'Project Runway': Final countdown to Fashion Week

carolhannahwhitfeild_projectrunway_s6_290.jpgTonight's "Project Runway" closed in on the final run-up to Fashion Week, with Tim Gunn checking in on the collections of Irina, Althea, and Carol Hannah before the big show.

And oh what a check-in. These three are the most somber collections I can remember, with lots of dark and muted colors. Only Carol Hannah had a real semblance of color, and it was pretty rare.

Ten weeks after the final three were determined, Dr. Tim heads out to make his housecalls.

Carol Hannah has moved from South Carolina to a friend's house in Huntington, N.Y. Inspired by the architecture at Duke University during a nighttime tour, she's trying to create a whimsical, almost fairy-tale feeling. The show-stopper is a gray/mauve dress with a tight, sleeveless satin top and a layered tulle skirt that starts wide at the top and narrows toward the knees. It would be beautiful on a mannequin at the Costume Institute at the Met, but it's hard to think that skirt would be flattering to the skinniest of women. Tim likes her dark plum satin evening gown, but hates the little cape she put on top. All in all, it looks like luxurious fabrics with touches of cool colors, with pants, shorts and jackets in addition to some evening wear.

irinashbayeva_projectrunway_s6_290.jpgNext up is Irina, who's working on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, though very decidedly not "Gossip Girl" territory. She of course has a tiny white yappy dog named Princess, but would you have expected any less?  Irina is a born-and-bred New Yorker whose parents emigrated from the Republic of Georgia, and she's drawing her inspiration from New York -- particularly Coney Island, images of which she puts on T-shirts that will be part of her looks. She incorporates lots of criss-cross woven and layered shapes into her detailing, from knitwear to a fur vest that Rachel Zoe would plotz over.

If she can pull off the construction, which is architectural in many ways, with lots of hand pleating, it could be stunning -- even though the whole thing is largely black. Ten days before the show, Tim calls and says the lawyers have determined that the Coney Island images are copyrighted and she can't use them in her collection. Ten days seems awfully close and kind of unfair, but to her credit Irina makes it work.

altheaharper_projectrunway_s6_290.jpg Althea's been working on her collection in her hometown of Dayton, Ohio, and has drawn a lot of her inspiration from the shapes of costumes in sci-fi (syfy?) movies. She plays with a lot of shapes, including a draped/ruched long coat that gives Tim the willies, and a hot pink evening gown that could be really spectacular if she finishes it well and keeps it in her presentation. Tim seems impressed with her work, but warns her to edit her brains out, lest she get too costumey.

They arrive in New York with a week to go, but Carol Hannah's missing due to what sounds like a wicked (and contagious) stomach virus. Irina mouths some insincere garbage about how bad she feels for Carol Hannah ("If you don't have your health, all of a sudden nothing matters." Oh brother), and proceeds to start needling Althea about copying designs and elements. When Carol Hannah does arrive, she senses her competitors' disappointment that she made it at all.

At this point in any "Project Runway" season, all designers have a lot of work to do -- tons of finishing, detailing, fitting, and completing. But these designers seem like they have more work to do than usual, on top of model casting, fittings, and hair and makeup consultation. But Michael Kors and Nina Garcia stop by (yay!) to offer some advice -- namely, make sure you edit wisely and show us who you are. Get rid of anything you think might have been seen before. And, Nina adds, an all-black collection is difficult. But since Irina knows everything, she blows off Nina's advice and decides to keep her collection the way it is. I predict some barking over that later on.

Three days before the runway show, Heidi shows up with Tim and gives them one final challenge -- they have to create a 13th look. Why they're surprised, I don't know -- haven't they ever seen this show before? There's always a 13th look, and they always bring back designers to help the finalists out. In this case, it's Logan, who Althea picks, Gordana, who Irina picks, and Christopher, who Carol Hannah ends up with. Then, after hitting Mood and putting in basically another day's work, Carol Hannah is back in the hotel room, really sick.

What did you think? Do you think Carol Hannah will drop out? Did any of these collections speak to you? Do you have an early guess on who you think will win -- and who you'd like to see eliminated?


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