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By kim_messina 08/27/2012 06:13PM GMT
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By Becky Broderick,

Hello, "Project Runway" fans! With a new week comes a new challenge, but a very old problem for many of the contestants: designing garments for women with — gasp! — normal bodies. Every season has its designers who just recoil at the thought of working with "real world" clients. It drives me crazy every time. Seriously, how many of these people really think they’re going to be designing exclusively for models, actresses and circus freaks with no ribcages? Certainly if any of the designers want to have their lines picked up by retailers, they’ll need to know how to make clothes that fit a range of body types. Sure, they could keep churning out the size 2s, as long as they don’t mind their garments dying alone on the store racks.

The designers met up with Tim Gunn and L’Oreal Paris stylist Johnny Lavoy, who explained that this week’s challenge was to give some regular gals fabulous style makeovers. The clients were all nominated for these makeovers by friends, who also went along for the ride.

Most of the other designers seemed happy with their clients, most of whom were considered too boyish, too casual, or just not too fashion savvy. Even though the clients were all different sizes and were assigned to the designers randomly, Ven vented about how oh-so unfair it was that he got the “plus-size” girl when others had thin clients. (Meanwhile, his client looked like a size 14, tops.)

Before this episode, I was pretty vocal about my dislike for Gunnar. Thankfully, it looks like he’s finally toned down the "flamboyant villain" character he was committed to playing earlier in the season. In contrast to Ven’s constant griping and sniping, Gunnar totally embraced the idea of dressing a “real woman,” and made a connection with his client, Kim, an aspiring actress who wanted her clothes to reflect her fun, bubbly personality. It was actually pretty touching to see Gunnar treat this woman with such care. He really went all out to make sure she felt comfortable, special and happy.

After the trip to Mood (yet another week with no Swatch sighting *sigh*), the gang headed back to the workroom to get to work on this one-day challenge. When Tim stopped by for his usual rounds, there was a lot of good dialogue flying around … until he pulled up to Ven’s station. The conversation quickly devolved into something out of “Mean Girls,” with Ven giving Tim a brutal assessment of his client Terri, spewing out insults like "she doesn’t have a shape," "she has no sense of style," and "the before picture is a nightmare." Wow. I could say something about how Ven sort of looks like a Buddha statue, therefore, he probably shouldn’t talk about anyone else, but that would be mean, right? And I don’t want to be mean. Oh wait, I already said it. Oops.

It was also revealed that Terri is a size 14. Called it!

Ven went from talking behind Terri’s back to being rude right to her face when the clients showed up for their initial fittings. He did let her know that her hair makeover looked great, but then shifted right into making a bunch of comments about her weight, like how black is slimming and OH MY GOD, WHY WON’T ANY OF THESE BELTS FIT YOUR HIDEOUS BODY? He also ignored all of Terri’s concerns about the outfit, which she clearly did not like one bit. I can’t say I blame her, as it wasn’t particularly flattering. The girl (and her equally annoyed friend) deserved a medal for fighting the obvious urge to turn Ven into a human pincushion.

Meanwhile, Alicia seemed to be in a bit of trouble — not surprising considering that she was making a pink cocktail dress. Yes, Alicia! Doing pink! Well, you have to give her credit for challenging herself and doing what she needed to do to please her client. On the other hand, Nathan tried way too hard to keep his client, Liana, happy. Being an up and coming R&B singer, Liana wanted a sexy stage dress. The problem? What Liana thought was "sexy," Nathan thought was "sleazy." And Nathan was right. But instead of trying to guide Liana in a classier direction, he just continued crafting a skankariffic ‘80s prom dress.

At the runway show, British designer Alice Temperley sat in as guest judge, alongside Heidi, Michael Kors and Nina Garcia. Alicia’s pink dress turned out to be pretty cute, although possibly a bit too on the nightie-ish side. But she made it work! For that, she was sent off to safety, along with Melissa, Christopher and Elena.

The judges chose Dmitry, Fabio and Gunnar as the Top 3 designers. I don’t think Dmitry’s blue sheath was a showstopper by any means, but his client — the formerly mousy Angela – looked fantastic in it, and it clearly gave her self-esteem a serious shot in the arm. Fabio’s feat of getting tomboy Ko-Rely to put on a dress was impressive, but not surprising considering that ANYONE would want to wear his edgy, geometric, not-quite-50-shades of gray dress. (However, I agree with Alice that the brown belt looked out of place.) I’m not sure I was completely wild about Gunnar’s little black dress, but watching Kim channel her inner diva on the runway was the highlight of the episode. I think Gunnar could have won just for the impact he had on Kim’s confidence, but Fabio really knocked this one out of the park, and was ultimately named the challenge winner.

In the Bottom 3 were Sonjia, Ven and Nathan. Normally, I like Sonjia’s designs but she missed the mark on this too-short (and if Heidi thinks it’s too short, it’s too short!) dress that was knotted awkwardly at the chest. However, it looked like a masterpiece next to the other two designs. Terri and her friend finally got to share how awful it was working with Ven, with the friend even bursting into tears because this wasn’t the fun, empowering experience she had hoped for. The judges blasted Ven for not bothering to get to know his client at all and just making whatever he wanted to make. Then they blasted Nathan for paying too much attention to his client’s demands, resulting in what Nina called a "mess of a dress." Heidi warned the designers that one OR MORE of them could be going home, but ended up only auf’ing Nathan. The judges did leave Ven alone on the chopping block for a while to make him sweat a bit, but it didn’t humble him at all. No, he just went back to the waiting room and mumbled that he shouldn’t have been the last one standing because "other people had weaker designs." Dear Ven: That is a false statement. Your outfit was a big, steaming plate of terrible. Just like your attitude. Sincerely, Me.