Things to Write Home About

This week was a bittersweet reality transition:

The end of America’s Next Top Model (my model won)

and

The start of Project Runway.

In Bravo’s Project Runway fourteen (?) aspiring fashion designers compete each week to design women’s clothing under certain restrictions. For example, the semifinal round required designers to use 6 pre-purchased yards of drab cotton muslin and $20 to create an outfit that best represented them. The results were as varied as the designers and two of them were sent home.

Later, the contestants were told to attend a party to celebrate the official start of the competition. Each person, wanting to make a good impression, wore outfits that said a lot about them, everything from vintage jeans and leather jackets to an heirloom scarf. At the party, they were given their first challenge in the competition proper. Called “The Clothes Off Your Back,” the contestants were required to go home and put their entire outfit into a bag. They were to make a new outfit using only what they were then wearing during their work time the following day. This was almost as good as the “Create an outfit using only what you can purchase at a grocery store challenge” from last season, the one that resulted in Austin Scarlett’s inspired cornhusk dress.

Unlike its boring and uninspired Tommy Hilfiger-led network equivalent In the Cut, Project Runway really forces the designers to transcend the competition, rise above the restrictions to make individual visions of fashion. Take it for what it’s worth from a colorblind, fashion-challenged gay boy (I rarely wear patterns and try to limit myself to wearing only two colors or less so I don’t clash), but Project Runway reminds me of being in Beckian Fritz Goldberg’s workshop, where we were often given assignments to write poems under restriction. Although the challenges don’t always work, they always put the attention of the artist on the product more than the process. And sometimes, that’s what it’s really all about.

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