of is the sketch and go to Mood, and then sketch again and go to Mood again. They've done that several times this season. Why not just put the designers on an obstacle course? If the goal is to exhaust them and then see what they create, surely there is a better way.

Project Runway challenge designers--YOU HAVE AN EDITING PROBLEM. Seriously. Is no one on the production team sitting back and saying, "That's too much. You have a lot of ideas, and I've seen this from you before. You need to edit"? If Nina Garcia is so tired of Josh M's overbedazzling everything, surely one of those people can see how his aesthetic translated to TV is crushing PR? Am I the only one thinking this?

Reality time: Birds and two looks would have been enough. Or why not birds to inspire a look to wear to a benefit, with head to head competition? Some of the gowns that have resulted would work for such an event.

In Viktor's look, I'm not a big fan of the frizz on the shoulder. Along the sides and skirt I think it's fine. The colors are lovely and soft. It's just that shoulder that strikes me as odd.
I prefer Kimberly's dress to Viktor's in its movement and its draping. I don't really see cockatoo inspiration in there, though. I'm confused on why she said Viktor was at fault for burning her dress--didn't she own that in the workroom? Anyway, I would wear this dress. Actually, seeing it closeup, I see that lightish pink in the skirt, which is good.
I'm not a big fan of Bert's look. The top layer of gray is a strange shade. I like the layering of the color underneath, but there's definitely a more African Gray parrot inspiration there as opposed to an Amazon. It's not actually that the top is gray that bothers's the shade of gray. What annoyed me more about Bert is his dissing the bird. That just seems very whiny to me.
I liked Josh M's look better without the weird corsage. I like the back better than the front. In some strange way though, it kind of reminds me of a towel toga.
Anya went for structure, and it does have the raven structure in an inspired-by way. I wouldn't wear it, but it's interesting and I could see it on a runway. That's what high fashion is, really. Josh is very bitter about the model having to be cut out of the dress, but that, too, is common in fashion shows, not just on Project Runway.
Laura's look is very wearable, but the pant is kind of ho-hum. I like the organza peplum idea. I am not agreeing with the judges that it is too literally birdy. I don't think it's costumey, any more than anyone else's.
What I love more is Laura and Anya's compliments for each other.
My least favorite look this week was Bert's. I also hate to say this, but Laura's look suffered in comparison to others this week. It was different for her, and still wearable, but not great.
The right decision was made this week. Bert's exit was very classy, which made up for the fuss about the bird.
I did not watch the "After the Runway" show that followed this week's PR. No point--that's not why I watch PR.

Monday, October 03, 2011

PR: Throwback. Throw it back.

Ah, the 70s.
This was not a good week, fashionwise, but is it any surprise? People keep wanting to revisit 70s and 80s fashion, but...they're not good, people. There are fun elements in both, but they just are not that worthy of being remade. Even modernizing them seems sort of weird. Sure, put some legwarmers or bell bottoms on. But revisiting the aesthetic of those eras? It's just an odd choice.

Anyway, here's what we had:
Anthony Ryan--This reminds me of his collection from Fashion Week--sad and shabby looking. The dress was very bohemian, but even so the colors just didn't feel right. I like red and grey together, but to do it you really have to have crispness, and that was lacking.
Anya--Anya's top had nice detailing with the pleats. I would have liked to see something done with the print fabric that was less busy. Up close, the pattern is quite nice, but as pants it's too overwhelming, and the fabric didn't move well in that shape. The jumpsuit shape was all right, but I wasn't keen on that print choice.
Bert--I don't know, guys. That first outfit was just odd. It was too referential. It made me think of Xanadu. The little dress was cute, and it grew on me, though it was a little nippy for the runway. I was wondering if the gold might have been a better choice for the front, but then the white would get dirty when sat on. I noticed the hem was a little wonky.
Josh M.--It's a look that is obviously JM, therefore, I can't stand it. I thought it was odd that Heidi was so in for Bert's whackadoo avant garde look, but then couldn't get behind Josh's pants. That whole outfit looked more 80s, maybe early 90s to me. The dress was fine, though bunchy at the bust.
Kimberly--I don't get the weird midriff baring thing with this. I thought the skirt was fine. The jumpsuit, though? It didn't look well made up top. These two looks were both kind of bewildering for me.
Laura--I actually really liked Laura's jumpsuit. Subtle it was, but it looked comfortable and flattering, as well as new. That's pretty much the only way I'd wear a jumpsuit. I wasn't excited about her top with the skirt look, though I thought the top was all right.
Viktor--Viktor's looks were obviously the most polished, but I thought they were kind of dull. The dress is okay, though I'm not keen on the snakeskin. I actually liked the tee shirt with the dress pants idea. That is something I would do. And have done. I thought the jacket should have been longer--it looks a little juniory. I thought a slightly longer-than-normal jacket would say more safari and also be a wink at the 70s.

This week, I can't really agree with Laura Bennett, who would have sent Josh M home over Anthony Ryan. Did Josh M make a hideous outfit? Yes. But Anthony Ryan's outfit was more awful, frankly. I loved Anthony Ryan's effort to help Anya, and I'm no fan of Josh M, but the issue here is still that the crazy vest and top AR made was crazier than Josh M's crazy pants and (80s) top.

That's all I got this week. I finally have a couple of nights of free time (I think) and I'm going to work on a few projects, get some plans done and maybe start testing things. That's after I wash the dishes that have piled up for days now.

Friday, September 23, 2011

PR: Rock It?

Oh, goodness.
The challenge for this week's Project Runway was a great idea--each designer was assigned a band member to make a look for, and worked with a stylist to make him look good. The band is an unsigned one, so there aren't any real preconceived notions to live up to. And, for the runway, the band would play in its garb, one team at a time.
Sure, they're men, and that's where the panic sets in. But I really liked the challenge and I really felt it was a step up for Project Runway this season.
The results...well, I think we all could have predicted, based on past performance, that the final designs would be less than exciting.
Anythony Ryan basically made a sleeveless top and cream pants...for himself. His print, though, was one of the least offensive.
Anya's pants were falling apart, and her shirt looked like a home ec project
Bert's striped pants were kind of rockerish, and therefore acceptable, but the shirts were muddy-looking and decidedly not rockerish. I dug the braids, though.
I could not believe the judges went so gaga over Josh M's look. The pants without the pockets might have been acceptable, but that vest was ridiculous. It had slit puffed sleeves of fringe.
Whoever compared Kimberly's look to Scooby Doo was right on--the only one-liner I could tolerate in the judging. The idea of the shirt was there, but it really didn't fit.
Say what you will about Laura, I liked the pants and the jacket and scarf on her guy. Without the fringe, though. Fringe was completely unnecessary. I liked her color-scheme, though, and her pieces were the most modern.
My tribe is in complete agreement that Olivier needed to go. Anyone who has such a ludicrous idea of what a designer's job is and what a person should be needs not to be in the industry and given no more attention.
Viktor won for his jacket. Sure, his jeans fit, but their upper fit was still pretty feminine, and the shirt--well, I'm pretty sure I've seen fabric like that sold for dresses. I wasn't a big fan on the headband. On the whole, not surprised Viktor won.
I could NOT tolerate Kors this week. He needs to be replaced. I seriously wondered if he was going senile or on medication or something. Is he there for (unfunny) comic relief or to make incisive comments about design? He has no purpose any longer and I've lost all respect for him at this point.
In fact, I'd kind of like Kors and Nina both to be replaced. I don't have any real beef with Nina except that it feels like she's said all she could. She bores me.

So--feeling flat from this week? Why not head on over to and look at some of the spring Ready-to-Wear lines? I watched Burberry's Prorsum show on their website last night, and looked at the pictures on nymag. Some of the coats and clothes are to die for, and they have this great belts with the trenches. But what stole my heart was the pink trenchcoat. It is so perfect I seriously almost started weeping. It was a fashion epiphany.
Go on...have a look at the shows. And then tell me what you like!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

PR: What Size Is Your Wife?

Tonight I thought I'd do a PR live blog, because I have a laptop and I can do hip things like that now!
The Challenge:
So--the challenge is for the designers to make garments for women based on their significant others' suggestions. Couples as clients. Because that's going to go well.
Olivier just said he doesn't like women to have boobs, because they mess up the line of designs. So, he's completely off my interest list. I guess I would fit his aesthetic, but complaining about a woman because her body doesn't fit his designs is just ridiculous. Dude. Clothes are for people. People come with different shapes. Women are not hangers.
Also, some of these guys are kind of nuts. You're really going to talk about motorboating your wife's bust on national TV? I don't know if this is a sign of discomfort being in a design room, like they have to assert their masculinity, or if it's discomfort being on camera, or if they really are just brutish.
Enter Tim Gunn.
Wait--is Viktor done? His look is done. I like the shape. Not so much the color of that yellow.
Olivier and Bryce are clearly in trouble. I'm not sure what's up with Anya, and I didn't get a good look at anyone else's.
It's interesting to see Bert working so well with his client. He also seems more cheerful generally.
I don't know what's up with Anthony Ryan. (edited: Later I learned I was looking at the woman's actual clothes, not the clothes AR made. That explains it.)
Josh M is done, too, and he really brought it. I guess we figured out how to tame him. The black dress is sweet, and I love the back. I'd totally wear that. Laura may not be impressed, but I think it's lovely. Get that woman some pearls and a birdcage veil.
I told my students to use their handbook thoughtfully the other day.
Piperlime jewelry for the ladies! That must be to make them less angry that their men are talking about their bits and pieces on national TV.
Wow. Olivier's inexperience is really showing right now. Granted, his clients don't seem to be the easiest to work with, but he really seems to be incapable of making clothes for actual clients. People who aren't orderly and silent. People with, you know, needs. It reminds me of Worf's reaction to Keiko's labor on Star Trek: The Next Generation's episode "Disaster."
The Runway:
Laura--Pretty color for the lady. The dress is a little conventional to me, though. I'm not surprised that it was deemed safe. It had design features, but features that are not that uncommon.
Anthony Ryan's look is better on the runway, but still a little too simple.
Bert's look seems a little trashy to me. I guess that fits the husband's motorboating needs.
Josh M's look is Perfect. So darling.
Bryce--Remaking the dress was probably wise, but it's not great. The back adds a little interest, I guess, but it's not that unusual a back.
Kimberly's skirt is too short. The top is cute, but I'd rather see a pant on the lady, just to balance out the high collar and give her a more svelte silhouette. I am against cramming a curvy lady into a too-short, trashy skirt. (Sister, maybe I've been letting Stacy and Clinton into my head after all.)
Olivier-- The top is shaped similarly to another top we've seen this season isn't it? Oh...the top of his dress in the avant garde challenge. What is that about? And Kimberly's top for Nina. Same fold theory.
Anya--What the heck? That midsection is crazy. I don't understand this outfit. I'm okay with the shape, and even the sleeve, but that's distracting.
Viktor's look is very complete. I still am not a big fan of that mustard color, but I do like the blouse quite a lot, and the shape as a whole. I wear that kind of silhouette myself.
On to the judging..Bert, Bryce, and Anthony Ryan on the bottom. Viktor, Josh M, and Anya on the top.
My favorite is Josh's dress. Sure, it's not the sassiest look out there, but it is beautiful and her eyes and smile show that she really loves that dress.
I would not be upset, though, if Viktor won. I like the pieces, and I like the fun.
Here we finally have some great clothes this week! At last!
I am not in favor of Anya winning. Sure, the look is original, but it's not as polished as the other two.
Our guest judge kind of hit the nail on the head hinting that the husband's desires drove the design, as far as Bert's look goes. I don't know that I'd trust a man to make a fashion decision for me that way.
Bryce was on to something with the pockets. I agree with Nina that the dress is overworked. I disagree with Heidi about the pocket size--I think that actually adds some edge. It would be less noticeable if the top was better fitted and a different style. It could have been made sassier.
I would hate Anthony Ryan to be kicked out for this look. However, the dress is lacking some charm for the client. There is something reminiscent of some 40s tennis dresses, but it didn't quite have the proportion right.
The Results:
Joshua M. is the winner, and I am glad. I'm not a Josh fan, BUT that dress is incredibly right.
Bryce is out. I am not surprised. He has struggled so much. He seems like a nice guy, but like Fallene, he was sort of having a crisis of confidence piling up over weeks.
Shoot. Another team challenge next week? And menswear. *sigh*
And finally, a PSA--if you are ever thinking of watching Dance Moms, the show after Project Runway, DON'T. It will kill your soul. Even ten seconds of the show made my heart hurt. Children should NEVER EVER be in a dance environment like that.

Friday, September 09, 2011

PR: There's no f, u, or n in TEAM

Oh, brother. It's a little hard to write the blog this week. I started watching PR, then put it on mute. I saw the collections from the teams of 5, and saw some things I liked and most that I didn't. I really couldn't get behind the prints the designers made--all were black and white, and they lacked anything really special. I liked the clock idea of the Nuts & Bolts team, and the Rorshach idea of the Chaos team, but ultimately felt very little inspiration from either side. I know they have very little time to do this, and I also know that groupthink can water ideas down in the efforts toward compromise. But I just don't get how the make-your-own-print challenges keep turning out such lackluster or even anemic fabrics. And why writing on the prints? It's too easy, just like the patterns of lines are.
I liked:
Viktor's dress. I think he managed to keep it from looking like a cow print, and I liked the fluidity of the skirt.
Anthony Ryan's skirt. It was perky and had some visual appeal.
Becky's jacket. I liked it better than Josh's. In fact, Becky's outfit seemed to have the most practical usage. It wasn't very exciting, but I liked it better than, say, Bryce's look.
Josh's jacket, with reservations. I have to admit I liked it better on the mannequin.
I did not like:
The flatness of Olivier's pieces. Again. I admire that he puts everything into crafting a garment, but he also tends to fixate too much, I think, and his palette once again was dull.
Kimberly's weird skirt and boring blouse. The shortness of the skirt was not the problem. It looked like she was wearing a bowling bag. Such a peculiar silhouette.
Josh's pants. Period.
Bryce's shorts and slouchy top. There is no fashion here at all. Boring pieces in a lazy-looking style.
Anthony Ryan's top. There was something sort of touristy about a stewardess or a wrangler. Those things are very different and I can't defend why the top reminded me of both of them, but it did.
Laura's jumpsuit. I don't care for jumpsuits, and I didn't see any connection between a blue jumpsuit and a clock dress. It seemed very Laura, but also seemed like jumpsuits we've seen before.
I don't really have an opinion about Bert's clock dress. I liked the zipper idea, but something about the dress as a whole was kind of dull.
I also thought Anya's dress was okay, but not very exciting. It was certainly wearable, but it wasn't breathtaking or unique.
I have to say, and I've hinted at this before, that I think sportswear is killing Project Runway. Kors gets so excited about it, but honestly, the show has been too focused on it, and it's not hard to understand why so much of what has been produced this season, and perhaps the last, has fallen flat.
Contestants used to tell us that so many garments didn't have sleeves because sleeves take time. Yet many of these designers were producing exciting looks. Now, contestants are making pants and tailored jackets and sleeved tops. They're taking so much time doing so that nothing really interesting or inspired takes place. When you're making a tailored jacket and a pair of pants, it's really hard to change direction midstream, or to change your design to fit a new idea. The actual design part of Project Runway is very short. Far more time is spent on actually making the pieces.
I do think sportswear is important. But it's not that interesting to look at, and I think it's hard to do anything really new in its design. Sure, Olivier made a nice jacket this week. But is that jacket really any different from jackets we've seen in fashion for years? It was well made, but it wasn't innovative in design. No one this week made anything that one could obsess over.
No one told the designers this week to make so much sportswear. Nor have they done so any other week. But separates have gotten the praise from the judges, and presumably they were in the portfolios of the contestants selected. Thus, it's become a part of the culture of the show. There are all kinds of other reasons why PR has been struggling, but I think this week was a great example of boring sportswear separates that we have seen over and over.

Friday, September 02, 2011

PR: Avant Garde and Young People

The Avant Garde Project Runway challenge is hit or miss. Sometimes it's intriguing and educational, and sometimes it's a mess. This year, for whatever reason, I got engaged when I heard it was the AG challenge, because I thought maybe we'd finally get some fashion, some risk-taking. We didn't, always, but this was on the whole a less frustrating episode than last week.
I enjoy having the designers collaborate creatively with young people. Sure, they don't always like kids, these designers, but it was fun to hear kids articulate their artistic process and vision. I think this was meant to be a feel-good episode, as edited, anyway, and I'm okay with that. Others have noticed how much better designers got along this week, though it seems we're in an explosion again next week.

Anthony Ryan--I liked the idea of brush stroke translation, and I liked AR's look the best, I think. It wasn't really Avant Garde so much, unless the sheer fabric of the underdress was to count as the experimental part, but it did have a point of view. I'm pleased that he won
Anya--Half a costume from CATS, half a hiked up Renaissance skirt...and I kind of dig that. It was definitely a little weird, in the sense that it seemed to have multiple personalities, but sometimes that's the point of avant garde.
Becky--Denim with blocks, squares, and holes. That pretty much summed up the dress. It was safe, better than some of the other looks out there, but definitely not a contender for an avant garde winner.
Bert--Raise your hands, people who predicted that Heidi would like this. As much as I hated this Tweedledee nightmare, I knew Heidi would be okay with it. This is the type of thing that people do send down runways sometimes, things which make me laugh at the fashion industry. Go on. Go to Google Image and type in avant garde fashion. I'll wait. And I think the fact that it is sort of like some of those disasters is what saved Bert. I'm wondering if Heidi's experience as a model kicked in here. I'm sure she's worn equally foolish things.
Bryce--Bryce was my least favorite this week. Much like last week, the construction was horrifying. Sure, a straightjacket mermaid dress is pretty avant garde, but the cut and fit were bad, the movement droopy, and as a result I was sure he would be out. And yet...not.
Josh C.--I secretly think Josh was onto something better with his first idea. While more literal, it was a bit more interesting to try to translate a wolf into fashion. I liked the idea of leaving the heart bare, just like the painting. I can't help wondering what would have happened if we'd gotten an over-the-top faux fur skirt. Also...I quite liked the blouse. It had an interesting shape and neat pleats.
Josh M.--Ok. Take a minute, go to Rate the Runway, and look at the picture of Josh M's design. Does his model not look like a drag queen? There's nothing wrong with being a drag queen, but it's not really indicative of avant garde fashion. I thought this outfit belonged squarely in the middle. It wasn't really that engaging to me. Just very voluminous.
Kimberly--Okay. Let's take that furryfeathery stuff and make a skirt out of it for Josh C's outfit...Now. I wasn't excited by Kimberly's look, but I didn't dislike it either. It wasn't terribly memorable, I guess that's my problem for an avant garde challenge. It was a dark version of a party dress.
Laura--This dress kind of reminded me of my Peaches and Cream Barbie doll for some reason. I'm not really buying the visible boning versus the chiffon as being avant garde. That being said, I thought the dress was fun to look at, and would make an interesting component of a runway show with a similar stripe running through it. In that regard it was successful, and more memorable than other runway looks.
Olivier--Olivier survived this week. Barely. I think it's because the judges recognize that he does have skills. And for once I agreed with Kors when he exhorted Olivier not to be afraid to be powerful. His dress this week really was just a whirlwind of fabric tacked together. Very disappointing.
Viktor--There are elements I liked about Viktor's blue and white swirled confection, and elements I didn't care for. But I could easily see a singer wearing this outfit at the VMAs or onstage, which tends to be a little funky if not avant garde.

Friday, August 26, 2011

PR: Good Idea? Bad Idea.

It's time for another Good Idea/Bad Idea.
Actually, it's not, because nothing about this week's Project Runway episode was a good idea, and judging from the responses I've seen, NO ONE thought this week was any good.
Let's explore the roll call of bad decisions.

1.Another Heidi Klum for New Balance challenge. As I blogged last October, last season's New Balance challenge was one of the worst in PR history, and the show itself was disappointing. Bullying, drab fabrics, and the return of past contestants...wait, am I describing this year's HKNB challenge? Because all three of those elements dominated this year, too. I'm not down on New Balance. I've worn their shoes. But HK's line is not really that interesting, despite its pricetag. Certainly not interesting enough for two challenges of a fashion-based TV show. And this year's materials? Denim and suede. Be still, my heart. Just because there is the possibility of a business tie in, that does not mean it should be tied in.

2. That Klum et al. then blamed the designers for uninspired and bizarre results is just exhausting. As Kors would say, "Listen": If more than once you get drab results, the problem probably really is you, not the designers. This is especially true when you consider the public reaction to last season's challenge, and all the ho-hums that came because of the line itself.

3.It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye--or falls down. Designers are not exactly stationary, but asking them to race? I have problems with this on several levels:

a. Sexism. Women can run fast, but on average, men can run faster. And designers would certainly be average across the board. Thus, males have a distinct advantage.
b. Ageism.
c. Safety. Asking inexperienced people to run a race for leadership is simply unsafe. Remember when they had the designers skate? That was silly but only slightly risky. A tottery skater is much less likely to do damage than a non-athlete running at full pace, without athletic supervision. Olivier's fall was inevitable, and the producers should be thanking whatever gods they pray to that it wasn't worse.

4. Finally, in what is supposedly "her" challenge, Klum gets overruled in the judging. Yet another instance of credibility issues in the judging, or at least the presentation of it to the public. Garcia conveniently chooses to judge based on past episodes--it's funny how that form of judging versus judging what's on the runway are interchanged, isn't it? We can't know what else went on during judging (and truly, the editing of the judging this week was weird in itself), but the effect was sounding like Garcia trumped Klum, whether or not that was actually the case.

The fashion itself was predictably bad, and the attitudes worse. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would wonder if Lifetime or another shadowy collective were trying to kill Project Runway.

Here are the current scores, for the curious, for Rate the Runway:
Anthony Ryan 1.36
Bert 3.11
Anya 3.32
Becky 2.08
Bryce 3.18
Danielle 1.71
Josh C. 2.69
Josh M. 2.79
Kimberly 3.29
Laura 2.28
Olivier 2.26
Viktor 3.82

Did Viktor deserve the win? I think so. While I question the type of jacket, it and the dress were clearly well constructed and appropriate for the sneakers, at least from a certain point of view (including mine--I favor a casual dress and sneakers on occasion).
Did Josh M. also deserve the win? No. The dress he won for was attributed to Anya, clearly. He was also praised for good leadership when he demonstrated many judgment lapses. For instance, dowdygate. I have praised Becky's looks on several occasions, and others of my friends have also expressed support for her. I am not "forty to death." Thus, Josh M. not only went out of his way to insult Becky, but he also insulted her legions of fans. I don't care for his aesthetic either, generally speaking.
And why split the win anyway? Viktor had a clearly viable outfit. Other pieces on the runway--Bert's top, Olivier's top, Kimberly's (?) jacket--were acceptable, but Viktor to me was the obvious winner for the challenge as a whole. To give anyone else a share of the win was perplexing, to say the least.

I don't know who all reads this blog. But if any producers come across this entry, please listen--not just to me, but to the vast PR Nation that has been loyal, even through struggles. This challenge was bad. It was bad last year, and it is still bad. Some circumstances of the show are out of your control, but this isn't. If you want this show to continue, and to rebuild a sense of being respected, then you need to take it back to the roots for creativity, not just the designers', but your own.

Friday, August 19, 2011

PR: Nina's Day-to-Night Adventure

Confession: I did not actually watch all of this episode. I recorded it, but I managed to turn it on right when the runway show was about to start. Watching that last half hour was the most important part for this blog, especially since I read the other PR blogs on
Since my concern is generally the fashion results, I'm good to go.
The challenge was to design a look for Nina that she could wear all day, at the office and then at some industry event. There were a lot of prize components, and a lot of judges. Let's see how things came out (and once again I've listed the scores-to-date from Rate the Runway).

Anthony Ryan (2.86)--the fabric choice seemed on, but this look was kind of plain, and the shape too round, meaning it wasn't quite fitted enough. This black-and-white outfit would be better for a lunch out than day-to-night.
Anya (3.24)--I liked the top back of Anya's jumpsuit, and I'm glad for her that her dyeing came out well. However, I'm really not into jumpsuits in general and I cannot see Nina in this piece. It was just a bit too young--not that Nina is old, just that she'd look like a junior in this piece instead of a superior.
Becky (3.53)--I have to say, this is my favorite look. It's the only one that made me go, "Yes." Maybe it's not super fashion-forward, but it's not fashion-backward, either. I wish this would have gotten more love, because frankly I loved it and I thought it would have looked fun on Nina, too, but without beeing too youthful.
Bert (2. 63)--Two words: Crotch slit. Yes, there was some merit to the shape of the neckline and shoulders, but that crotch slit was absurd. I normall don't comment on references, but this dress seemed derivative to me, like a wannabe Holly Golightly.
Bryce (1.88)--Someone please tell me how Bryce did not get called out this week. Sewing problems don't always show up on the runway, but that hem stood out miles off. It also was very like dresses we've seen on the runway before, only in a less skilled version. Andy South had a similar shape in the couture vs. ready-to-wear show, and I pointed out that it was a little juniory. On top of all of that, it would be a disaster for Nina.
Cecilia (1.44)--Kind of surprised, like everyone else, that Cecilia didn't go home this week (although really it should have been Bryce). The dress had no shape. I mean, that yellowish fabric wasn't terrible. Something chic could have been made with it. Even that striped trim sort of idea could have worked with a better neckline. In any case, Cecilia sounded exactly like Fallene this week.
Danielle (1.94)--Danielle should have been safe this week, not in the bottom. Sure, there's nothing great about this outfit, but it is at least wearable, unlike Bryce's dress. No, Coles, it does not look like something a mother would wear in the kitchen while making babyfood. No, Kors, it does not look like the 80s. (These judges--honestly, it's like they live on the moon. They have no idea what the populace wears.) There was some design in the blouse that I could respect.
Josh M. (2.64)--Coral and grey. *sigh* The shape of this dress was good for Nina, and I can see why he thought it would appeal to her, but this was another look that fell in the middle. It's just a little too punk, not really for the challenge.
Julie (1.78)--As evidenced by the PR blogs and various other opinions, Julie's outfit was not that bad. I openly acknowledge that it didn't fit the challenge, and I was not at all into the creamsicle color of the sleeve. But the shape was cool on the wrapped-over side, and it does take some skill to block things together that way. It was flawed, yes, and it could have gone better, but it was not the disaster the judges made out, particularly in comparison to some others.
Kimberly (3.73)--I don't get it. She made a sci-fi top and she won. Even a slightly dated sci-fi top. The shape of the bottom of the top I like, the draping of the wraplook side. I also think I would have liked the top more if it had been in another fabric. Someone said it was gold brocade, but it doesn't look like it. The pants are very nice (they're navy, by the way), but that's what Kimberly does, just as Terri did. I will also admit that Nina looked nice in the outfit as a whole, and it photographed well. From the viewpoint of fitting the challenge, that's great for Kimberly. But that fabric...
Laura (2.66)--I liked this better on the runway than in the still photos. The idea of the dress was solid, but little flaws stand out, like the over-bunchiness at the waist, the shortness of the top skirt panel, and the fact it doesn't really say day to me. I guess in the end I want to like this more than I do.
Olivier (2.25)--Remember what I said about that line between subtle and too subtle? Yeah. Olivier lives there, and this time, he crossed the line into, "What is this?" The sewing didn't seem as skilled, but more than that this look doesn't meet the half of the challenge aimed at evening fashion events. This outfit, like some of the others, also indicated poor use of shoulder padding, or cuts that look like shoulder padding.
Viktor (2.81)--The shape here was good for Nina, but that black is kind of dull. It also made the exposed zipper very obvious. The skirt dart horizontally was kind of interesting. This outfit more than the others made me think of Nina, despite the color. It's also interesting to look at Viktor's outfit and Bert's side by side. This one is much more sensible.

So--let's recap.
The judges' favorites:
Kimberly, Viktor, Anya
The judges' least favorites:
Julie, Cecilia, Danielle

The popular vote favorites:
Kimberly, Becky, Anya
The popular vote least favorites:
Cecilia, Bryce, Julie

My favorites:
Becky, Viktor (for Nina, not for me)
My least favorites:
Bryce, Cecilia

Friday, August 12, 2011

PR: Up High!

...also known as Project Awkward.

The Challenge:

I get what the PR producing team wanted to do--set forth a crazy, "What on Earth" kind of challenge, the kind where you can't help wondering how anyone could deal with such a bizarre set of parameters and produce anything fabulous. Often, as in the case of the women wrestlers (pic from Fashion Me Fabulous), you get some pretty sweet fashion. Other times, like this one, we get a serious misstep.

This was probably the awkwardest show in PR history, not just the first to have an outdoor runway. Stiltwalkers are known for their unexpected grace, their awe-inspiring freedom of movement, unbelievable walking with what should send them tumbling. But in addition to the costume drama on the runway, the movement itself, but...stilted. The ladies often ended up almost staggering, and looked uncomfortable, which ruined the effect of many of the garments in addition to the effect of the skill itself.

Thus, while this whole shebang could have ended up genius, I think that the risk was too much. There was too little chance for this to go right, and it really didn't.

As far as the ousting, I think Fallene's departure was inevitable. She had a crisis of confidence that was too great to surmount. ALL of the designers struggle with confidence at one point or another, but Fallene made the error of forgetting the skills she does have, and her little wink of humor, and not brazening through the more difficult moments (like the runway show). Just as she did last week, she put herself out the door, this time for keeps. I'm disappointed, because I like Fallene, and I hope that she finds her niche.

The fashion:

For fun, I've listed the current online score from Rate the Runway.

Josh and Julie (2.45)--There was a definite Mondo vibe with those pants, and I'm surprised the judges panned them as much as they did. I will admit they screamed, "I am a stiltwalker." I thought the jacket was cute on the bare-armed side, but I did note the whole thing was too costumey. If they'd stuck to the shape (but not the decor) of the bare-armed side with the other side and did a different fabric (less shiny) for the top, there would have been a more referential than literal matador feel, which would have been more relatable.

Bert and Viktor (1.63)--See below for my defense of damask. I defend the top in general, with reservations. The bottom, though, was a circus tent. Actually, there's a pretty trim pair of pants under that swoopdy stuff. Can you imagine a sleeker top, in perhaps a different color, with those pants, and perhaps a set of saucy panniers? I can. But this isn't Project Makover.

Bryce and Fallene (1.58)--Okay. You all know I love a tutu. What Bryce produced was not a tutu. It was a lump of tulle fastened together. Like last week's lump, it had no shape or viability as a graceful garment. It wasn't even a modern re-envisioning of a tutu. The tanktop, rightfully pointed out, looked like ballet warm-up clothes. Now, despite what I just said above, if we'd had a longer sweep of tulle, not lumped but draped, less obvious pants (obvious meaning they look like pants any stiltwalker could pick up at the local Tall shop), with a coy sweep of that burgundyish fabric folded in with the tulle skirt, we might have had something, particularly with that hat. We would have had a party frock, not a...whatever we have.

Becky and Kimberly (3.49)--Their collar got panned, but I liked the collar better than the sleeve. I think it gave the right life to the outfit, whereas the sleeve took it in an overly costumey direction. One or the other, not both. The pants were interesting, and impressive. Seaming them as Kimberly did was a smart move. The look gave me a Steampunk vibe, which I appreciated. Slap a gear watch on the girl, give her a cane, and she's ready to go. I actually like it even better now I look at it in the still pictures.

Olivier and Anya (2.69)--While I like subtle, this week was not the time for it. The garment did not read well on the runway at all, as the fabric choices were too muted. The skirt had a print with color, but in that quantity and outside, it looked muddy. Didn't they say they wanted to do something a little punk? I didn't see anything punk about this. It actually reminded me of an early-season Star Trek: TNG costume. I just had deja vu...I said something similar about April's outfit for Heidi's line.

Cecilia and Danielle (2.51)--My first thought was, "They made actual clothes." I actually liked the flow of the pants. In fact, I'm still trying to figure them out (see above re: how on Earth?). They worked out, perhaps miraculously. The color of the top I liked, but the shape--no. The shape was a little too something, or a little not quite something enough. No hairstyle would have taken away the high, folded and bejewelled collar and the tiny back.

Laura and Anthony Ryan (3.76)--I think, when it came out, we all knew this was going to be the best look. I'm a sucker for red, and Heidi was too this week. The look had good flow, and I loved the shoulder treatment, which took attention away from the length of the legs/stilts. They succeeded in distracting us from the extremity, which I think was kind of the point of the challenge. Their model rocked it, of course, which helps, but even with its flaws of fit this was still pretty clearly the most visually arresting (in a good way) ensemble. (Pic from

One final thought: I have noticed for ages that the judges are anti-anything that looks like damask. I know that it often is used for home furnishings, but I like damask, and refuse to budge on that point. I actually liked the top fabric of Bert and Viktor's garment, and I wish the judges would let go of their preconceptions about this. They let other fabrics slide without comment (did not Olivier's top last week look like it might be a rug?), and the same should be granted to damask.

Monday, August 08, 2011

PR: The Littlest Pet Shop

...also known as "when Laura agrees with me again."
I like unconventional materials, and I really think no challenge has come close to that first breathless scamper through the grocery store in season one. Pet stores have a lot of promise, though, and it got me thinking what other unconventional places Project Runway could commandeer. A bookstore? A Renaissance Festival? A school room? What zany ideas do you have?
I watched this episode with my mom and failed to ask her opinion on the pieces, as I was feverishly writing notes. I regret that. Sorry, Mom.

Anthony Ryan--I love the collar. The dress shape/fit (mainly the bottom half) wasn't so great, but the neck of the garment is eye-catching in a good way. It looks feisty and not vulgar.
Anya--The leash skirt was cool. I really wasn't a fan of the top. The look seemed complete (see note below re: styling), but the top looked a little too much like a craft project.
Becky--The top of this excited me when it emerged from behind the scrim on the runway. The dress as a whole, though, was too parrotlike. What might have been cool (and of course there was no time for this) was that top with a long, slim gown skirt, of deeper green leaves. But the point is not to make over a garment, is it?
Bert--The look was basically a boudoir babydoll made of actual fabric. I hate when a designer disdains a challenge, especially one that is part of the essence of the show. It's a challenge. I am hoping for Bert to get a wake-up call (despite Heidi's warning, I feel pretty sure he learned nothing) down the road, because I do want him to do well.
Bryce--If you want to make a floofy blue skirt, make a floofy blue skirt. But for heaven's sake, make it happy. This outfit was so heavy, top and bottom, and thus shapeless. I really thought Bryce would go on this one.
Cecilia--There is an interesting contrast between Cecilia and Olivier that I want to point out here and in Olivier's entry. Cecilia's piece was not transformational enough. It was more of "look what I pulled off"--a trick. There is no subtlety of color, and while the fit was good, the movement was not. Thus, this look ended up being a bit ugly, while Olivier's had a more intuitive style.
Danielle--The color sense for Danielle is better this week. The rope top was kind of interesting, but the look as a whole read merely competent rather than eye-catching. Something about it made me think of Gretchen from last season.
Fallene--I cry foul on Fallene's behalf (and here is where Laura Bennett and I agree). Her dress was not bad, and I don't agree that the palette was off-putting. It's a fall piece, sure, but it's not Halloweenish. One could argue that I've spent too long in Falcon country, but I actually think the dress is cute--and a much more appealing color option than, say, spring's lime green and lemon yellow. It also made me think of Gretchen, though more for color than shape. I do think Fallene short-circuited herself by not defending her look, especially because it wasn't bad. She should not have been on the bottom (also see below note).
Josh C.--Oh, Josh C. You got me again. The outfit seemed safe at first look--not intricate or particularly endearing, but, I thought, safe. Then I saw the puppies. Unlike the hurling clown of last week, the puppies did not function as a wry touch of something extra. Instead it was something I kind of wish I hadn't spotted. Even so, and even though the standards thus far seem a bit higher than last season, I didn't think it was Josh C.'s week to go home, especially since designers before have been in the bottom twice in a row and then ended up pulling out something amazing.
Josh M.--Bert is in the 70s and Josh M. is in the 80s. I am not a fan of neon at the best of times, but I did think this look had Heidi written all over it. I also give a nod to the fact that the look was shiny, which would not have been easy with the materials available. Anthony Ryan had his beading look, and Josh M. had his sequins. Even so, I did not prefer this look.
Julie--A few PR bloggers have praised Julie's look, but I do not. I love the child's book The Paper Bag Princess, but now was not the time for it. The draping just didn't work. I remember a few people doing better work with weaving in the past, and I was sorry that Julie didn't pull it off.
Kimberly--I liked the right side of the bust on Kimberly's top, the smoothly coiled side. The other side looked like a tangled boat line. I might have liked to see more of the coiled rope or chain or whatever, because in that electric blue it was really eye-catching.
Laura--What the what? The top's weaving wasn't quite tight enough, and the skirt ended up ho-hum in its final incarnation. Laura talks a big game, but this was not a very fulfilling look. It looked hasty. Thus, while it had a distinct concept, its execution was under par.
Olivier--Okay, now let's talk about Olivier. His look, unlike Cecilia's, felt deliberate. They had a similar theory, but O's style was stronger. The fit was bulbous, I'll grant you, which is why I favored Anthony Ryan. But there is something here that suggests subtlety (eyebrows aside) and art.
Viktor--I liked the color shading here. The dress was simple, but attractive, and it was, in a word, tasteful. It was my second favorite, I think.

Three further notes:

  • While I do not necessarily trust public taste, it is sometimes illustrative to go through the Rate the Runway pictures on and see the average ratings. At this point, the top look is Anthony Ryan, followed by Viktor and Anya. The bottom look is Bryce, just edging Bert, and then Julie. Fallene is in sixth place (of fifteen) and Olivier is in tenth. Thus, while I don't know how representative this is of America in general, or fashion gurus in particular, it is rather intriguing.

  • Has anyone noticed that the question, "Where is she going?" keeps popping up this season? I kind of hate that question. I understand its purpose, but it ignores the fact that there are events of all types, while insisting that there is a "right" thing to wear to a particular event. I would hate it less if it were acceptable for designers to spin a concise but creative scenario for the client. Take Fallene's dress, for example: I have a friend who is the wife of a country singer. She would look adorable in that dress at one of his concerts in a large bar, with some sweet boots. "Fashion" does not mean "urban" and Project Runway has made that mistake before.

  • I've also noticed how much emphasis there has been on styling so far. It escalated with Irina and Gretchen and seems to have come to the forefront. I'm undecided on this--I know it can sway an outfit's reception, and add to the above idea of the shadowbox of a character being created. Yet I don't want this to be too emphatic on packaging a woman.

Friday, July 29, 2011

PR: Come As You Are

Despite my disappointment and annoyance during the last several years, I have to admit I was interested about the opening episode of Project Runway last night. I wasn't stuck to the couch for most of it, instead working on packing until the runway show. That might be the best way for me to watch now. I can breeze in and out of the room and catch the most important stuff, the essence, and then enjoy the fashion part unimpeded by disgust at the flaws.
The judging process was a little bit different this year, but it's something I think they should have done for a few years prior, and at a larger scale: The early panels of past finalists sent people through with yes or maybe. Then, the main judges looked at the contestants' work and portfolios in New York. They sent 4 of 20 back home, which seemed like a weird number to me. In any case, as I said, I've often thought they should do this, as it gives a layer of professionalism to the proceedings and allows the judges and Tim to have some ability to fight for an intriguing contestant (although, admittedly, they had a few whims that were less defensible).
The challenge for the remaining 16 was typical PR fare, requiring the contestants to use their jammies and a sheet. I thought the ladies might have an advantage here, since typically they have better or at least more interesting textiles available for their night garments. Most of the designers, however, seemed to have unexciting pajamas. Seriously, people--pajamas are important. You need to sleep not just in things that are comfortable, but things that bring you pleasure. It doesn't have to be a fancy nighty, but I really think people should wear things that are pleasing to their eye somehow; even if it's lounge pants and a shirt, it should have some character...especially if you're going to be on TV with strangers.

In the final results, I noticed two things--First, the Kors effect: SO many separates. Second, there was a fine edge between mess and yes.

Anthony--I liked the top, and really thought it was wearable for a lot of women. The skirt? Yuck. Too short is too short, even if the textile is eye-catching. I was surprised he made the top 3 for this reason.
Anya--Did anyone notice that she basically has Andy's-from-last-season hair? Anyway, I was disappointed to see, already, that tiny top thing I hate. I did like the use of print and the architecture of the top, but it was so small! The pants were fine, but why a tab closure and zip in the back? Very odd.
Becky--This was actually my favorite look. I liked the button trim on top and the use of the color. I enjoyed the tucks in the skirt. There were certainly a few puckering issues here and there, mainly in back, but I thought this a nice, wearable but stylish garment.
Bert--I didn't know what to think of this. I wasn't surprised, I guess, that the judges picked it out and gave it the win; it had their aesthetic blended together, and I was glad for Bert. However, something about it troubled me. I liked the humor of the check print, and I think the top of the garment worked, but the The sewing seemed off and the skirt on the whole too slouchy and baglike. I will say that I am interested to see more of Bert's work and I'm glad to see an older contestant doing well.
Bryce--I felt like I should like this more than I did, because I like drapey sleeves. The top was too big, though, like a child in a paint smock.
Cecilia--Great color on the skirt, but Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (Thanks, Jill) on the length. This outfit had an appropriate concept, I think--not my style, but kind of urban clubby. The back, however (as one can see in the still photo on is a mess.
Danielle--Good color in the shorts, and I liked the pleating in the pockets. The fit of the shorts, however, was bizarre, and I could not get into them paired with a copper and black top. The outfit made no sense.
Fallene--There was a touch of humor here, which I like. The dress was simple, but pretty. It was safe, but had a bit of personality all the same. There was an indie vibe (not entirely because of the clown), which made me want to see more of Fallene's work.
Josh C.--This earned the second look award, which means that my first look and second look reactions were completely different. When I saw the top with the hoodie, I was intrigued. The shorts were poorly fit, but seeing the outfit, from the front, from the bust upwards, I thought Josh was onto something. Then I saw it during the questionning, and I realized my eyes (blinded by my love of red) missed a lot of wrong. Even so, I still like the hoodie.
Josh M.--I wrote "clean but flat." The look was very casual and dull, and I have to say the vest thing still looked like a sheet.
Julie--I thought Cecilia had the WTF all sewn up, but then Julie's top came out. It was a yellow and pink mess, and the fit of the pants at the waist was confusing. It was not the worst thing on the runway. Barely.
Kimberly--She claimed her top looked great, which was a head-scratcher. The top, like Josh M's, looked like a sheet still, and while I could see the sort of papillon thing she was aiming for, ultimately it looked like the model just didn't finish putting a top on.
Laura--This outfit had good movement, and I think Laura had the most interesting textiles to draw from. I actually quite like this outfit, and I would wear it, I think. I respond to fluidity and a hint of dark sexiness, a bit of smoulder, which is what this outfit had. That being said, I still like Becky's slightly more because it's a bit more unusual.
Olivier--Safe. That's all I got. This was another flat look with nothing that stood out or made it memorable.
Rafael--Didn't we all know this was a doomed contestant from the editing of the show? And then, when the outfit hit the runway, I just shook my head and curled my lip a little. The pants and shirt were both unflattering and made the model actually look bad. I couldn't believe the judges even had to discuss who would go home, especially because Rafael seemed uncertain about what was wrong. Fishscale design in the back of the shirt cannot save it this horror.
Viktor--The look, a white and black shirt dress, struck me as being a little 1999 department store, which was disappointing. In fact, I was trying to think of a catalog in which I have seen something similar, but I couldn't place it, because it's been so long since I've seen a copy of that catalog. Can anyone help me out here?

In all, I was okay with the judging this week, and I'm looking forward to more interesting challenges this season. Hope springs eternal, I guess, right?

In other news, I am moving. This has been my official break for the day!

In other other news, I wish Emily West Lowry the best of luck as she celebrates her Grand Opening tomorrow of her Waterville shop! I made curtains for the shop and had the pleasure of seeing some of Emily's work as she was getting the furniture set up. I can't wait to get in there when it's open for business and get me something feathery and pretty for my hair!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Move It!

I'm moving soon. Not very far away, just a few blocks. But moving is moving, and requires the packing up of all the stuff I want to keep and the pitching of things I don't.

Today, for instance, I said goodbye to my college computer, which I built in '97. It served me well at the time, but it is ancient and takes up a lot of room for something that is unused.

I've also been using up half-empty bottles of lotion and bath wash, and will be tossing old bottles of nail polish that isn't really liquid anymore. And cosmetics I used to wear for dance recitals, or in the 90s.

I've been seeing to organization I should have done ages ago; I put addresses and phone numbers from little post-it notes into a wee address book. I put correspondence into one storage box and bills into another, and pitched a bunch of mutual fund prospectuses. I have a whole set of chores (mainly mail related) on my dining table that I will be attending to in the next week, or whenver it is cool enough in the apartment to do so.

I haven't always behaved. I also brought home some more shirts and bought a few pieces of furniture. Today, I will pick up my glorious aqua and gold chair from Pier 1. Gaze upon the Annie Wing Back Chair, you mortals! I also bought an outdoor papasan for my new porch, and some smaller items.

But as I pack box after box, I am finally starting to see progress. And I'm amazed at the sudden cavalier attitude I have toward letting some things go. This weekend I pitched the rug from my front door. It could be washed, but I've had it for ages, and got "enough" use out of it. I threw away a few half-used rolls of old contact paper. I even suspect that I will pitch the curtains that originally came with my second apartment, which have been on a shelf in the closet, and which frankly were in sorry shape when I moved in. I'm leaving the bathroom curtains and towels for the next tenant, since they match that particular bathroom.

So, I've learned that I'm not a hoarder. I have a lot of stuff, no question. I sometimes keep things for sentimental value, even when they are essentially useless. But this moving experience--my first in ten years, and certainly the most complex--is showing me that I am actually pretty sensible.

It helps to know that where I'm going there is a lot of storage space, far more than I have now. It helps to know the dimensions of the rooms, to have photographed them, drawn up graph paper floor plans, and drawn in furniture. It helps to have thought about the general color scheme for each room--green, light brown, cream, and white, with accents of lavender, for the bedroom. White and blue, with dark wood and accents of green for the living room. And so on.

Basically, I'm pretty excited about moving. It's going to be arduous, and the cleaning of my apartments is going to be atrocious (layers of dust and residue in some areas that aren't easily reached). I am also leaving a nest of sorts, a place I've gotten myself dug into, and a place that has treated me well for 10 years. It was my first (and second) apartment, after all, after growing up in one house for 18 years, and splitting time between that and two dorm rooms for the next four. But this new place is a "grown up" place, a place that will allow me to mature my lifestyle a little and feel more like I'm making progress.

I'm ready to make a new home.

P.S. Does anyone have any ideas for cleaning Venetian blinds, some metal, and some plastic? In a tiny apartment?

Friday, July 01, 2011

The Size Is the Limit

Yesterday, after lunch with a friend, I headed out to Fallen Timbers, an outdoor mall of shops in Maumee. I didn't particularly need anything, but I wanted a little looksee through the "end of season" selection. I say end of season because stores like The Gap were already selling off their summer stuff, clearance style, in preparation to get new things in. I also discovered a new store, Charming Charlie, which is a large accessories store organized by color. I bought two large purses there, which is unlike me. I also bought two large hats at Dillard's and etc., elsewhere, so it really was quite a brazen, delightful spree.

It's the etc. I want to talk about, though: the clothes. Women have been moaning about the sizes in clothes for years, and not just about their own body size and shape. No, it's more and more about the frustration women feel when they are unable to identify their size from store to store. I experienced this frustration firsthand, in the most extreme way, on my Fallen Timbers adventure.

Theoretically, you should be able to fit into a size 6 dress in one store, go to another store, and fit equally well into their size 6. Of course, bodies have different characteristics and components of different sizes. Everyone's body is different, and it is indeed difficult to be one size from head to toe. A woman with large hips may have a small chest, and vice versa. A woman with well developed calves may have poorly developed arms. A woman with a long torso may have short legs. You get the picture. Thus, there will be some garments near one's size that just won't fit.

It is also true that, from store to store, a slight variation would be natural, depending on makers of clothing. This is particularly true for a Misses' store versus one that caters more to juniors and young women (Forever 21, for example). Women of all ages shop there, but the sizes are juniors. As Wikipedia delicately phrases it, juniors' clothes have "higher bust, shorter back." Yes, juniors' sizes are odd and misses' are evens, but they do not actually align exactly. (I'm linking to Wikipedia's chart here for easy reference.)

Then, there are the components of ease and "vanity sizing." Ease, for those of you unfamiliar with pattern language, is the amount of give in a garment's design. A nonstretch wool dress that is made to be tight to the body will have very little ease. Likewise, today's jeans have very little ease. If it fits, it fits. If it doesn't, you know immediately. A white dress shirt, on the other hand, generally has quite a bit of ease. So does a wrap dress. Clothes in a store do not have ease marked, so that can account for some size variation.

Vanity sizing is another matter entirely. This is the garment industry's response to women complaining about how big they feel. Sizes have shrunk in some stores and not in others as a result.

But, all these things considered, I am still not convinced that they account for the egregious differences I encountered in my most recent shopping missions.

Generally, I am safe with a S in Juniors' and XS in Misses', but not always--the Misses' size is sometimes too big, and I can often get away with an XS in Juniors, and other times a M. This is handy knowledge when I get a T-shirt from Delia's (S is safer these days) or a sweater from Victoria's Secret (XS or S for a garment with little ease).

Any time numbers are involved, though, the picture changes. I should note that I am well aware that I am cobbled together from many different sizes. One foot is longer, the other wider. I have a small bust and a long torso. My size has also fluctuated lately. I know all this. Well.

Including my haul from yesterday, in the last three weeks or so I have bought:
Speedo one-piece swimsuit: Misses' size 10
White House Black Market skirt: Misses' size 00 (that's right--00)
Charlotte Russe tops: size S (? or XS...these are drapey tops, and therefore a great deal of ease).
Victoria's Secret shorts: size S
Jessica Howard dress: 4P (And it was a little short under the arms and a trifle big in the bust)

I tried on but did not buy:
Cargo Capris: Misses' size 8 (a little loose, but they stayed on)
Cargo shorts: Juniors' size 3 (came down a mite too low, too short in the crotch area)

Finally, in sewing patterns, I consistently make a size 6.

Do you, as I do, notice a problem? My favorite is the swimsuit to skirt ratio. Yes, again, I have a long torso, but really. As a result of this type of problem, I hardly ever buy numbered clothing from a catalog. I simply can't. I can't imagine ordering pants and having them fit. The three times I've ordered dresses for weddings, I was anxious--and the sizes of those were a 4, a tight 2, and a loose 2, which isn't perhaps unreasonable but is still worrying.

The garment industry is in for a rude awakening if this keeps up. Women are busier and busier as the years go by. They do not have time to put up with changing room nonsense, and I have known women who have quit shopping because they never know their size and thus feel defective or overworked in a store. It isn't about vanity any more (if it ever was). It's about time, and the practicality of the event combined with the delight shopping is meant to bring. Who can enjoy themselves if they have to pick three sizes of every item to try on, and then figure out none of them is the right size? No one is going to breeze into a store because they've seen something in a window if they know it will take several tries to get the size right. People always need clothes, it's true, but the industry as a whole needs to reconsider its position and collectively work on a more agreeable sizing system.

I have hopes--scant ones, but they're there--that our gradually growing appreciation of many body sizes and shapes will have a positive effect on the garment and fashion industry. Some stores, Land's End and Victoria's Secret included, have become better about describing the fit of their garments, and making different versions or "fits" for different shapes. But if the sizes don't correlate, that isn't much help to someone who has not bought from a store before (especially if the store has changed its provider, as Charlotte Russe changed its denim brand several years ago).

The industry is ever-morphing. But if it wants to keep customers and avoid the tense frustration and even anger of unhappy shoppers, garment manufacturers need to get it together not on what a size 10 means, but what it actually is.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Stages Seven-Nine

I'm squeezing the final steps together here, because they take so much less time! They really are the finishing stages for a quilt project.

Sometimes I love binding. Sometimes I’m just okay with it. It is the final, crucial step for quilting, which is satisfying. Sometimes, if I’m stuck in impatience, I just want it done already.
I got smart with the most recent quilt I made—I made my binding before I did the quilting, so it was ready to go, which seemed faster, even though it wasn’t.

I better back up. You can buy bindings for quilts, which I have done, or you can make binding. I prefer making binding, generally using fabric that I’ve used for the quilt itself. You can do single or double/French binding. The main book I use (Quilters’ Complete Guide, by Marianne Fons and Liz Porter) has great instructions for how to make bias binding, and I always use them. It involves cutting a square of fabric, cutting it into two triangles, sewing the triangles together a certain way, drawing lines, sewing the triangles together another way, to make a tube, then cutting a continuous line and voila, you have binding, a long strip of fabric.
I’d explain better, but honestly, it’s like magic. I usually make extra binding, just in case. I also usually make French binding, because it’s more durable. This means ironing the fabric strip on a center fold to make it double thick.
At this point, I will have decided whether I’m doing a straight edge or a scalloped edge, if I’m doing piping, and any other such bits. For a standard French binding, you just place the rough edges on the quilt top’s edge and stitch, through all thicknesses, all around the quilt, breaking at corners and…well, doing something else magical that works when you fold it to the back to make a corner (you stop stitching ¼ inch from the edge, turn the quilt, fold the binding back on a diagonal, perpendicular to the previous side, and fold it back down, again aligning the rough edges with the quilt top edge. See? Hard to explain.). When you get back to start, you have a few options for making a finished seam, usually folding back the first end a bit, and continuing to stitch the new end for a few inches over the first part.
Then, you trim the edges of the quilt, all the extra backing and batting. You then fold over the binding to the back and, if you have French binding, you have a nice, smooth folded edge to slipstitch into place.

I know, I know—probably most of what I just said makes no sense. It’s hard to describe without pictures. Fons and Porter do an awesome job, so I really recommend their book if you have any interest in quilting.
The quilt is officially bound. This is when I usually remove all the basting and any stray threads, really examining to make sure everything is right.
I’ve done a few special bindings in the past. With my nephew, I worked it so the binding matches the fabric of the quilt parts next to it. I did some piping on my niece’s quilt, and scalloping for a couple of friends (as demonstrated at right, just before turning the binding to the back.) But just simple cotton is fine, too, and helps solidify any color message you want to send.

Best part: The quilt is DONE!
Worst part: Sewing up the bit where the two ends join. I always have problems making that smooth and not too bulky.

I always have baby quilts dry cleaned before presentation. It is not something one would normally do with a quilt—in fact, washing quilts is seldom done for heirloom pieces. But after I’ve worked on a piece, especially in summer, I feel better getting any of my hand oils and dust from the floor off it.
I only twice had problems post-cleaning. One quilt pilled a bit at the dry cleaner. I no longer use that fabric. Another time the quilt came out with brown spots on it. The cleaners sent it elsewhere for a different treatment, and that took care of the vast majority of the problem.
Sometimes before and sometimes after cleaning, I will photograph the quilt for my records.
My usual photography spot now is hanging from two clip-style hangers, on my front door. The space is just big enough to get it all in, and the lighting is the best in the house.

Best part: Relinquishing the quilt—it’s out of my sight for a few days.
Worst part: Relinquishing the quilt—fearing that it will somehow get destroyed!

Obviously, the quilt presentation is a time of joy. I always get excited about “handing it over.” I joke about the “secret” gift, but no matter how well known it is that I’m making a quilt for somebody, the final product is always a surprise. I can’t think of a time that anyone other than my parents saw a full quilt design before it was made.
My favorite reaction is my sister’s to my nephew’s quilt. She nearly cried, and instantly wanted to photograph it. Since that is also my favorite of all the ones I’ve done, and because she is a craft goddess in her own right, that was particularly rewarding.
I’m not very good at accepting compliments, or accolades, but I do like to deliver the quilts in person. It is as much about delivering love as delivering a loved object. And I always get to hold the baby.

And that's it! That's how I make a least, usually. I always try to do something a little different so that I'm always learning and solving new problems. Just last night, for instance, things came together for my next project, after a bit of a struggle, and I'll be using new technqiues, including hand embroidery and more pronounced sashing. And, it's black and cream. It's great when everything seems to come together all at once--that's the point at which I know I'm doing the right thing and I'm ready to move forward!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Stage Six: Quilting

This part is, admittedly, the more mystical part of the whole quilting process. I didn’t know how it was done until I read a book or two. And, as a further admission, this is the part with which I’m the least patient. I always do less quilting than someone with more talent would do.
You can quilt by hand or by machine. My first quilt was done by both, with pictures quilted by hand in a hoop and letters quilted by machine. I am not very good with hand quilting—it takes a lot of dexterity, patience, and the ability to use a thimble to make stitches small and even. I enjoyed learning how to do it, but it was time-consuming and not, anyway, the best choice for a baby quilt that I’d like to be used.
It took me a while to figure out how to quilt by machine, too. My mother’s machine is actually better at it than mine, though I’ve gotten my machine’s quirks mostly figured out. Here is the process:
step one: backing. I cut a backing piece to a few inches longer/wider than my quilt top borders, and iron it as smooth as possible. This gets laid, right side down, on one of the cutting mats. I favor just regular quilting cotton for my backing, but I sometimes do a medallion backing—one print or color with a larger patchworked piece in the middle. I also have done stripes and squares for the back. That way, the piece is reversible. I sometimes kick myself for buying large pieces of fabric that I don’t have a plan for, but I can’t tell you how many times that’s come in handy for the backing!
step two: batting. The batting gets cut to the same size as the top, and gets placed over the backing piece, gently, and smoothed as much as possible. It helps to fold it and center it that way. I also usually pull back the batting and backing together, as if they were one piece, and smooth that out before smoothing it back down. This helps the batting and backing kind of stay together.
I favor Mountain Mist’s Cream Rose batting—it took me a while to come to this, but it’s great. It’s easily needled, warm but not too thick, and super soft. I’ve heard it called insubstantial, but I find it just right for baby quilts, and it doesn’t bunch up in the machine.

step three: top. The quilt top completes the layering, and it gets smoothed over the other layers as tidily and squared-up as possible. I have learned to take a lot of care making sure the three layers are together evenly and that they almost cling to each other. You can get fusible batting, but I prefer this way.

step four: basting. There is pin basting and stitched basting. They say that pin basting is best for machine quilting, but I have to be honest—it doesn’t work. Not for me. Sometimes I’ll pin baste the edges of the quilt and a few parts of the middle, but only in combination with stitched basting. Basically, for stitched basting, you cut long threads and take long stitches through all three layers of the quilt, making sure the layers don’t shift. You can do a grid or a sort of starburst. Basting should be about four inches apart and should go from the center out, which is also the way you…

step five: quilt. Once the basting is done, I check to make sure the back is still smooth and nothing is puckered or bunched. Then, I figure out how I’m going to quilt the thing. In blocks? “In the ditch” of seams? In patterns? Around figures? In something abstract? I usually choose to quilt around my blocks or shapes, in either clear or matching thread (I’ve used machine quilting thread, but honestly, I’ve seen no difference from regular cotton thread, and I always have some from making the actual quilt top). I also use a machine quilting needle—I’m not sure what the difference is, but I have some, so I use them.
To do the actual quilting, I sort of half-fold, half-roll parts of the quilt so that they’re easier to manage. With large projects, they suggest using bicycle clips to secure the folds. Baby quilts aren’t usually that hard to manage, and sometimes I hardly find it worth it to roll it, especially because I often change direction, and I don’t have a long-arm machine, so I have to fit whatever I have all the way around. Folded or not, I then just stitch away, in whatever design I’ve decided, using the same straight stitch I’d use for any other sewing. Sometimes I do have to adjust bobbin or thread tension, so I usually do a test before I start on a few scraps layered together.
I mentioned that you’re supposed to quilt from the center out, which is true—it’s less likely to get unsightly puckers on the back, or layer shifting. They also suggest you outline blocks first, then do any internal, more fiddly work, which makes sense. There is also a way to quilt where you ignore the design and just quilt a pattern all over, but I’ve never really done that.
I mentioned not having much patience with this. A lot of times, the quilting involves doing a few lines, smoothing the whole thing out on the floor, picking it back up, then stitching more lines, and repeating until finished. This is not really all that time-consuming, but, you see, the quilt is almost finished at this point. The end is near, and you can really feel it. I’m thinking about getting it cleaned and delivered, and my mind is often on the next project, or wanting not to sew for a few days. On top of that, my patchwork pieces are often pretty elaborate, so I want them to have the most attention. I could just do a tied quilt, but that’s not really right, either. So, I compromise by doing just enough to set pieces off and give the piece a few extra tidbits of interest, and then I quit.
Best Part: A couple of times recently I’ve had quilting come out really well, with no major problems. That was a really good feeling, since I feel so inept with this part.
Worst part: Puckers/bunches. No matter how good the basting, sometimes lines aren’t straight or a layer will pull a bit too much. There is usually nothing you can do about it, or you can pick the whole thing out and try again.
Next: Binding! We’re almost home!

Monday, June 06, 2011

Stage Five: Assembly

As noted in my prior post, assembly happens sometimes simultaneously with the cutting of pieces, depending on the project. This part of the project is pretty simple—you just sew the cut-out pieces together (with ¼ inch seams) to make sub-blocks, iron them, then stitch them together to make blocks. Just like any other sewing.
There are some complications, though, such as:

  • Triangles with long edges are sometimes hard to figure out as to placement. Sometimes I will pin the template pieces, right sides together, to see how they should be placed when I’m sewing. I once had to redo an entire unicorn because I’d been sloppy about the placement of these really long, shardlike tail pieces.

  • Squaring—I confess that I’m not that great at making blocks truly square. I could do ten of a block and have them all come out slightly different. The birds I made recently were a great example—the beak ends were all completely out of whack.

  • Matching Seams—Because of the above problem, when combining sub-blocks to make a full block, seams don’t always match properly. Sometimes it doesn’t matter and you can fudge it. Sometimes you have to pick out the seams and try again.

These problems are part of the same problem, which is that I am not the most evenhanded and tidy seamstress. I admit it.

I usually wear something very casual and loose when I quilt. In cold weather, I wear layers to keep warm. In summer, I wear as little as possible. I find it hilarious that my nails are polished in this picture, because sewing is not a good time to keep a manicure.

Once all the blocks are together, it’s time to assemble the whole quilt top. Are you ready? Here we go.
Actually, it’s not that hard. Especially now that I have my two cutting board options. I stitch blocks together, laying completed sections in place on the cardboard mat, then I use the puzzle mat for making sure blocks are aligned before they get sewn together.
Assembling the top is where the previous mistakes with squaring come get diminished. I have to use my grids to make sure seams are straight and reasonable. Pin, and stitch. Iron. Pin, and stitch. Iron.
Eventually, the whole shebang is together, one roughly thirty-fiveish by forty-sevenish quilt top. I usually do a pretty thorough job of ironing at this point, to make sure everything is as flat as possible. After this point, you can’t fix internal seams.

Best part: Just like the previous stage, production. Usually by this stage I’m flagging with the project, but getting blocks done makes me feel that the marathon is nearing its end.
Worst Part: Ironing. I hate ironing. I’ve gotten used to it from sewing so much, but figuring out some often bulky seams and where they should lie is a pain.
Next: Quilting

Monday, May 30, 2011

Stage Four: Cutting

The templates are prepared. The fabric has been washed and folded. The cutting boards are laid out, and I’ve laid in a selection of audio books. It’s time to cut.
By this stage, I’m entirely in my workroom. There is no TV in there, just my CD/tape stereo and lots of space. I use two cutting boards. One, which I “borrowed” from my mother, is cardboard, and it is useful for laying out the fabrics I want to use and storing pieces as they’re cut. I also lay out the final blocks on it, so the quilt begins to take shape.
The other is actually made up of pieces, called a puzzle mat. It was a gift request one year and I like it so much I asked for a second set the following year. The two sets create a sizable mat, but I can also pull a piece or two off and take it to the sewing machine to help me line up pieces before I sew them, without having to return to the big mats every time. Everyone has a preferred way of doing their cutting, but the puzzle mat is my choice. It makes things much easier.
When I cut, I go block by block: I usually cut pieces for one full block and sew it up before I do a whole set for the block, in case there is something horribly wrong with the template pieces; and, I usually do a whole set of a block before I start cutting for a different block. Usually.
I cut on the floor. I know what you’re thinking—I’m crazy. Honestly, though, it’s the easiest for me. It’s sometimes hard on my back, but I’m able to scramble and scooch around on the floor, all the way around the mat, and there is plenty of space to spread the fabric out.
I lay out a particular fabric, wrong side up, and go piece by piece through a block, tracing (in regular pencil—another quilters’ horror, I’m sure) the correct number of each piece at a time out on the fabric. Sometimes I’ll take a cutting break and cut some pieces out, then go back to tracing.

Here are some bird bodies and wings drawn on purple:
Through this whole process, I’m trying to use fabric as sparingly as I can. I try to squeeze pieces together to ensure there is as little waste as possible—especially if I know I need a lot of a particular color. I often will also label each piece with the corresponding block piece designation, so I will know where and which way it’s supposed to go. For really tricky pieces, I will include an arrow showing which side should be pointed up. This saves time for triangles in particular.It’s also important to note that when I use templates, I have to decide whether to face them label side up or down. If I have all the pieces up, then the block will turn out backwards to the template (because I’m drawing it on the wrong side of the fabric), and vice versa. Often, this doesn’t matter, as in the turtle, or the firefly. Sometimes, I’ll do some one way and some another, as in the lions.
This part of the process doesn’t require much thought beyond the above consideration…unless I am running out of a particular color. Then I have to get clever, or redesign. As referenced in a comment interaction earlier, this is one of the points at which a redesign is possible. I remember I ran out of a green once—a green I needed to make lake weeds. I hadn’t realized that I was so short on the fabric. So, I reworked the overall design to have fewer lake weeds and more of something else. I usually overbuy for the quilt top color, more than I think I need, because it’s really surprising how much space patchwork bits and pieces take up for the background. Thus, for some of my favorite fabrics, I don’t feel guilt about overbuying, because I know it might become a quilt top (or back).

Here is a complete bird and a complete flower block cut out. These are ready to be sewn, to test the template. When I do a whole bunch of pieces for one block, I'll make little piles for each one, in their actual places for the block, to make it easier when it's time to assemble.

Best Part: Production. I really start to feel like I’m getting somewhere, and it’s fun to use up fabric. As much as I like to buy it, I also like to use it, which adds to the feeling of production.
Worst Part: Honestly? My scissors calluses. I have a couple of different pairs of scissors, including so-called “ergonomic” ones, which are okay, but not my favorite—they’re a little heavy and not as maneuverable. I just use a standard pair, which I try to keep at least moderately sharp. Unfortunately, they do give me blisters in a couple of spots.
Next: Stage Five, Assembly