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'Project Runway' recap: the '70s are back, again

September 30, 2011 |  8:18 am

Hot on the heels of creating hippie-ish outfits for a band, this week comes another challenge that sends the exasperated contestants straight back to the '70s: They must create an outfit inspired by the "sophisticated '70s" for sponsor The twist: At the last minute they'll have to also create a second accompanying garment. 

Contestants who've watched the show -- all of them -- are ready for this kind of "twist." They're also ready to create something for the mass market using a limited amount of dollars: $100 for the first outfit, $50 for the second. What they're not used to is dropping that $100 somewhere in Mood, and not getting it back.

That's Anya. She stands in Mood crying. This has never happened before, a contestant losing Mood money. Her mascara smears.

Tim Gunn tells her she can make her outfit with the muslin from the workroom and she can ask the other contestants for help. Only Anthony Ryan has yet to be rung up, and he gives her his change: $11.50. That's all she can spend.

OK, maybe it wasn't such a good idea for Anya to carry her envelope of money tucked into her dress above her breast, but it was the most interesting thing to happen all episode. The season is shaping up to be just plain dull, so Anya's freak-out provided much-needed drama. Yet an Anya freak-out doesn't last long: She cries, she worries, and then she gets to work.

After the jump: Josh tries to sell the high-waisted skinny plaid pants he's made as '70s. Not only are they not '70s, they are possibly the least flattering pants ever to be squeezed into a by a model.

Josh insists that he wasn't alive in the '70s, so he doesn't know what to do -- never mind that he and the rest of the contestants have been given a look book, or, as Kimberly points out after judging, that it's his job as a designer to know fashion. So he makes an outfit (above, right) that has a black-and-pink tuxedo-style top and high-waisted skinny plaid pants (not '70s) so tight or ill-fitting that even the very, very, very thin model bulges like a sausage. "The plaid pants would be against the law of nature in any decade," says Michael Kors. Guest judge Olivia Palermo sums it up: "She will not be getting laid with those pants."

Anthony Ryan is also in trouble. The adorable cancer survivor is great on camera and has a sweet demeanor but he just can't seem to design an outfit that works. He goes with a red/white/black/gray palette that's more '80s, and his cute Missoni-inspired vest gets lost in the outfits' saggy "schmata," as Heidi calls it. Maybe "Project Runway" will bring him back as a commentator in another season, because, well, I'll just say it: Anthony Ryan is out.

Only a few of the designs seemed passable. Anya's second outfit, a drapey full-length romper with deep a open V-neck, wins the challenge. The judges have a benevolent amnesia when it comes to Anya, who seems to both wear and create an awful lot of drapey things with deep V-necks -- sure, Anya is a graceful competitor and individually the pieces look good, but you can't wear beach rompers every day (for example, they're not so good for holding onto money while shopping at Mood). Bert's second outfit, a sleeveless tunic dress that's silver in front and gold in back, is a bonus winner. Both are being sold on

Viktor does a charming jacket inspired by the look of a '70s safari jacket he once had, tailored to fit tight, with pants we never really get to see. A snakeskin-patterned shirt looks good without the jacket, and matches his dress. I'm not sure why Viktor didn't win this challenge, but he's quietly proving to be the most diverse of the designers.

Laura talks a good talk -- particularly when it comes to insulting Bert's designs, which this week she called roller disco -- but she's having a hard time walking the design walk. Her chevron top with long patterned skirt perplexed everyone, because they looked so awful together.

Kimberly, Laura and Anya have a pact to tell each other when their designs are going terribly wrong. But while Laura and Anya deliberate about whether they should tell Kimberly her pants look cheap, no one tells Laura she bought the ugliest fabric on the planet. I mean second-ugliest -- Josh's second dress is made of fabric even uglier. The pact, which we hadn't heard about before, may feed into drama next week.

We can only hope.


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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photos: Anthony Ryan, at left, and Josh with their designs. Credit: Lifetime