Stupid Tuesday questions, accessory wall edition [with bonus “Project Runway” rant!]

Let’s pretend.

You are a star of a fashion-based reality show.  You are one of the show’s signature charms.  You inhabit the “avuncular mentor” role.  You are both impossibly erudite and genuinely warm, in a somehow winningly stuffy way.  The word “natty” seems to have been invented specifically with you in mind.

In the earlier, better days of the program, your task was to offer insightful, honest critiques of the participants’ work.  You were very good at doing so, in a manner that was appropriately straightforward yet still kind and supportive.  You’re still pretty good at it, though maybe you seem to phone it in a bit some days.  You remain one of the most appealing parts of the show, nonetheless.

However, over time your job has begun to involve a not inconsiderable amount of shilling.  As the product placement has become increasingly ham-fisted season by season, your task has been to introduce challenges to the participants supposedly inspired by cars or scented candles without succumbing to existential despair.  You are meant to direct the designers to use the “[rotating sponsor] accessory wall” “thoughtfully,” as though if you don’t intone the name of said sponsor every week the designers will lose their marbles and start using the shoes as earrings.  You are enjoined to speak the words “L’Oreal Paris Hair and Make-up Room” as though they still they are weighted with import beyond simply “the place where stylists are paid per mention of L’Oreal products.”

[Lengthy aside:  OK, “Project Runway.”  It’s time for a get-a-grip chat with me, your old pal and fan Russell.  We have to talk about this last season.  I had… issues.

First of all, as adorable as I happen to find Zac Posen, he is no Michael Kors.  Your show needs Michael Kors.  Please do not skimp on the Michael Kors next time.  I don’t know why he couldn’t be a regular judge this past season, but if it happens again I would rather wait until he’s free.

And seriously, the product placement is beginning to seem like the only reason you’re still going.  The “all challenges are team challenges” gimmick was transparently just that, and not successful.  It dragged the few talented designers this season down by saddling them for way too long with the rest of the no-talent weirdos you stuck them with.

But those weirdos.  Those WEIRDOS!  They were worse than usual this season.  I couldn’t stand them.  How did Richard even end up on your show?  Why did you keep making people work with him after he’d been booted off, when it was blindingly apparent that he had neither skill nor the ability to work with others?!?  Even though I thought Michelle deserved to win, it was patently unfair to let her work with Amanda on her finale collection but stick Stanley with Richard.  Shame on you.

Speaking of the finale, you have some serious, serious problems to deal with when viewers are asked to accept that Patricia deserved to be there with a straight face.  She seems like a truly sweet person, and some of her looks were cool.  I loved that floaty blue number she made with the micaceous paillettes.  But those were the exceptions.  The overwhelming majority of what she made would never be worn by any woman anywhere except those who forgot to refill their thorazine prescriptions.  Her presence in the finale was only slightly redeemed by the pleasure of watching Nina Garcia struggle and fail to choke back her obvious contempt and incredulity.

Look, people.  I love your show, or at least I have enough residual affection for it to keep watching.  While it would be nice if you’d discover another Christian Siriano, I’m not demanding it.  But if you keep subjecting me to episodes featuring irritating people of minimal talent as they playact inspiration from Glade products, I’m out.]

Where was I?  Oh, yes.  Making you pretend that you’re Tim Gunn.

As you have tired of your new role as professional tout, you have asked for some changes in your contract.  Specifically, you’ve stipulated that, if you’re forced to hawk products, from time to time they can be products of your own choosing.  Every once in a while it’s your choice what you use the show to promote.

So what lucky item is the beneficiary of your newfound power?  What good or service receives your prime-time benison?  My answer would be O’Keeffe’s Working Hands, easily the best product I’ve ever used to combat the effects of cleaning my hands before and after every patient encounter during the harsh winter months.  It may not be glamorous, but I want the company to stay in business forever because my mitts are hamburger come December without it.  I have no idea how to turn that endorsement into a fashion challenge (though I wouldn’t put it past “Project Runway” to give it a shot at this point) — super mega bonus points if you can think of an appropriate design challenge focused on your product.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


    • (EDIT: that’s body suit. As in full-body leotard. Fashion for the deconstructed ballet dancer.)

  1. I think you’re being a touch too hard on Patricia Doc, absolutely she was unpolished but there was quite a lot of creativity and new ideas in her work.

    That being said she definitely flourished in the team environment; being paired occasionally with more polished controlled designers helped her enormously. It was, admissibly, very obvious that the producers heavy hands pressed down some of the times Patricia was on the bottom, they really didn’t want to send a lady with her background home, especially the times that she was paired with the execrable Richard.

    That said I don’t think Stanley being paired with Richard was the kiss of death. Stanley seemed to save up his time management issues for this last challenge and came to the final runway with a collection that was both very old and very under finished.

    The product placements strike me as unfortunate and yet I can’t really muster much indignation about them. Possibly because I fast forward through the commercials; I feel a certain sense of oblige’, they have to pay for all this somehow.
    And of course I adore Tim.

    Oddly enough I was never particularily fond of Michelle but I was utterly over the moon over his final collection. Blew me away. And I thought her collaboration with crazy sweater boy was brilliant. I loved that wolf sweater.

    • I think she had a lot of ideas, but her execution was just terrible so much of the time. The jacket she made after her Paris trip was unwearable. However her creative use of the fabric, it beggars credulity to consider it being an actual garment that any woman would want to put on her body. And her finale collection was utterly, utterly incoherent.

      And I don’t think Stanley’s pairing at the end is what did him in. I agree that he left much, much, much too much work to be done at the end. And his collection was mumsy, that’s for sure. But it was patently unfair to pair Michelle with the designer she worked perfectly with, and stick him with Richard who was nothing but a waste of space.

      I mostly really liked Michelle, who was my favorite this season. While her honesty could tend toward meanness, I generally found her the most normal-seeming and also the most talented.

  2. First off, product placements are the scourge of all these shows. When “Top Chef” asks world renowned chefs to make a dish using some frozen Swanson entree, it’s time to just burn the building to ashes. SRSLY. I don’t now if it is as bad on PR, but TC is asking people to make their food worse by using inadequate ingredients. If they want them motivated by cars or candles, something they do, meh, it all comes out in the wash. But shitty ingredients? Completely antithetical to the purpose of the show.

    Now, what would I recommend? In my professional opinion, there are a host of toys and play materials I’d recommend parents make available to their kids, none of them explicitly educational but all fall more contributory to the educational process than most of the crap they buy. Wooden blocks, open-ended Lego sets, tempera paint (it’s washable!), play dough, etc. That is probably where I’d start. I can’t necessarily point to a specific brand or item in part because the best materials are less about what they contain inherently and more about how they use them. Whether you have true Caroline Pratt unit blocks or a set that you’ve carved from the tree in the backyard, you’ll do well if you properly structure open-ended, child centered opportunities for exploration and play.

    Stepping out of my professional realm… hmmm… I feel like there are a handful of things I own where I genuinely think, “Everyone should own this,” but I can’t remember any right now. If they come to me, I’ll chime in.

    • Burt’s post reminded me…

      If you want to accomplish much of anything in the kitchen, you *need* a good stand mixer. Kitchen Aid makes a great one… it’s pricey but will last you years*, a fact I can attest to as the one I own was handed down from my stepfather. If you already own one, I highly recommend the meat grinding attachment. You can save a ton of money grinding your own meat (particularly chicken and turkey) and will have a much better idea of what is going into your food by doing so.

      * I’ve read some reviews that indicate new models are not as well made as the older ones. Supposedly they have replaced some of the outer casings with inferior materials like plastic. I can’t attest to this fact but if you do decide to buy one, check out the model in person. It should be prohibitively heavy.

      • We have one (which we adore… and now I will look into the meat grinder attachment). I can attest that it is incredibly heavy and the outer casing is either metal or the most realistic simulacrum they’ve ever invented.

      • I have two old ones, circa late 1980’s, that are still going strong. (One was a gift, new, from my mother-in-law; the other gifted used when she moved to a retirement-home apartment and unloaded most of her stuff on us.)

        Because they were so awesome, I purchased a new one in 2005 for my coffee shop. I purchased it on the strength of the old ones. We used it once a day to mix up a small batch of bagels. I did not last a year; and was replaced under warranty, the second also did not last a year.

        It’s not the exterior casings that are different, it’s the internal gears in the motor. The old ones were milled out of steel; the newer either out of aluminium or a hard plastic; or so my son the machinist tells me; and he’s claimed the second one for his very own. The older ones are much heavier.

        If I were in the market and had the money, I’d go with a Viking; I’d also check out used restaurant supply houses of a small table-top Hobart if I were serious about mixing three to six loaves of bread in it. Otherwise, I’d go cheap and consider it a disposable item.

        I do encourage you to think about why you want it; stand mixers take up a lot of valuable kitchen real estate. If it’s just for the occasional batch of cookies, cake, whipped cream etc., I’d invest in a good hand mixer instead. If you’re serious about making bread and only want to make a loaf or two at a time, that’s another matter. But make sure you wouldn’t prefer to do that by hand for the healing attributes of kneading bread with your own two hands.

        • I’m like to add an endorsement for the near spiritual experience of kneading bread by hand. I never feel closer to my departed Grandmother (who could make loaves like clouds) then when I’m kneading bread.

          But then again I inevitably overknead and my bread is dense and heavy. *sigh*

          • No such thing as overkneading. You’re probably mistiming the rise, or getting the water balance off, or even using whole wheat flour.

          • Kazzy and North both, I’ll write a post on bread-baking 101 if you want. But I find the biggest reasons for dense bread are too much flour, a poor choice of flour, and poor-quality yeast.

            More important then a stand mixer to do the kneading for you is a scale. Bread is a ratio based on the weight of the flour; and by volume, that same cup of flour will vary day to day based on the amount of humidity in the air, let alone flour to flour.

            I won’t have time for a few days, and I’ll have to do a bit of reading to remind myself of things I take for granted (I learned this the hard way when I tried to write a basic recipe out for elder sprout the other day). In the meantime, it would be helpful if you let me know the type of bread(s) you want to make; otherwise, I’d default to the basic french loaf.

            And Kimmi’s right except for one thing: there is such a thing as over-kneading. It’s virtually impossible to do by hand, however.

          • Zic,

            I’d love that… and take your time. I’m working my way through Ruhlman’s Ratios and he has some of the basic bread ratios in there, which are very helpful. But I feel there is a certain “touch” I lack. Like I said, I have never had good results with yeast.

            Being purely self-regarding, what would help me best would be to read your post, go through its motions, and then report back with everything that went wrong, at which point I’m sure you can say, “Oh… X happened? You probably did Y… next time, do X.” Etc, etc, etc.

          • That’s awesome Kazzy; but I’d still want to know what your goal for bread is. Soft crust, small crumb sandwich bread? Chewy crust large-irregular holed artisan bread? NY-style pizza dough? Chicago-style pizza dough?

          • Zic, please do!

            I’m a dilettante when it comes to bread making. Every now and then I just get this urge to try and bake bread (most likely due to longing for the presence of my Grandmother). It doesn’t turn out bad, it’s just heavy hearty stuff.
            Cinnamon rolls are one of the things I make that I wish I could make turn out more fluffy and light. So a sweet white bread then would be my preferred subject.

            No rush on it though!

        • Thanks for weighing in, zic. I didn’t know the specifics of the complaints but if it is indeed the inner workings, that is a bigger problem.

          And you’re right that, if kitchen real estate is at a premium, a stand mixer won’t be ideal for everyone. We’re blessed with a very big kitchen with great cabinet space so it actually resides tucked away, coming out only when necessary. Thus far, my attempts at bread making have all fallen flat (how the hell does one use yeast, anyway?) but I do enjoy that I can have cookies mixed in 5 minutes with minimal mess. And, as I mentioned, grinding one’s own meat can help it to pay for itself if you use the stuff often.

          But it is indeed a luxury for most people and is not essential as much as it is a boon to one’s arsenal.

          • 1) Take the amount of water you have in your recipe. Divide into thirds. Add two thirds tap water. Add one third boiling. Mix slightly.

            Voila! that’s your 90F ish water, which yeast is happy to rise in.

            If your kitchen is too cold, just let it rise until doubled (or I can describe the “push a finger in it” test to see if it’s done)

          • “…I can describe the “push a finger in it” test…”

            Please don’t… 🙁

      • Interior parts are plastic. Still my stand mixer has been used for years of bread, and it ain’t dead yet.
        (discl: it mixes bread. you still knead by hand. you’re looking for good crosshatching of the gluten strands. you will not get that in a bread machine or a stand mixer).

        I love the ice cream attachment personally.

      • Having just been gifted a Cuisinart immersion blender, I think it’s the bomb. My soups have never been smoother and I’ve gained weight from milkshakes.

        But the kitchen device that has truly transformed my life was the sous vide water oven. It is by a long shot my preferred way to cook proteins, which always turn out tender and juicy and delicious. I eat more meat now that I have it and seriously, the steaks are knock-your-socks-off good.

        I haven’t a clue what product I’d endorse on Project Runway. The clothing product I use most often is a lint roller, to remove dog and cat hair from my garb. I have zero loyalty to any shampoo, soap, hair fixative, or other grooming product as none has ever distinguished itself from any other.

  3. In a break with gay orthodoxy, I’m decidedly not a fan of Project Runway.

    First, because it’s a reality show and has all the flaws thereof. It puts a bunch of people in a room together and asks them to be nasty to each other so the show has more “drama”. It uses pacing to create artificial “suspense” that’s so boring that I’d be changing the channel even if I was watching “Bacon and Neil Gaiman: The Animated Series”. It’s just a television format that holds absolutely no appeal to me whatsoever.

    More importantly, I just can’t support the lie. The so-called fashion industry, as we know it, is a fiction. The whole thing is just an incredibly sophisticated, century-long marketing campaign. The “designers” are nothing more than actors, not paid to actually design clothes, but merely to be colorful and draw attention to them. The clothing is actually designed by a bunch of straight white men known who dress like IT guys and are known as “apparel engineers”, and who mostly operate out of Indiana.

    Okay, maybe not. But I do still think fashion is pretty ridiculous. So I’d probably just pick ridiculous things to highlight how vapid the whole thing is. “This week, I’d like you to make a dress Inspired by Oscar Meyer Bologna.” “This week, your task is to make a garment for one of the animals here at the San Diego Zoo.” “This week, your team must make a suit in the style of the Ben 10: Ultimate Alien cartoon.”

    • A couple of your suggestions in your last paragraph are not too far off. I’m curious though, have you watched PR? The amount of drama between the contestants is pretty close nil most of the time. They’re too busy to fight. TRowards the end they’re usually quite chummy.

      • My grandmother and sister are a fan, so I’ve sat through one or two episodes in the interest of not being an impolite jackass.

        I’ll admit there was certainly less drama than some other reality shows I’ve had the misfortune to see, but it was certainly still there.

  4. i’d have to rep for molton brown’s men’s grooming stuff. especially that pepper shizz. it’s hot. plus i’d get it for free cause it’s wwwwwwaaaaaayyyyy to expensive.

  5. Perfect description of Tim Gunn. If ever there was someone I have less in common with than him, I’ve yet to meet them, and yet I can’t help but think very fondly of him.

    • In my social circles he’s spoken of like a beloved relative we all have in common even though not a soul of us has ever met him.

  6. For years — going on decades — my wife has suffered from dry skin on her hands to the extent of deep bleeding splits on the tips. After your recommendation I bought a little tub of O’Keeffe’s Working Hands. She’s down to one split, which was very deep before she started using the O’Keeffe’s, and at least a couple of times a day is stopping me and saying, “Here, feel my hands!” If this continues, I owe you a big one.

    • I’m delighted it’s working for her! It’s really a great product, and I’m glad someone is getting some benefit from something I’ve written.

Comments are closed.