Why in the world did it take so long for Project Runway to come up with the challenge that we had this week? Why hasn’t anyone ever thought of forcing the designers to create a cover look before? They’ve always has a partnership with one magazine or another, right?

I can understand why maybe Elle wouldn’t want to promise a cover spot to a reality show contestant, because Elle is a magazine with a fashion reputation and all. Marie Claire, of course, still has quite a reputation, but not so much as a strictly serious fashion publication. There’s less at stake for them in putting an unknown on the cover, and I guess that’s exactly how this dear little episode came to be. The request was practical, it still allowed for individuality, and it promised a big reward – this would be great, right? Well, not so much, but let’s talk about it anyway.

Personally, I loved this challenge, even though I didn’t love all of the results. It was a great ode to us journalism school hacks and anyone who has ever designed a cover, which I’ve done a handful of times, even if they were only for my student portfolio. And, well, it’s a lot harder than it looks. Finding a font color that’s appropriate for writing over a multicolor picture? Surprisingly difficult.

The fashion business relies to heavily on editorial exposure in order to gets its wares in front of consumers’ eyes, and getting your brand on the cover is the holy grail of editorial. So I have to ask again: why haven’t we had this sort of practical, realistic challenge before? Isn’t this essentially the constant challenge of working in the fashion world? Even if the producers couldn’t have previously promised a magazine cover, they could have at least put forth the idea as a challenge, right?

Not that any of this is entirely relevant, but this seemed like such a perfect challenge and several of the designers failed so spectacularly that I’m kind of peeved. Getting clothes into good editorial positions is one of the main business goals of a designer – if our designers can’t do that, then they’re sunk.

The rules for cover clothes are fairly simple: no black, bright colors are preferred, patterns are difficult to print over, detailing should be in the upper part of the dress because mid-thigh and below will probably be cropped out. The producers also added the minimally challenging additional rule that Heidi would be the one wearing the winning dress on the cover of a spring issue. All of these things are guidelines that the average magazine reader could have figured out, given a little time to think, but about half of our designers had some serious problems listening.

As a result, I’m going to dub this the Second Universal Rule of Project Runway: always listen to the challenge rules, even if you don’t like them. Your personal feelings about the rules are not relevant or interesting to Nina Garcia. As long as you speak reasonably good English and you’re awake during the rules portion of this whole shindig, there’s no reason not to follow them.

But for some reason, a lot of them didn’t. Marie Claire EIC Joanna Coles told them to stay away from pattern, so Amy made a patterned dress. She told them to make a spring look, Seth Aaron made a grey pantsuit. She said that she preferred bright colors, and Jay, Maya, Janeane, and Jesse all made things that were either the color of faded bedsheets or so dark that they might as well have been black. Anna made a pair of pinstriped hip-hugger shorts with a shapeless tank and a vest, showing no awareness of modern fashion OR the fact that she was going to be dressing Heidi Freakin’ Klum. Inexplicably, Mila made something that looked like a flesh-toned onesie with vagina arrows, but was somehow just a badly colorblocked dress. Jonathan actually did make a onesie.

Wait, I need to slow my roll a bit. Mila. Speaking of her, she also complained that no one congratulated her on second place the previous week and posited that they were all jealous of her success, but really, it just seemed like she’s a bit of a hag to be around and she didn’t win anyway, so no fake happiness on the part of the other designers was really required. Maybe she made her horrible dress this week in protest, I’m not sure. Moving on.

Anthony and Ben were the only designers that made passable cover outfits, with the addition of Emilio after he hacked off the twee little straps on his red dress (did anyone have visions of the judging during America’s Next Top Model when Tyra is always making the wannabe models change their hair and outfits?). Really, I would have lumped Ben in with the rest of them – his modernist Madame Butterfly routine was too dark for spring, and the vertical color changes would have been difficult to write on in any color except white (and even then, white on yellow is not a good look). Plus, I mean, the belt. Don’t even get me started on that atrocious faux-leather, weathered-gold-hardware’d belt. It might have given me brain damage.

Thankfully, Anthony won with his kicky little modern cocktail dress. It had an asymmetrical strap with lots of draping that was somehow also structured, and all of the interesting stuff happened on the part of the dress that will be featured prominently on the magazine cover. Plus, for a blond, blue-eyed supermodel, is there anything better than a curve-hugging, tailored dress in bright turquoise? I think not. His was such an obvious choice that I was surprised that any of the other designers were even seriously considered.

Initially, I was worried that Anthony may not be long for this show, but his progress has been steady and entertaining. Hopefully a win will keep him around for at least a few more episodes. Whacking Jay with his Bible? Pure comedy gold, and I’m not even religious. He’s just so endearing, and I find myself wishing they’d give him more and more camera time with each episode. I totally love him, down to the jaunty little blazer he wore for the runway show. I think the overjoyed response to his win from the other designers was a really interesting contrast to how everyone felt about Mila’s second-place finish last week. One of these people is well-liked…

Now, on to things I loved less – namely, the half of the designers that didn’t follow instructions. Mila, Anna and Janeane were the final three, but it really came down to Janeane’s mother-of-the-bride under the sea look and Anna’s shorts and a tank top. In the grand scheme of fashion editorial, it’s more of a sin to dress Heidi Klum like a frumpy teenager than a bridesmaid, so Anna was out. After her red abomination against god that she called a dress last week, I can’t say that I disagree with the decision – we’ve seen all we need to see from her. I predict that Janeane will not last much longer, but her dress was the lesser offense this week.

Next week, it looks like we’re going to be dressing children. I’m not great lover of kids, but how much the designers are going to crap themselves over this challenge has me looking forward to it nonetheless.

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