Thursday, August 20, 2009

My One Project Runway Peeve (Okay, Two)

I love Project Runway as much as the next gal who sews. I have a Tim Gunn bobblehead next to my sewing machine. And my most prized office decoration is this Tim Gunn "Read" poster issued by the American Library Association. (He looks down on me and gives me peptalks throughout my work day.) So of course I was psyched for the long-awaited return of the show tonight, even if it had to move from Bravo to the less hip Lifetime network.

I thoroughly enjoyed the show tonight, but I realized that going into my sixth season of watching Project Runway, there is one thing I just can't stand anymore.

Have you noticed that at each runway show, there's a voice over from the designer as their creation is modeled that always goes something like this:

Oh my God, when my dress walked down the runway, I just couldn't believe it.


I almost cried when my dress walked down the runway; it was soooo amazing.

People. DRESSES DO NOT WALK. PEOPLE WALK. I mean really, would it kill you to say "When I saw the model in my dress, etc." or even better you could use the model's name! Yes, models have names! Gracious.

And the other thing I would like to complain about is that there is such a disdain for home sewing on this show. From my beloved Tim Gunn, no less. In the All-Star Challenge tonight, he dismissed something as "matronly" and "a little home sewing, if you know what I mean." And Sweet P's cheeky flowerpot dress was derided by one of the judges as looking "a little bit homemade."

I get what they're trying to say, course. There's a different connotation between handmade and homemade. But what I don't understand is why these designers think they're doing something so rarefied, so separated from the fashion sewing that people do at home, like it's an entirely different skill set.

But perhaps I'm being a little sensitive.

What do you all think? Are you bothered by any of this?


  1. I totally agree. I havent watched a whole lot of episodes. It is only shown on a really obscure channel here, and i think it must be an early season... I dont know if all of the contestants have been to design school or not, but there is definately some snobbery in their view of 'home sewing'.

  2. I don't think that it is disparaging of home sewers because I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to make what I sew look NOT home sewn. It's like when Michael Kors says that something looks "Becky Home-ecky." It's not disparaging home sewists, because personally, I don't want to look Becky Home-ecky, either. With all the energy that I put into seam finishes, finding just the right fabric, the right lining, the right interfacing, all the hand sewing, if someone told me that my dress looked home sewn, I'd be insulted. So I don't think that the remark was disparaging to home sewers, but more so a statement about perhaps sloppy sewing, or poor fabric choice. We've all been guilty of those things, but as you become a better sewer, you also become better at avoiding those pitfalls. You would think, that people who call themselves designers, would be experienced enough to avoid that, and I think that was what Tim was getting at. Perhaps a better choice of words would have been "amateur." I have seen whole blogs on how to avoid having things look home sewn, and on, there are huge, ongoing discussion threads about "How to make my clothes look less homemade." "Homesewn" is something that most of the home sewists that I know are trying to avoid too, so I don't think the remark was disparaging. I didn't take offense, I felt like I knew exactly what he meant.

  3. I caught on to the home sewing comments too. Like a knife to the heart!

    I didn't realize that it was taking place in LA. Not that it should matter but I like the NY atmosphere better.

    You bring up a good point about the models esp. since they have the new Runway Model show afterwards. The network is trying to give the models more recognition, but the designers need to also.

  4. Could I add an additional peeve? That, perhaps, there should be no crying in Project Runway?

    Or at least no crying until you are eliminated or there is a really, really bad needle prick.

  5. What's ironic is that those designers, at some point, had to learn how to sew. They weren't born knowing all the couture tailoring tricks. So somewhere in the world are their first "homesewn" garments. Wouldn't it be nice to see them? Wouldn't that add an interesting dimension to a show that's all about launching someone's fashion career? Hm....

  6. I admit I was totally glued to the tv last night during the kick-off of the project runway season. I'm a little ashamed that I watched some much tv in one sitting, but there it is. I completely agree with your issues with the "homemade" comment. I took it to heart since I'm sure that's what they would say about my own garments. Also, I hadn't noticed before that the designers said "watching their dresses walk", I know it will irk me every time I watch the show! As I'm sure we're going to hear many a designer saying similar things through the rest of the season.

    Also, not to ramble, but I just wanted you to know that I just discovered your blog and I simply adore it! I really want to make that vintage portrait top. It was amazing! How can I find that pattern???

  7. I thought the same thing about the "homemade" comments! After all the designer that won claims to have no "formal" teaching. I know my sewing looks a lot better than some of the atrocities they have sent down the runway. Yeah, I guess I'm a little bit sensitive also...

  8. I agree 100%. Dresses don't walk, people walk. I absolutely detest the "it looks homemade" comment. I personally am not ashamed of the fact that I make my own clothes. Even on a bad day, the clothes I make have straighter seams and more secured hems and buttons than anything I can get in retail (at a moderate price). I'm not sure why they feel so superior -- clothing made in factories at slave wages is better than home sewing? I think not. Is there any love that goes into that garment? No. This subject matter is really a pet peeve to me and I think it's the choice of words. "looks like homemade" is insulting. Perhaps people should think about that statement that then say what they really mean -- perhaps: sloppy, cheap, rushed -- because, trust me, I've seen those same things in retail. And yet, no one seems to say "it looks like it was rushed through a factory to make production deadline." Hmmm

  9. I agree with Michelle - the comments about homemade,were merely a reference to a need for a higher quality. I don't think it is really directed towards the home sewing community.

    I also think that sewing and designing from a croquis are part of the same trade, but still different. I am just about to take a class to learn to make my own patterns. I still need to learn to drape. What can I say, I love my Project Runway. lol

    As far as dresses walking, I think they could easily change it to: "When I saw my dress on the runway" - that way they still are focusing on their item without sounding ridiculous.

  10. Good points all around! Michelle, I think I agree that these criticisms are really a broad euphemism for something else--amateurism or sloppiness or dowdiness perhaps. I think perhaps the thing that gets to me is the amount of snobbery involved in fashion. Yeah, I know that will never change, but man! It's annoying to me.

    Bryan, they can't get rid of the crying because those are the moments of comic relief for me. Yeah, I'm a jerk and I laugh while they're crying. Especially last night--that guy was a hot tranny mess!

    Vogue Vigilante (awesome screen name, btw) I'm actually working on a tutorial to make a top similar to the portrait neckline blouse. I'm hoping to have it done soon. If you'd like the original pattern, repeatedly ask your friend Google for Vogue pattern #7630. It's not especially rare, so it will show up eventually.

    Thanks for reading!

  11. I agree somewhat, but on the other hand, "home made" as used on the show implies someone with fewer skills, don't you think? I mean Becky - Home Ecky sort of implies a beginner who has not thought out fabric, colors and techniques. Attention to detail that may not be the purview of some home sewers.

    Yes we who are serious about what we sew do want to escape that "home made" look and go for "hand made".

  12. Hello. I don't think we have that show here in the UK, but it does sound awfully pretentious!! Homemade/handmade is one of my bugbears and a connotation that I wish would change. These days 'home-made' things are of a much superior quality to most things you can buy in the shops, 'handmade' or otherwise!! but what is home made if it isn't hand made??? x

  13. Yeah, considering how many of the garments the contestants send down the Project Runway catwalk are glued, pinned or otherwise anything other than actually sewn together in a way meant to last more than about 100 paces, it makes the home-sewing barbs a little rankling.

  14. I was super excited about the Lifetime Project Runway switch because I haven't had Bravo since season 1. I love Tim Gunn, but that comment pissed me off. Here is 3 reasons why:

    #1 It disparages anyone who ever learned to or does sew at home. It offends me because I learned to sew at home, from my mother and grandmother, and it is because I learned to love the craft that I later decided to study fashion in school. Both my mother and grandmother were perfectionists and extremely opinionated about color, fabric choice, fit, and quality workmanship. That comment was a slap in the face.

    2# It promotes a narrow, elitist view of fashion design. The suggestion that good design does not come out of the home sewing room is untrue. For instance, the Mulleavy sisters started their critically acclaimed line, Rodarte, out of their parents HOUSE.
    Sure, there have been plenty of polyester Prom dress nightmares, but it is NOT necessary to go to school to be creative or to know what you are doing with a sewing machine.

    3# It's hypocritical. Project runway has licensed patterns to Simplicity pattern company. Chances are, fans of the show who sew at home are buying those patterns. .... I'm glad DVF and Michael Kors** didn't say it, because they both have licensed their patterns to Vogue (McCalls Pattern Company).

    **I'll give MK a pass on the "Beck-home-ecky" comments, because in home ec, we all used project kits and crappy machines and I think I was one of like 3 people who actually wanted to sew at all. There really wasn't any creativity in home ec, it was all about proficiency.

    So, I REALLY hope I don't hear that comment again. It's such a turn off. I'm glad I'm not the only one who didn't appreciate it.

  15. Yeah, it bothers me a bit too, but I can see where they are coming from as Michell noted. I think we all strive to get a away from that homemade look.

    On the other hand they could just call it "sloppy construction" and be done with it. So yes there is a certain derogatory tone towards those who sew at home in the show.

  16. Hey - I'm with you - let's start a revolution. i know a lot of "home sewists" who do beautiful and exquisite work and put most RTW to shame. The point has been made by we sewing bloggers that it's the LACK of sewing knowledge that is the cause of the poor workmanship in RTW today.

    When I trek to NYC fab district the people helping me often comment about hos nice it is to work with someone who actually knows how to sew and they don't have to sit there and tell the buyer they have to buy 4 yards for an evening gown!!!

    This is one of my pet peeves too - they berate the "home sewist" (I refuse to use sewer), and yet these designers haven't got a clue about good workmanship.

    For whatever the problems "The Fashion Show" had - at least Issac had the guts to stand up and say that you have to know how to sew to design!

    To be honest I missed the comment from Tim or I would have been fuming too.

  17. OK - I promise not to go on, but part of why this is so touchy with me as that my competition refers to my work as "loving hands from home" - only because it's all they can come up with I guess. But there are some people who actually believe it.

  18. I need to find a way to watch Project Runway. We don't get Bravo anymore...

    I agree--I think the home sewing comment is a little misplaced. There are a lot of people sewing at home who are doing just get by kind of work or making poor fabric choices out of ignorance or lack of access to better ones...perhaps it's them that have made the stereotype. You obviously and the readers of this blog, and I would hope myself (though I'm learning--not just upping my sewing skills but trying to find my style) are not in this camp. We aspire to make each garment a little better than the last. I'm pretty disgusted with the lack of quality of ready to wear these days. Things are sloppy--off grain, with facings that roll to the outside, of horrible fabric, and expensive to boot. And fundamentally, it bothers me to spend a lot of money on something that was made in China by some poor woman hunched over her machine trying to fill her quota for the day. I mean, she has a family and works hard--doesn't she deserve some of the glory for that garment instead of that designer? My guess is if she had her way, she'd do a better job.

    As for models, they do indeed have names and it makes me sad to see them treated differently. I went to an exhibit of Yves Saint Laurent's clothes in Montreal last year, and I walked away thinking that he was such a master of detail and that his poor models must have starved themselves to fit into his clothes. I wanted to start my own version of SPEW. :)

  19. For "emadethis" - Project Runway is on Lifetime now, not Bravo.

  20. Thanks Lynn! I'll set my DVR. I'm glad to know.

  21. I was not impressed with the show, due to the comments like those. I was also bothered by the snobbism of designers over home sewers, yet, as pointed out, the line is produced by Simplicity. My grandmother and mother made better clothes than what I saw come out of the season I watched (4 I think)

  22. Yes, the models have names. But I'm sure that proper grammar isn't exactly high on the priority list on PR. :P

    I do have to say that the "homemade" thing does annoy me a lot more, though. I've been sewing for about 21 years now, since I started when I was a kid. (Putting that number down is a little scary.) My friends always ask me if I made something instead of where I bought it, but generally in terms of a compliment. I've spent the last couple of years focusing on trying to make my garments look more "finished", inside and out-- truthfully, I think that a lot of the things I make fit and hold up better than a lot of the things I could buy RTW. (Especially on my budget.) I'd prefer if they used the term "amateurish", or something along those lines, because while I know I don't always make the best choices in fabric, and I do have a long way to go in learning how to properly fit myself, I *know* that I can construct better than a lot of what gets turned out there. (Granted, they have stricter deadlines, but still.)

    My biggest pet peeve, though, is when a designer shows up on there and says he/she doesn't sew. Or doesn't know how to sew. Or doesn't like to sew. This is season six. They should know by now that there WILL be sewing!! And as much as I disliked "The Fashion Show", I did appreciate Mizrahi's comment that a designer should know how to construct a garment.

    One final comment: I really hate the term "Becky Home-ecky." Worst twisting of my name ever.

  23. I just had to add this one....homemade and handmade are a lot better than what we used to call "mammymade". I'm just sayin'.

  24. Sometimes if I'm sitting and knitting or sewing people tell me that I look 'so homely'.

    I usually reply that I hope they mean 'home-y', otherwise they may as well just tell me I have a nice personality and be done.

  25. Oh, give them a break, give me a break! Project Runway is a designing show. NOT A LOVE MODELS AND GRAMAR SHOW!!!!!!! If you really care that much, call the producer.

  26. I agree that quote by our beloved Tim Gunn bothered me too.

  27. If they're so professional, how
    come the contestants aren't using

    I'm a home sewer schooled by my
    tailor mother and master tailor grandfather and a thimble is a must!

  28. I see where you are coming from, but even when I was learning to sew as a kid, my own mother would make me take things apart and re-do them if it "looks homemade". She would always tell me "there is a difference between handmade and homemade, you want the former, not the latter". This could be influenced by her own formal training (she studied at Parsons, interestingly enough).

    "Homemade" in this sense, would mean something that smacks of being amateur...Walmart fabric tacked together on a poorly tuned sewing machine by someone with the lack of skills to make a properly finished garment, leading to a finished product in poor taste. I know this isn't how anyone wants their work to be viewed, and I would say anyone who reads this blog is obviously trying to put more thought and time into their sewing than what this "homemade" image would imply.

    "Handmade" always implied to me the idea of tailoring and couture sewing...precious and perfect hand stitching that when finished properly over a good deal of time has better fit and fashion than what can be had off the rack. Obviously, this is what most people would strive to achieve, but for many, it is an unreachable goal because they work too slap dash and don't learn proper techniques, dooming them to end up with garments that look like they where sewn together by a disinterested middle schooler in Home Economics class.

    The point is, if all you aim for is to make something (rather than aiming to make it WELL) you will yield an undesirable result every time.

  29. I know this is an old post, but I just found you when I signed up for your craftsy class! I just started sewing last year, after having a "meh" experience sewing in 4H when I was 11. I love it, and I know you'll think I'm crazy, but my favorite part is doing the alterations so the pattern fits my "telephone pole with boobage" body.
    Anyway, I wanted to comment on this post, because even though I do think it's a little disparaging, I also see the other side. I made some fleece ponchos for my little girls (twins!) and they wore them to their father's house. He asked when I got them. My daughter said, "Mommy made these!" He argued with them, saying there was no way I made them, and they must have misunderstood. I felt flattered that he thought my ponchos were "store-bought."


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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