In last week’s Project Runway All Stars premiere, kooky Elisa flew back to the new age fashion co-op hive from whence she came, and now we’ll never get to see what winged, organza-covered horror she would have come up with for this week’s challenge:

A ball gown befitting a night at the opera!

The Challenge: A Night at the Opera

Yes, the remaining 12 designers get to go full-out glamorous for their second challenge, but there’s a catch. (There’s ALWAYS a catch!) Angela, with help from this week’s guest judges Mark Badgley and James Mischka, explains that the assignment is to create “show-stopping ball gowns for high society events,” and everyone’s salivating — until they learn that they only have one day to create them. ONE DAY? But that’s like … half a day less than usual!

Everyone runs off to the workroom to plan their designs. April wants to get away from the darkness that the judges expect from her, so she’s going bright red instead. Everyone knows that drama is Austin’s strong suit, so he’s immediately torn between feeling in his element, and feeling too much pressure because everyone knows this is his element. The secret to avoiding this dilemma is to never excel at anything, which I happen to excel at. Paradox!

By the way, is it just me, or is Austin starting to look more and more like an eccentric inventor in the 1930s?  I can just imagine his laboratory, full to the ceilings with do-dads and whatchamacallits.

austin-the-eccentric-inventor.jpgMy genius has come alive, like toys when your back is turned!

At Mood, Kenley picks out a pale pink polka-dotted fabric. I could see it going to a tea party in it, but the opera? (Since I could never ask her in an interview, I’ll just ask her here: Kenley, don’t you ever get exhausted by yourself?) April, of course, picks out an “oxblood” red. I love that she’s still macabre, even when she goes for color. And, once again, Michael and April find themselves overlapping in their materials, both picking out red fabric and feathers. And, once again, Michael cares and April doesn’t. It’s the Mop Crisis all over again! He quickly changes his look to black to avoid putting twin models down the runway.

The Workroom

April begins to hand-dye her fabric and tells us that she’s going for a “corpse bride” thing. She would actually make a great costume designer for Tim Burton.) The other designers look horrified, but mostly because dyeing is so time-consuming, and she only has one day to create the damn thing. This is not the time to reach for the stars — or, in April’s case, reach deep into a big bucket of black dye. You didn’t think she’d actually send down a truly red dress, did you?

Everyone’s side-eyeing Austin, because, as noted, dramatic couture is his realm. But, just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither can one of Austin’s human-shaped dreamscapes be. He’s frustrated, for his genius has been restricted! When Joanna Coles does her walkaround, which was apparently otherwise too boring to show (this is so going in the new musical I’m writing, O Tim Gunn, Where Art Thou?) she too lays on the praise and the pressure with Austin, noting that “everyone is watching” him to see what he’ll present. Well, yeah, everyone’s watching Austin. But also, everyone’s watching everyone. Wake up and smell the couture, Joanna: This is ALL STARS!

Michael’s working on a feathered and beaded black collar that looks absolutely fabulous when he shows it to Joanna over his black bodice.


Austin, territorial and a little too transparent about it, says that Michael’s look is “a little too celebrity, and not enough socialite.” That might sound like more of a slam if those words weren’t so synonymous these days.
At the opposite end of the expectations-spectrum from Austin is Kara, whom Mondo says is the weakest designer because she second-guesses herself too much.

Back at the designers’ loft that night, it’s like a support group meeting. Everyone’s hugging or just sitting there stunned, worried and offended and clearly a little traumatized by the idea of creating couture in a day. Sounds like some people got a little too settled into real life and its realistic timelines and artistic expectations! Well forget it, Jake. It’s Project Runway-town.

The next morning, everyone is too busy creating their looks to talk to each other. Actually, they spend quite a bit of time talking about how they don’t have time to talk to each other. Riveting reality TV, this is! 

After hair and makeup, it’s time for the runway, and I realize that we’ve barely gotten to look at half the dresses. This runway will be full of surprises. And it ain’t over until the fat lady thin lady sings says!

The Runway

kenley-pinkpolka.jpgKenley‘s is a flowing pale pink gown. The polka dots were tastefully incorporated, but I’d still call it “Opera Barbie.”

gordana-purple20s.jpgGordana‘s look has a sort of lovely twenties vibe, and I love the surprising mix of the style with the color. Gordana truly speaks through her designs. No, seriously. Has she said a word since this season started?

rami-pink.jpgFrom afar, Rami‘s looks a bit garish in the hot pink. But up close, the details and downward facing sleeve are both interesting.

mila-blackep2.jpgMila‘s definitely isn’t as romantic or feminine as the others, but it’s edgy and geometric, so it feels like a Mila gown.

sweetp-ep2.jpgSweet P‘s colors and fabrics look too casual, and that bodice isn’t doing her model any favors. It looks like an old-fashioned bathing suit top. Do they do outdoor daytime opera? That sounds awful, but this dress would work perfectly for it.

mondo-ep2.jpgMondo is happy with his gown, and it stays true to his 60s/futuristic/edgy/whimsical aesthetic, but I can’t help thinking that it looks like a costume, like if there was a scene in those terrible Star Wars prequels where Princess Amidala went to the intergalactic opera. 

jerell-ep2.jpgJerell‘s has amazing texture, but the shape is a little too … maternity.

kara-ep2dress.jpgI’m worried about Kara. The silhouette seems too basic, and the fabric is ugly — it reminds me of a couch I had in college. When I didn’t care what my couch looked like, because I was poor and someone was bound to barf on it at some point, anyway.

anthony-ep2.jpgAnthony‘s accessories are too gaudy, and I’m distracted by the Troll-like green jewel in his model’s tummy … but HOLY GOD, look at her rack. Are those things for real? For draping and defying physics, gravity and his model’s BMI, Anthony gets a pass.

austin-ep2.jpgAustin’s “molten gold” and black tulle dress came out pretty damn flawless. It’s elegant and classic, but with an edge. 

april-ep2dress.jpgApril‘s dyejob is attention grabbing. But the problem is that after it grabs your attention, it thrusts your attention at the dress’s overworked, puckered seams and odd color combos.

michael-ep2dress.jpgMichael’s dress is dreamy and dramatic, and ridiculously sexy in the back. I love the silhouette. That collar is a true showstopper.

Critiques: The Highest and Lowest Scores

The Good: Anthony. Isaac loves “the new context” that Anthony has created for white, and Angela loves the black accessories, they make it “vampy.” The judges call his look modern and dramatic. I’m surprised that they love it so much, but the closer I look at it, the more I see the potential — without the overdone accessories.

The Bad: April. It looks “a teeny bit tortured,” says Mischka. Georgina says that the two reds — one shiny and one dull, don’t sit well together. They appreciate the effort, but the execution was lacking.

The Bad: Sweet P. Isaac utters the words “prom dress,” and Georgina wishes she’d kept the patterned fabric throughout the entire gown. The bodice is poorly fitted, and the judges agree that it’s too “day” for opera.

The Good: Austin. Isaac loves it. “It looks fresh and classic and expensive,” and modest in a good way. There are only minor imperfections, but they don’t take away from the dress’s major impact.

The Bad: Kara. Oh god, it’s even worse upon second viewing. Isaac actually loves the print (I hate it), but he says the cut is too simple for it to be so unpolished. “It’s a good dress, but it could have been spectacular,” says Badgley.

The Good: Michael. Isaac says the dress is “shockingly perfect,” and compares it to “Kim Kardashian at the opera.” That sounds like an insult, but it’s not. Georgina loves the fabric, and she can’t believe it’s only $350 in materials. It’s “exquisite” and “sexy,” and Angela wants to wear it. Sounds like Michael has this one in the bag.

In deliberation, the judges appreciate April’s ambition, but she didn’t understand her limitations. It was too much work, so as to appear random. Sweet P’s skirt was pretty, but the bodice looked like a swimsuit, and it “just wasn’t a ball gown.” Uh oh. Kara tried to go effortless, but it didn’t have enough personality. But Badgley loved it! Guess he never had a college barf-couch.

The judges love Anthony’s drapery and drama, but the accessories were heavy-handed. Austin’s dress was the “freshest,” says Isaac, and tasteful. Michael’s is the opposite of Austin’s in the best way. His embroidery was eye-catching, and the cut was sexy, balanced and showed personality.

The Results

The Winner: Anthony is safe, which means it’s down to Austin and Michael. And the winner is … AUSTIN! I honestly thought that Michael would take it home after the judges’ ravings, but Austin’s expertise and (keyword) tastefulness had more staying power. He’s thrilled, as he should be, that he excelled in his category.

You’re Out: Kara is safe. It’s down to April and Sweet P, the latter of whom was here last week. April gets criticized for her poor time management, and Sweep P “lost her way” away from the opera house. April is in, which means that Sweet P is out.

Aww. Sweet P had a rough couple of weeks, and we never really got to see what she was fully capable of this second time around. She says that the best part of the experience was meeting all the designers, and she “still has a really happy life” to go home to. She doesn’t sound like she minds getting auf’d at all!

Next week: They’re creating flamboyant cocktail dresses for “one of the most famous fashionistas in the world” … Miss Piggy! Who is also the guest judge. Yes, apparently being an “all star” means designing for, and then being criticized by, a Muppet.

(Images courtesy of Lifetime)

Meghan Carlson

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

Meghan hails from Walla Walla, WA, the proud home of the world’s best sweet onions and Adam West, the original Batman. An avid grammarian and over-analyzer, you can usually find her thinking too hard about plot devices in favorites like The OfficeIt’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and How I Met Your Mother. In her spare time, Meghan enjoys drawing, shopping, trying to be funny (and often failing), and not understanding the whole Twilight thing. She’s got a BA in English and Studio Art from Whitman College, which makes her a professional arguer, daydreamer, and doodler.