Project Runway: Gretchen Crashes the Lincoln Center Finale, and Jessica Simpson for the Win?

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Araceli Cruz
Tim Gunn must have needed the extra-strength dosage after Thursday morning's Project Runway Season 8 finale show. Midway through the carefully orchestrated hoodwink hour of 10 contestants' collections (seven the ringers, three the true finalists, in standard Runway fashion), the Lincoln Center Theatre lights remained low for several long, indecorous minutes, bringing the entire ballet of sloe-eyed models and soul-numbing techno music to a standstill. With several designers waiting to present in the wings, and the hordes of photographers on the risers whistling impatiently (because Fashion Week photogs are, I maintain, jerks), who would cause such a blatant misstep in the entire show? Who was almost surely getting reamed out by Gunn backstage, as we waited in murky darkness?

Answer: Gretchen, of course.

This season's wildly whiny supervillain was clearly to blame for the catastrophe, as she appeared next on the catwalk to mewl out something about "personal growth" and present her capsule collection. "I knew it was her," muttered the impeccably dressed man seated behind me. As did we all, sir; however, her collection was a lovely modern update to '70s DVF with alligator embossed vests, flowing brown-based prints paired with green leather accents, earthtone hot pants, and a kimono-inspired dress with thick contrast piping and a deep V neckline. It was one of the most cohesive and exciting collections of the night - and trust, this is said begrudgingly.

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Casanova goes for the gold
Mondo also delivered with his established aesthetic, that being extra off-kilter Harajuku girl. Wildly beaded Santeria skull shifts, contrasting bichromatic dotted pants with bright chevron tunics, and dramatically color-blocked swing tees were an exciting pop of upscale Kira Plasticina, one that show attendee and former Runway judge Betsey Johnson surely appreciated.

Andy's closing line was the most surprising of the evening; an also-ran for most of this season, he produced a gorgeous and ingeniously styled line of gray and chartreuse layers, diaphanous white caftans, and expertly tailored trousers. Models donned sculpted, celestial headpieces in the most impressive accessorizing attempt of the evening.

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Andy's over the moon
Valerie also showed strongly with neon, saturated satin shifts, unfortunately overemphasizing the futuristic bent with distracting Jetsons pageboy wigs. Resident whipping boy Michael C offered more of the regressive Grecian draping that snared him a challenge victory (though, unlike the other contestants, the lyrics of his aneurysm-inducing house music seemed to coo his name -- or Michael C's name is always in the wind, either way). Casanova went full-tilt disco dragon with overly embellished cocktail dresses, sheer gold tunics over teal satin Bermuda shorts, and gold-leaf smeared on the models' faces.

Ah, and Jessica Simpson is the concluding guest judge. She was introduced by Heidi Klum (glowing in a bright coral pantsuit) and fidgeted slightly with her Casanova-worthy sequin caftan. Should make for inexplicable TV when it airs in two months. Our money's on Mondo.


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