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Project Runway Blog

Season 12, Episode 9: Belle of the Brunch

By laurareineke 09/13/2013 04:07AM GMT

We're nine challenges in and the designers have wised up. When Heidi and Tim offer them a relaxed sit-down brunch, the gang immediately starts to brainstorm how it might tie in to their next task. "Do you think we're designing for a garden party?" "Mad Hatter's tea party." "Socialite women." "Maybe [the clients are] our servers." Tim finally clues them in: They'll be designing for the modern Southern woman, or more specifically, the Belk customer. The look can be for day or evening. 30 minutes to sketch, a suggested Mood budget between $200 and $250, and -- as usual so far this season -- they have a day to finish. The winning look will be sold in Belk stores and on

"Southern" means different things to different people. Alexander, Alexandria, and Helen admit outright that they don't know who this customer is at all. On the other end of the spectrum, Dom and Ken feel self-assured since they both hail from Southern families. (Dom's family is from New Orleans; Ken's is from Birmingham, Alabama.) Dom and Ken roll their eyes at the stereotypical understanding of the South that their fellow designers latch on to. "Tim said to design for the modern Southern woman, not 'Little House on the Prairie,'" Ken says as Bradon, Alexander and Alexandria gravitate toward plaid fabrics and flouncy skirts. Dom agrees: "The women in my family? They're not going to throw some polyester plaid dress on. These aren't farm boys. They're people who live in cities."

Interestingly, the judges feel the opposite about the looks that are eventually sent down the runway. They dislike the bottom three -- Dom, Jeremy, and Ken -- so much that they send those designers back to the workroom for 60 minutes to either create a new look or alter the garments they've already made to better match the goal of the challenge. Twist! (Helen, Alexander and Kate are brought in as reinforcements, thank goodness.)

Our guest judges: Belk's Executive VP of Private Brands, John Thomas, and "Supermarket Superstar" host Stacy Keibler.

Top Three
Bradon - A sleeveless cotton shirtdress with a high-low hemline done in a sort of pastel madras plaid. The judges really like it, citing the sex appeal and modern feel of the silhouette as a huge plus. Plus it's made well. Bradon wins.

Kate - An empire-waist dress with cap sleeves in a bright orange, white, and pink print. Heidi thinks the model looks pregnant (no surprise -- she never seems to like empire waists, which do add volume to thin women but are usually very flattering on average- or plus-size figures) but Nina and Stacy both adore the colors and the print.

Alexander - A painted-plaid patterned handkerchief-hem dress with a sweetheart neckline at the fitted bodice. John and Stacy both love the way it moves on the runway. The bodice earns praise for being nicely constructed and the judging panel agrees that the overall look is fresh and young.

Bottom Three
Dom - Dom, frustrated with landing in the safe zone nearly every challenge so far, wants to show the judges that she's capable of making tightly designed, pattern-free work, so she sends this floor-length cap-sleeved purple and green gown down the runway. Nina is disappointed in the color and Zac just seems bored.

Heidi LOVES Dom's second, totally different look, an asymmetrically draped, flirty dress in a black and white pattern. Zac, Nina, and Stacy love its effortless style, and John Thomas loves it so much that he decides to produce it for Belk along with Bradon's. This means that Dom is a winner of the challenge, too. Yay Dom!

Ken - A floor-length deep purple racerback gown. Zac likes the color but calls the dress "a beautifully-cut purple nightgown." Heidi and Ken have a staring contest after she says she doesn't find the gown very flattering. John says he's seen the look before.

Ken's second look is a glammed-up version of his gown. He keeps the racerback, adds a drapy dolman sleeve, and shortens the length to make it more of a bodycon mini-dress. The judges are placated. Ken's safe.

Jeremy - A sleeveless, knee-length V-neck dress in a pink-hued floral print, paired with a red jacket. Heidi's quick to let Jeremy know that she finds it old and un-sexy. Zac is disappointed by the jacket. Nina hates the print. When he gets a closer look at it, Zac says, "It looks like a college fashion show in a non-metropolitan city," which I think sums it up: It's inoffensive, but absolutely been-there-done-that in terms of cut, fit and color choice.

Jeremy goes in the opposite direction with his new look, a bias-cut sleeveless beige dress. The judges appreciate that this look is considerably more youthful and brunch-appropriate but it's still a little too boring. Auf wiedersehen, Jeremy.(He takes the loss with a good attitude: "I get to see my kids...and I get to f***ing drink tonight!" Cheers.)

Were you as disappointed in the runway looks as the judges were? Did you think the new looks were an improvement for the bottom three designers? How well do you think the group captured the idea of the modern Southern woman? Let me know in the comments.