'Project Runway' week 9 recap: Southern women wear plaid

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It's week 9 in the season, and we have 9 designers left. Coincidence? I don't think so. Helen is up to three wins, the most out of the bunch. How will she fare this week? We shall see. 

This week's challenge is to make a "relaxed, civilized" look for a modern, Southern woman - the Belk department store customer, specifically. Mentor Tim Gunn says she dresses "vibrantly, expressively, and she's always fashionably put together. She knows accessories, and she loves color and anything with feminine details." Dramatic Ken is from Birmingham, which is about as Southern as you can get, so he's not only been raised by Southern women, he's around them all the time. And as a Southern born and bred woman myself, I agree with him - the other designers don't have a good idea of what "Southern woman" are (with the exception of Dom, perhaps - her mom is from New Orleans.) It seems most of them believe modern Southern women wear plaid. Alexander even says something about "Steel Magnolias." That said, this Southern woman lives, for the most part in t-shirts and jeans, but nevermind. The Belk private brands VP John Thomas arrives and tells the designers that the winning look will be sold in Belk stores. He's also wearing a pink suit coat. Pink! Maybe the "Steel Magnolias" quip wasn't far off.

Tim's tour through the workroom ends well for most, but badly for a few - Justin's color combination of orange and black looks Halloweeny. Bradon and Alexander's dresses look like 1950s garden party dresses. Kate's dress has great color, and Ken's magenta maxi-dress is looking great. Jeremy is doing a tailored jacket with a dress which is good in theory, but Tim reminds him to make sure to be fresh and inventive. Helen's dress is very '60s with lace - lace - and Tim is concerned about Dom's ultra-minimal look. Alexandria's dress is completely wrong; it's a Bonnaroo hippie "crazy quilt" as Tim says. He even goes so far as to call it "hideous." He tells her to not over-design, and go back to just one fabric. A plaid. But whatever.

Bradon is in love with his plaid garden party dress, but Ken's critique is dead on: "Living in the south, no one will wear this dress. It looks like the dress that Harriet Tubman wore after she received her freedom." Guffaw.

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The Runway Show: Heidi Klum, Nina Garcia, Zac Posen and Tim are joined by guest judges Stacy Keibler from "Supermarket Superstar" and a lengthy stint as George Clooney's girlfriend, and John the Belk VP.

Ken: His maxi-dress is chic and fitted nicely. It looks like a formal summer dress.

Alexander: His plaid blue and pink plaid strapless dress is has a handkerchief hem, but it's too full and fussy looking. 

Dom: Her duo-toned flowing dress is beautiful.

Justin: His one-color short coral dress is lovely. Good neckline, but the back hemline is too short. 

Alexandria: Her dress is a boxy, thin mess. You can see right through it. The neckline is atrocious.

Bradon: His plaid shirt dress is even more plaid than Alexander's. Not a fan.

Kate:  Her orange and purple print is adorable, and definitely on the mark.

Jeremy: His print is nice, and the jacket is also lovely, and while it does look Southern, it also looks old. Really old.

Helen:  The yellow is nice, but daisy lace and the mermaid length is all wrong. Cut that off at the knees, and it's a Southern dress. People need to remember it's hot here. You'll swelter in all that fabric.

Judging: Heidi excuses Helen, Alexandria, and Justin as the middle, safe group (Helen's lace mermaid? No. And Alexandria's mess? Seriously?) Helen mentions that she believes the judges were looking for a marketable dress, and from their comments during the individual critiques, we agree.

Bradon's dress is praised, and both Dom and Ken shake their heads over that. I have to agree. Jeremy's outfit is pointed out as very old. Zac says it's a "casino" jacket and the dress is too simple and dowdy - he says later that the dress looks like a "college fashion show in a non-metropolitan city." Ow.

Ken's dress is panned. Zac calls it a purple nightgown. Nina says it's a safe design, and Ken says that the people where he lives aren't taking big risks. John says it looks like a bridesmaid's dress. Ken keeps his anger in check, even when Heidi pokes him.

Kate's colorful dress is liked by everyone by Heidi, and it is mentioned twice that it looks marketable. (Helen was so right.) Dom's dress is called too minimal, and Nina says she hates the color and is very disappointed. Alexander's plaid dress is called fun and sexy, with great movement. 

Winner: Bradon wins. A plaid, layered shirtdress. Ugh, but ok, sure. Kate should have won. 

And this is where Heidi shakes things up: she tells the bottom three - Dom, Ken, and Jeremy - that they have a second chance. She's giving them one hour to change their almost-losing designs into something better, and each of them are allowed to choose a fellow designer to help them. Wow. This has never happened. What if one of these new dresses are better than Bradon's plaid thing? Sigh.

Dom choose Helen, Ken selects Kate, and Jeremy takes Alexander. Dom pulls the black and white print she'd originally put aside. Jeremy does a whole new bias cut dress. Kate puts a waist into his dress, and cuts it off, which is a good idea. 

Judging Part Two:

Jeremy: This is a much younger look, with two prints on a bias. It's much more wearable. No cruise wear here, but it's pretty plain.

Dom: Her print dress is definitely better than her first dress; much more modern. It's flowy, and draped nicely. Heidi loves it, as do the others. Zac said if it would have been the first runway dress, it would have been his winner (and in deliberations, the others agree.)

Ken: His maxi-dress is now a mini dress (very mini, wow, way mini), is one shouldered, and very fitted. They all say it is a 100% improvement, with a nice contemporary feel.

Who goes home?  Jeremy is out. His second-round dress just wasn't strong enough. But he says he's happy to be seeing his kids and to be able to go drinking. 

And as a parting gift, John from Belk tells Dom that her second-round print dress is the winner of the second round, and it too will be produced along with Bradon's. Bradon and Dom dress war! Dom will completely win that.  

And with that, "y'all," we look forward to week 10. Rebel yell, yee-haw, sweet tea, "Duck Dynasty," and all that.

Note: Fiona the Color Commentator had schoolwork to do. But she'll be back.
Photo/Video credit: Lifetime
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