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"Project Runway": Designing for a hot pregnant lady

August 28, 2009 | 12:55 am
Proje3784(2) "Project Runway" diehards remember how much trouble the designers had creating a dress for plus-sized mothers during Season 3 of the show.  The designers this season got to revisit the conundrum in a new way, as they were asked to create a maternity dress, only in this case it wasn't just any mother -- it was for the impossibly-beautiful-at-any-stage-of-fertility Rebecca Romijn. So, while the designers did need to work around a baby bump, they were still styling for a woman who could pull off bolder, sexier designs than most largely-pregnant women would go for, which made it a fun challenge. 

It seemed apparent early on that Malvin Vien was going to be in trouble when his vision was of a "mother hen." I've never been pregnant but I still remember with distaste being compared to a chicken laying eggs when I learned about menstruation in school. Women don't like to be compared to hens, which are not animals known for sexy sophistication. Squawk. "I am not bored," the ever-tactful Tim Gunn said after his consultation.

Mitchell Hall, eerily prescient of what the judges would say, warned Ra'mon-Lawrence Coleman that his color-blocked violet dress looked like a bowling ball bag. Though I didn't think it was as bad as Rodney Epperson's satin jumpsuit. Perhaps on the runway his model's strap-on baby bump just made it look extra weird, but a sleek jumpsuit with a huge belly sticking out of it just looked odd, plus I can't imagine that being very versatile for a pregnant woman. This design, however, was deemed safe from elimination by the judges.

Of the other dresses on the runway, I loved Shirin Askari's draped and handworked dress, and as the judges pointed out (I liked that Heidi Klum, Romijn, Nina Garcia and guest judge Monique Lhuillier had all been pregnant), it was wearable even as a non-maternity dress. I was surprised that Christopher Straub's pretty, plum-colored swaying silk design didn't go farther than just "safe from elimination." While I thought Louise Black's red lingerie-inspired dress was incredibly thoughtfully made, with room for expanding bosoms, it was a little too baby-doll for me to be a maternity dress (but this is why the designers were creating for Romijn, and not a person like myself who shouldn't be wearing baby-doll-lingerie-type-wear ever). And while I thought Malvin's concept and eventually his personality (he's a philosopher?) were rather annoying, his design wasn't hideous, just odd, since it did look like the model was carrying a baby, not a belly, in a sling. 

In the end Shirin was up against Althea Harper and her dark jersey long gown for best design. I was glad that Shirin won as the cups on Althea's dress seemed way too small in the front for an expecting woman, plus, while the detailed back was lovely and sexy, I wonder if a pregnant woman needs to be able to wear some sort of support that wouldn't work with a strappy backed dress. The judges loved Shirin's dress so much that they advised her to start a maternity line. 

For elimination, Mitchell's sloppily made (but cute in theory) urban shorts ensemble was up against Malvin, who just barely ranked worse than Mitchell. "It's just too conceptual for America," Malvin sighed, which was irritating. No, it just wasn't good enough. However, I do notice that with Ari Fish and now Malvin gone, the two most eccentric-seeming people seem to be eliminated. Who do we think will emerge as the next craziest designer?

--Claire Zulkey

Photo credit: Lifetime