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The Project Runway All Stars Blog

All-Stars and Stripes Forever

By laurareineke Fri., Jan. 4, 2013 ,4:11 am EST

This recap is brought to you by my favorite blink-and-you'll-miss-it phrase of the season so far: "I must have a fairy drag mother today!" said by Anthony Ryan at the end of this week's episode. May we all have fairy drag mothers watching over us in the new year. Amen.

We're down to the final four, and if you'd asked me at the start of the season, I probably would have guessed that Uli, Emilio, Anthony Ryan and Joshua would make it this far. (Anthony Ryan notes that he's the only one left who didn't place in the final four during his original season, but he's definitely proven himself to be a contender this time around.)

The designers meet Carolyn on the deck of the USS Intrepid—a decommissioned World War II-era aircraft carrier docked off the edge of NYC that now serves as the awesome Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum—where they're introduced to their clients: Four badass female American military veterans. It's the Real Women Challenge! With lady soldiers! Each of the women will be attending a different formal function. The designers with whom they're paired must create appropriately fabulous looks for the occasion.

I've always liked the Real Women challenge because it's usually an interesting demonstration of versatility. Sure, you can design and create clothes, but can you work well with others? Can you tweak your vision to suit a stranger whose taste may differ from your own? Does your specific style still hold up when it's translated into a more collaborative garment? These are important questions for anyone competing on "Project Runway," an environment in which designers are rewarded for having a well-developed sense of their own style AND a tool belt full of ways to implement it in each challenge.

The women chat with their designers about their events (a 40th-birthday bash, a bachelorette party in Las Vegas, a wedding, a formal military event) and thankfully everyone seems to land on the same page quickly.

Anthony Ryan's client Donna, an Air Force officer, makes it clear that she doesn't want to draw attention to her bust ("I'm a boob hider."). Then she asks him for a strapless dress. This seems wildly counterproductive to me. When has any woman worn a strapless dress to hide her bust? That style of garment literally relies on the bosom to be worn properly. Anthony Ryan doesn't see an issue, though; at Mood, he grabs a grey-to-white ombre fabric to fashion into a floor-length strapless gown.

Uli does the same thing Anya did a lot of during Season 9: She sketches out a dress that's essentially a duplicate of the one she's wearing. To be fair, this is a specific request from the client, Jessica, but it's still a little disappointing that Uli didn't push to do something more unique to Jessica's taste. Jessica likes purple, but Uli settles on a very flow-y grey print. Yawn.

Leslie and Joshua hit it off right away. Leslie lost her left leg below the knee after a terrifying-sounding health crisis, but she asks him for a dress that will help her show off her prosthetic while still being acceptable attire for a formal military event. At Mood he grabs a loud black-and-white leopard print and I scream "NO!" at the screen. It's too much! Too tacky! But in the workroom he rolls up his sleeves (just kidding—he's wearing a tank top) and breaks open a box of dye so I'm able to chill out a little bit.

Emilio's client, Lisa, wants something short and flashy for a night out in Vegas. She says she loves yellow and you can see Emilio's eyes light up, because if there's one thing he loves it's bright, arresting colors.

Uli: Jessica's final dress fit her nicely, and the bias cut at the bottom was both flattering and practical for its eventual use at wedding, where there will presumably be lots of dancing. It wasn't especially inventive, but it was exactly what the client asked for, it looked expensive, and it screamed "Uli!" so I can't really find fault in it.

Emilio: This garment seemed to be very Emilio in its concept but it was lacking in execution. Yellow was the perfect color choice for Lisa: It's eye-catching but not obnoxious. But the judges were right to call out a number of weird design choices, notably the awkward cut along the sides leading into the open back and the color variation. As Georgina said, "It just wasn't committed enough for me."

Anthony Ryan: This turned out to be less of a disaster than I'd envisioned. I still didn't love it. The addition of straps was a good choice. Other bright spots: The sexy slit in the skirt, which hit at just the right height, and the smart choice of fabric. I thought the garment might have worked better without the banding underneath the bust, which cut up her figure in a way that wasn't entirely complimentary. Donna said she appreciated feeling a bit hidden in it, so in that sense I guess it's a win, but like Katie Holmes my eye was drawn straight to the area the client was trying to hide.

Joshua: The easy winner. Joshua's initial fabric choice was alarming, but he managed to tone in down and incorporate it into the skirt and the back of the top in a way that was on-trend, age-appropriate, and totally flattering. His client Leslie looked absolutely radiant. I really loved this one.

It was smart of the judges to keep everyone around heading into the next challenge. I didn't think any of these looks was worthy of elimination. And the added level of competition will be good for the designers as they make their way to Paris (!) next week.

Of course, your mileage may vary. Let me hear your thoughts in the comments. If you had to boot one of the final four, who would it be and why?