Project Runway Recap: Expanding the Definition of “Work-Appropriate”

“Who wants to work in groups? No one? Great, let’s do that.” This is the internal, twisted logic of team challenges. It gives us some great moments (Elena screaming) but also some painful designs (Elena’s blouse for clowns in mourning). 

The eleven remaining designers were divided into two teams to create looks for Marie Claire At Work, and they also had to direct a photo shoot of their designs. The winning photos would be featured in an upcoming issue of said paying sponsor/magazine.

Team 5: Nathan, Christopher, Gunnar, Fabio, and Ven
These guys kept it together. Their collection felt like a collection (in the very literal… lets all use the exact same fabric sense), but their photo shoot had models sitting behind desks and pointing at papers. A stock photo, basically.


If you were just joining the episode at the runway show, you might think were having a sleepwear challenge. Or you have a lot of formal, corporate sleepovers at you job and this is totes normal.

The top is fine; the pants failed by incorporating this odd “skirt-inspired” fold across the crotch.


Top 3
He’s already revisiting his bag of tricks—this is the same type of distressing he did in the first challenge.

It’s fine! Just we’ve seen this before.


Bottom 2
After years of being a Victoria Secret model, the breast-obsessed Heidi Klum will attack chest issues with the fierceness of a rabid horned owl. So yes, she hate-latched onto these floating soufflé boobs. And she latched on hard.

But Gunnar and his sass were saved from elimination, quipping a well-timed, “Thanks for the heart attack” as he trotted off the runway.


Top 2 and Queerty Fave
I’ve never really understood Fabio that well until this challenge, but now I feel like I’m starting to make sense of him. The judges were obsessed with this look… I liked it. Yes, the headband was controversial (as much as a headband can be), but it actually looked like something someone would wear to work, which was still surprisingly hard for designers this challenge.


I could close my eyes and be able to tell when a dress by Ven walked by. It would sound crisp, light, and monotone. So congrats for being consistent, but I’d really like to see something different. After a while, even perfection makes a person yawn.

Team 6: Melissa, Elena, Alicia, Raul, Sonjia, and Dmitry
This group focused more on individual pieces instead of completely entire looks, which allowed Sonjia’s skirts to be ruined by Raul’s tops. And while neither team was deemed a winner with regards to their runway looks, Team 6 did have their photos chosen for the magazine… perhaps because they were useable.

Oh, and obligatory mention of how Elena would not stop yelling. Whatever she lacks in design sense, she makes up for in excessive shouting.


At first, this dress made me angry: Where do you work where this is appropriate? And you’re not allowed to say “in a art gallery, photography studio or magazine,” because those careers only exist in New York stereotypes. If I saw someone wearing this on the morning subway commute, I’d assume she was wearing the same outfit from the night before. Misplaced anger aside, I love it. And even though Melissa didn’t use black, it still feels like she used black. There will always be a darkness to Melissa’s work, which is interesting.


Elena/ Alicia
Wow, Elena make a top without bulbous shoulders. She should do that more often. Alicia made pants that were… pants.


Raul / Sonjia
Oh sweet baby Jesus. Where do you begin with this top? You can’t. I can’t. I’m sorry. Sonjia’s blue skirt is so crisp that it would have just been better for the model to wear a plain white t-shirt.


Elena / Alicia
Elena, Bottom 3
Joanna Coles, icy editor-in-chief of Marie Claire, had this to say about the blouse: “I could see lots of people in finance or law wearing that.” Whaaat? I’m sorry, the only way that works is if they’re Eastern-European lawyers from a ’80s movie set in 2054. In 2012, licenses to practice law would be revoked for wearing this ridiculousness to client meetings.

Alicia’s pants? They’re good pants.


Yes. Yes. Yes. And fourth yes. Color blocking that doesn’t smack me too much. It’s got beautiful construction and a little sexiness in the back. (Maybe a bit too much for some, but it wouldn’t merit a call from HR about corporate dress code). Sold.


Raul / Sonjia
Raul eliminated
Sonjia’s skirts are amazing, but they can’t undo all of the plainness of Raul’s top.



Jason Sweeten is a contributing writer for Queerty. He wishes he could work in the office inside Joanna Coles’ mind.

Photos: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime