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Project Runway Season 11: Episode 6, “Senior Fling”

Tim Gunn presents the remaining designers with their sixth challenge.

In last night’s episode, “Senior Fling,” the designers (still in teams of course!) had to make looks for opinionated, stylish older women.

Before the challenge was revealed, Heidi added Michelle Franklin to another team. With 11 designers left, there had to be one three-designer team, and Michelle was added to the team of Layana Aguilar and Patricia Michaels. The other two-person teams stayed the same as Episode 5: Stanley Hudson and Richard Hallmarq; Benjamin Mach and Amanda Valentine; Tu Nakchat and Katelyn Pankoke; Daniel Esquivel and Samantha Black.

Tim and Heidi took the challengers to a dance studio where a group of women were dancing and exercising. After an ice-breaking dance session, each designer was linked to a client to create a look for. Every designer created an outfit, and within the teams the looks did not have to be cohesive. The real challenge was for the designers to show their individual design aesthetics AND please the client AND listen to/help their teammate(s).

Designer Rachel Roy stood in for Zac Posen on the judging panel. The guest judges were Joan Rivers and Melissa Rivers, hosts of “Fashion Police” on E! Entertainment Network.

On to the designs – and the surprising ruling by the judges!

The winning look

Stanley Hudson‘s design won raves from the judges for its elegance. It suited Stanley’s muse (barring the fitting problems in the pants).

Stanley Hudson's design.

The losing design

In a surprising upset, Benjamin Mach went home! He was paired with Amanda, who created a really appalling dress (wait until you see it). Benjamin cut such a confident figure, you didn’t expect him to go home before Amanda, who was indecisive and tearful for much of the episode. Even the mightiest…

Benjamin’s look:

Benjamin Mach's design.

The rest of the designs

Richard Hallmarq, Stanley’s teammate, also scored well with this knit design:

Richard Hallmarq's design.

Amanda Valentine, Benjamin’s teammate, created this look. She nearly went home instead of Benjamin. I wish I had a picture of the back of the dress – you would be horrified.

Amanda Valentine's design.

Team Michelle Franklin, Layana Aguilar, and Patricia Michaels

First, Michelle’s design:

Michelle Franklin's design.

Layana’s design:

Layana Aguilar's look.

And Patricia’s design. Heidi told Layana and Michelle that they had two of the highest scores, however, Patricia’s design scored so poorly that their individual designs could not be considered to win the challenge.

Patricia Michael's design.

Team Daniel Esquivel and Samantha Black

Daniel’s design:

Daniel Esquivel's design.

Samantha’s design:

Samantha Black's design.

Team Tu Nakchat and Katelyn Pankoke

Tu’s design:

Tu Nakchat's design.

Katelyn’s design:

Katelyn Pankoke's design.

What do you think?

Were you surprised at the judges’ decision to send Benjamin home?

Which look was the worst?

Who’s next to go, in your opinion?

In this episode, the team element really hurt several designers: Katelyn, Michelle, and Layana all had good designs, but were hampered by the poor efforts of their teammates (Tu and Patricia, respectively). Team dynamics can be interesting, but not very fair. Are you enjoying the team format?

Which (if any!), of the designs did you find appealing from the episode?


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  1. hazelspi | | #1

    Yes, I was surprised that Benjamin went home, afterall he did fulfill one requirement in that he pleased the client. Amanda's "attempt" at designing was horrible, she will need to do a lot of real designing to make up for this one. Maybe Patricia will be going home next...at first I was rooting for her but now I have changed my mind because she really hasn't produced anything that stands out. I hope they do away with the team formet...don't like it. My favorite garment on this episode was Stanley's pant suit, even though the pants needed a little work in the crotch and they needed to be a bit longer.

  2. User avater
    Soli | | #2

    I was really unhappy that Benjamin went home. Unfortunately, sweet as his client was, she was also the shortest and apple shaped, and so just about anyone would have had challenges fitting her. Bless her heart for defending him to the judges. I can't believe that the sleeves being 1/2" too tight caused all the fit issues in the bodice because there was wearing ease during the fitting. I thought Tu and Amanda's dresses were much worse than Ben's, and again, in terms of what he's capable of doing, look at his past work portfolio on the Lifetime website, and he's done some lovely pieces. I do think that Stanley deserved the win, but Richard's dress looked like something that could be picked up at Coldwater Creek or Chico's - nothing special. I also think Daniel's suit looked a little too much like his winning look from the first week. I don't see how Michelle or Layana's dresses deserved Haidee's highest scores, because again, they weren't anything special. I think Layana's dress really highlighted her client's extra fluff in the underbust to waist area. Not particularly flattering. I also didn't think much of Samantha's dress. I don't think anyone over the age of 30 should be wearing puffy sleeves, no matter how in fashion they are. They just make a woman look as if she can't be taken seriously. A cap sleeve would have been more flattering, but I didn't like the chartreuse fabric either. It was just an ugly dress. I really wish they would stop doing these one day challenges, because the results just end up being a mess and people who are capable of better end up getting cut.

  3. ln2 | | #3

    As a fifty eight year old sewist, I can assure you most of those looks were hideous. No one my age is going to wear anything that short or busy and actually look good in it.
    Stanley had a good idea, but should realize one must understand construction and be able to actually sew before trying to design something. Katelyn tried to keep it simple, but going bottom heavy on an older woman usually won't work.Richard wants to put a woman in a tent! Thanks, but no thanks!
    They should be forced to do this over! When in doubt, keep it simple. Find clean strong lines and stick to them!

  4. Cherlyn | | #4

    I thought Ben or Tu would go but when it came down to it, Ben did a better job than Tu. Tu should have gone home. So, I expect he or Patrica will be gone next.

    As for thebest looks, I disagreed with the judges but you could tell which they favored as they critized the two people that did the best work! Katelyn's dress was so her client's personality! The lady rocked that dress and you could tell she was very pleased! Samantha, also pleased her client! I didn't care for the fit of Hudson's outfit at all. Daniel did a better job constructing the near same look!

    Sorry, but Hallmarq's dress was the ugliest thing I have ever seen! Looked like rag samples sewn together! Are the judges kidding me?

  5. sews4fun | | #5

    I truly thought Tu had his bus ticket home, I really did, the boy can't sew! His muslin looked much better than the finished piece ( hmmm I know someone very close to me who has the same problem) And what was that mess Patricia had thrown over the back of her model? A horse blanket or a pup tent? Why were the judges so ENTHRALLED over Richard's bathing suit cover up? Run a stick up the side and it could double as a flag for Afghanistan! I hated seeing Benjamin go home because who can dress a short round individual? ( I should know ) But, the dress was SO STIFF and the sleeves looked ....painful. Now, we will never get to see what he "had up his sleeve". I thought Daniel's pantsuit looked strange on his model, it made her look like it was three freet from her crotch to her rib cage.
    Samantha's design had it's issues but you have to admit, that model rocked that dress, even WITH all it's problems. She looks like she feels like a million bucks. If nothing else, that dress had good lines, lose the bow and the sleeves, change the clors and that might have been a winner.
    I thought Stanley's pants suit was a winner so had to agree with the judges. It too had it's problems but it looked great on the model.

  6. User avater
    Vernelle | | #6

    As someone who has been sewing for more than 50 years, I concur with Lanoll's assessment. This is why I continue to make my own clothes. Today's designers simply have no clue about what looks good on a woman over 45.

    I'm glad Benjamin went home. Although he may be a so-so designer, I was never particularly fond of his arrogance or his condescending attitude toward everyone else in the room.

    Also... I doubt Tu makes it past this week's episode.

  7. User avater
    ustabahippie | | #7

    Too little time, that was the problem for the better designers. And Tu has to be the next cut. Amanda shoud be ashamed of her dress. She needs to go home too.
    I loved the winning pants suit, even though the fit was a bit off, too little time, again. But he had the best model to work with. Benjamin's little lady probably had not a clue what looked good on her and loved having a designer make something special for her. Of course she loved it. I'm on the fence over the team approach. It's life, but I also like to see the individual efforts win on their own.

  8. user-1034214 | | #8

    As seen in a previous season where the challenge was to design for the mothers of the participants, the styling information for basic camouflage of figure faults and highlight of figure assets is missing in the education of the young designers. They know what someone like them would wear and do not know what is desired for different figure types and generations of styles. I would like to see them inspired by a favorite artist of the client and incorporate an art inspiration into the final garments. I observe the judges as the first audience and weigh the design and judging eyes as a filter to the outcome of the challenge.

    This show does inspire a lot of up and coming design students.

  9. sewandgolf | | #9

    As a 77 year old who still likes to dress well I found most fashions "not for me" Michelle's dress would look the best on me but perhaps with a sleeve. The others would be just dumpy, the pant suits stylish, but too tight fitting.

  10. CarolannB | | #10

    When I first read your e-mail about designing for the older lady I was keen to see the results as I find it difficult to buy any clothes/shoes these days as everything is designed for the young. However I soon found out that I am well past being described as "the older lady" as all the models were much younger than myself. Perhaps you could try designing for the over 70's. I for one would be grateful to be able to buy a pattern for a dress with sleeves which doesn't have a low neckline and a very short or very long skirt. I'm afraid I must be stuck in the 50's but it is too late to change now. Most of today designs that I try on look terrible on me and I end up wearing clothes which are too "old fashioned". Other people I speak to have the same problems.

  11. namaskar | | #11

    Women over 60 should not wear.. And most don't.. Wear skirts above their knees
    Designers should learn.,,,,,,, Why I sew for myself !,,,,,

  12. User avater
    Martykay | | #12

    I don't see how Layana's dress had such a high score; that extra "roll" wasn't very nice looking. I wonder how the clients feel when the judges criticize every thing they are wearing. Image feeling good about the dress you are wearing on the runway and then listen to the judges point out all the flaws by the time you leave the runway you would feel pretty low.

  13. after8 | | #13

    It is desperately disappointing that designers aren't taught to design for all ages, and shapes - as clearly illustrated by these designs. Sleeveless doesn't cut it with even the slenderest older person. Short skirts? Yeah, right, not in a million years. There a great career waiting for a young designer who 'gets it', because most of us sew because there isn't anything really well designed for older women in the shops, and don't get me started on standard sizes.

  14. weavergal50 | | #14

    I would love to see the series "Project Runway - Real Life"! The comments above are equally relevant for most women - young or old. I would love to wear designer clothes that disguised figure faults and was age-appropriate (I'm in my 50s and still working fulltime). And with often a higher disposable income, you would think "we" would be a more important demographic.

  15. Corrales | | #15

    I'm with all who think the clothes were hideous! I'm 62 and know I would never wear any of these. The only thing we can do is stick to the basics, because designers just don't get it.

  16. user-728404 | | #16

    As an "old person" I think the majority of the designs above are unsuitable for us oldies. I love wearing clothes that flatter my body and as one gets older there are a few things that I now have to think about in reference to my body. One of the first things that looks unflattering is the upper arm. So usually coverings are a must and I often like a garment but discard it because it is sleeveless. The next thing is around the neck, no one wants to look like a plucked chicken, but the skin from the bust to the neck can look quite unattractive. Then there is the legs, no longer as shapely as they should be, and if they are, there are usually ugly vein marks on them. So someone designing for the older person has a lot to consider, something that this lot ignored.
    I would have gotten rid of most of the designers in that episode. In my opinion they were uncaring, ignorant and just downright unkind.

  17. Ikebana152 | | #17

    I own a Pilates studio in New York City where one of my fittest clients just turned 82. She comes to class with two 76 year olds and an 81 year old. My second favorite class to teach all week has 63, 68 and 74 year olds. They come in varying sizes and shapes, but they have all been my clients for 4 to 7 years now. So my experience of these amazing women leads me to strongly disagree with some of the comments I've read here. Not all of us, I am 56, want to cover our arms or legs. And just because we are older does not mean that we all want to wear basics. so I don't think that all the clothes were unsuitable for older women.

    BUT, what I found awful about this episode, is the complete lack of experience with fitting anything other than an model. 2% of the women in the world have model's figures and then there's the rest of us. How is that fashion students graduate not knowing the fundamentals of fitting a real body?

    Would the winning design have won if the client were round shouldered with sagging breasts? Where are the sewing skills that build structure and support into the garment?

    I agree with a prior comment that older women, particularly boomers, are one of the larger demographic groups out there. Why are there not stylish great looking clothes that are reasonably priced out there for us?

    The team theme this season isn't working. Three designers working independently on 3 garments, none of which are referential to each other, none of which try to resemble a capsule collection, having no connection other than being called clothes are not a team.

    How about a challenge where a team takes a real person and designs a small collection for a long weekend to a friend's second wedding in upstate New York? I don't this group of designers could handle it.

  18. ThereseRA | | #18

    25 years ago I worked for an apparell company catering to mature, more sophisticated women. One of the designers displayed such a disgust for his clientele that in a sales/design meeting he presented his "creations" with the words: "...that's what they want, that's what they get". His manager was not pleased and after I expressed my disapproval of that attitude, the designer was let go. Nothing seems to have changed ... let's get rid of designers who carry a grudge against their mature clientele.

  19. Muppet | | #19

    My word, I thought things were bad for those of us in the senior years who want to look nice in our clothes. It looks as if it's getting even worse!! I'm making more and more of my own clothes again. . . and loving it.

  20. user-963630 | | #20

    Unfortunately the programme is no longer aired in the UK and I certainly miss it but just looking at the photographs I feel Samantha and Michelle came the closet to flattering their clients. I too, as a 60 yo sew for myself, as it is difficult to find flattering styles in the shops. We need to put our Boomer power to work here!

  21. User avater
    sewingagain | | #21

    I was surprised that none of them used what one former judge termed "The Voodoo" which allows a designer to play up assets and visually slim the wearer. At 52, I use basic shapes then add fun textures and pattern to my wardrobe. I also don't like what I find in the stores because it's so limited in color and style (and often expensive). Like Weavergal50, my vote goes in for the next series titled "Real Life".

  22. user-1135543 | | #22

    Bar writes:#1 Yes, Ben's was not the best but, good grief, certainly not the worst.
    #2 Amanda's, where on earth was her head that day? Surely, that lady deserved better.
    #3 Patricia next to go, but Richard's blanket puts him close behind, and Tu's design could do with some explaining also.
    Michelle's lines were basic, clean and always good and her model looked fine and happy wearing it. I feel almost all older ladies would wish to be able to wear this as well, but time does present problems no matter how well one is aging, and skin on arms and the neck area are usually not what you want others seeing.(but even last year I would have probably got away with wearing it, not so this year. That 75th year did it).
    Layana's outfit seem to suit her model and even looked comfy' though not to flattering.
    How did Hallmarq's blanket score well? A blanket would do as well.
    Ben's shiny fabric, not a good choice, sleeves look like they are to tight for movement, and just 3 inches more in length would have really made a difference.
    Sure do hope these upcoming designers are listening to what we, the prospective clients have to say. We answer these queries because we care and want them to make us lovely outfits we can buy and wear.

  23. cathy7 | | #23

    Its about time you treated us SENIORS with respect. We are not skinny models. We need to appreciate our looks and look good not trying to wear skinny model's clothes. I love to dress and have had to change my looks because of an increasing waste and drooping top. Please treat us with care and give us a magazine and good looking clothes to appreciate our maturity. We will be on this earth a longer time as we are living to 100 and will never be skinny again. HELP!

  24. iamnewsewer | | #24

    I am not a lover of this season's team concept. I was really surprised to see Benjamin go home, even though I did not think his design was good for his client. I felt she was too short for the length of the dress and the waist band/belt just made her look shorter. Patricia's design, in my opinion was the worst. It made her client look top heavy. Amanda should probably be next to go home, unless her next project is much better than this last one. None of them seemed to know what was best for the senior figure. I am a 74 year old senior, but I do not like to look frumpy. I like clothes that fit well, that are stylish, that flatter my figure, which has changed a lot over the years, with the length below the knee. I get many complements on my attire as well as my gray hair. I'm very active and I love to dress nice,thus my reason for learning to sew.

  25. MaryBob | | #25

    Pleased to read from others that the young designers have no sense what a senior looks like and desires. Yet, who has the $ to buy designer clothes??? Advice: learn all you can about your potential clientele! I will never forget the first time a bought a designer suit (Blackwell, no less) from a small shop in Bloomfield Hills,MI. It had been on sale for 8 weeks because it was butter yellow and petite. After all the "homemade clothes," I was thrilled. The classic designed got me through 10 years of special events during Spring and Summer events with only a change in the hemline. Today I continue to sew and do so because I can't find many outfits suitable for a senior. My bustline did not change in size, but dropped ;), the waistline & upper arms are a bit thicker, and the height is even shorter--in other words, I am still a petite, but an older one. So, I take great patterns and redesign to fit my figure, using fabrics that are fun and bright (well, light and pastel to go with gray hair), and get compliments. When crunched for time, I really wish those young designers knew how to design for me......

  26. user-2431978 | | #26

    I, too, am very disappointed in most of these looks. These designers do not understand the inner aspects of their clients, they are reinforcing dowdy stereotypes. I have quit dressing according to trends, but prefer my own style. I am very limited in what I can buy off the rack, so I finally turned my costuming skills toward myself. My body is what it is right now and I have just finished fitting out my foam dress form to reflect my body (well, good enough). I think project runway needs to do more of these real world people designs. Costumers constantly have to rebuild their dress forms and consider what is flattering and who the character really is -- same for anyone not model thin, tall, flat or leggy.

  27. NinaLBoston | | #27

    I don't follow the show and usually don't read about it, but I'm glad that I saw this post.

    It's quite depressing, isn't it? I mean, that designers who were given an challenge that highlighted the older age of their clients could not handle it. Oh, maybe it was they didn't have TIME to get their heads around the figure challenges. MAYBE the clients wanted something that no way would look flattering on them (wishful thinking, like when I buy a bathing suit).

    Thank goodness I can sew for myself! We need an inspired designer who LOVES and HONORS her/his mom and grandma so much that she wants to make all women in that age group look wonderful. I would say that we need designers of a "certain age" -- but have you seen Carolina Herrera's Spring 2013 designs!? If that orange number with sheer lace top and "solid" skirt is any indication, NO WAY!

    Let's face it, many designers design for the young because it is more FUN -- and while we (50s and 60s) have more $$$, THEY are willing to spend more of theirs on clothes than we are. We are a niche market.

  28. CARLAJ01A | | #28

    My name is Carla J. and I have been designing and making clothing for over 40 years. I have seen them come and I have seen them go...the styles that is. And, I have watched Project Runway for over 5 years, hoping and praying that they would do something for older women. Again, it proves that those youngsters haven't got a clue what style is all about. As, you could have guessed, I am over 55 years old and I know exactly what older women need and want because I have not been able to find any decent looking clothing since the 1990's. Minus the big puffy shoulder pads, I think that this was the most exciting decade of fashion for me. If anyone is interested in getting quality clothing made or designed for them please contact me at [email protected] and we can discuss your options. I am presently located in Las Vegas, Nevada but I am looking to travel the country, and/or go back to my home on the East Coast. I need customers badly right now because I stopped working a 9-5 job a couple of weeks ago and have a lot of time on my hands. I look forward to helping those "older" ladies who know what great fashion is all about. Thanks, Carla

  29. CarolannB | | #29

    How I agree with all those people who have commented on the lack of clothes for the older generation. It seems it is as bad here in the UK as in the US.I am now coming up to my 75th birthday and can only find things in the Eastex section which I can wear - no other make of clothes seem to fit me or have anything suited to my age. We are told we are the generation with the money to spend but can't spend it because everything is designed for the young. When will designers wake up to the fact that we are the biggest market and need to look as good as anyone else - just not like mutton dressed up as lamb. This applies throughout the fashion industry. I had been unable to get a pair of shoes for 2 years due to the ridiculous high heels but managed to find some this year though not really what I wanted. Unfortunately I can't make these myself!

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