Project Runway All Stars Blog

Of Shoes and '70s "Style"

By laurareineke 11/02/2012 05:02AM GMT

Well, it’s been a rough, weird week for the team. Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy walloped NYC and the surrounding area but good, and while our group is extremely fortunate to be safe and sound, many of us have gone the past few days without power or an accessible route to the office. Kim has been busy dealing with fallout from the storm (don’t worry&$151;she’s totally fine) so I’m stepping in to recap this week’s ‘70s-themed episode. I hope those of you in Sandy’s path made it out unscathed!

I’m a late-‘80s baby. My understanding of the fashion of the ‘70s is limited to John Travolta’s white polyester suit on the poster for “Saturday Night Feverâ€ù and the loud patterns and ill-fitting fabrics that clothed the casts of shows I watched obsessively in re-runs as a kid, like “All in the Familyâ€ù and “Taxiâ€ù. Which is to say that I don’t quite see the allure of a ‘70s-based challenge. Can disco garb be classy? I have my doubts.

Carolyn presents the designers with the challenge parameters at a Nine West showroom: They’ll create a modernized disco party outfit inspired by a shoe from the brand’s collection. The designers grab their heels of choice and start sketching, then make an uneventful trip to Mood. (For a better look at their shoe picks, check out our Rate the Runway slideshow.)

Back in the workroom, the group seems to be in good spirits. The designers compliment each other’s fabrics, chat about garment structure, and bond over stories from home with not a bit of drama to be seen. Wendy Pepper, season one’s notorious villain, becomes automatic besties with Suede, and even sings his praises in a confessional. The designers still throw some shade at each other’s outfits, and of course Joanna dampens the mood a bit when she comes around for her first critique, but to be honest, I prefer a workroom filled with relatively upbeat designers.

Pause for a disco dance break! Back at the apartment, the gang is treated to a video pep talk from Karl Lagerfeld himself. Well, as peppy a talk as Lagerfeld can give.

The designers seemed pleased with their looks as the models walked the runway, but I was underwhelmed. A lot of great individual ideas - Emilio’s color palette, Althea’s bodice—couldn’t compensate for the scattershot quality of the runway show. If I’d come in late to the episode, I doubt I could tell you what the challenge was based on the designers’ final products. I was surprised that no one called them out as a group for their inconsistency.

Kayne’s chevron pants and glam top matched my idea of ‘70s garb the best, but I agree with the judges that Ivy’s green-and-gold number and Uli’s white minidress were the strongest looks. I think they succeeded primarily because they looked modern and party-appropriate in a way that, say, Joshua’s teal pantsuit did not. Ivy and Uli also did a great job having their shoes complement their outfits and vice versa. I suspect the lack of beading on the back of Ivy’s dress may have given Uli the edge in the voting, but to my eye both looks were stellar. 

On the other end of the scale was Wendy. Her prints-and-chains combination looked cheap to me - a shame, given how classy and graphic her black-and-white heel was. I wish she’d stayed more in the realm of “tuxedoâ€ù and done less with the dismal chains. Andrae, meanwhile, should have listened to Joanna and ditched that embarrassing jacket when he had the chance. Of course, that would have necessitated an overhaul of the boring top-and-skirt combo underneath. He was spared by the judges, but I was torn about Wendy’s elimination given the blandness of Andrae’s contribution. Neither of these looks was “All Starâ€ù quality, but which is a worse offense: A look that only works (and even then, just barely) when one of the key pieces is removed, or a look that doesn’t work but that shows some enthusiasm and a hint at a wider vision? 

I look forward to hearing your thoughts. For those of you who lived through the ‘70s: How did these looks stack up? Am I being too harsh in my assessment of the decade’s fashion? (Probably.) Who do you think best met the challenge requirements?