Project Runway review: Holiday party dresses from, not under, the tree

PROJECT RUNWAY -- "Sleigh the Runway" Episode 1803 -- Pictured: (l-r) Kiernan Shipka, Elaine Welteroth, Nina Garcia, Brandon Maxwell, Karlie Kloss -- (Photo by: Barbara Nitke/Bravo))
PROJECT RUNWAY -- "Sleigh the Runway" Episode 1803 -- Pictured: (l-r) Kiernan Shipka, Elaine Welteroth, Nina Garcia, Brandon Maxwell, Karlie Kloss -- (Photo by: Barbara Nitke/Bravo)) /

A Project Runway favorite was a holiday present for fans, but a few designers did not want this unconventional challenge as their holiday gift.

Ready to unwrap another Project Runway review? With the holiday season in full force, the designers might have thought that they received a lump of coal from Christian Siriano this week. That fan favorite was back: The unconventional challenge.

Every season of Project Runway has an unconventional challenge. Whether it is foraging through a camp or digging through trash, it is always interesting to see how these designers take non-traditional materials and turn them into visually stunning looks (well, most of the time).

As this episode opens, the designers are greeted with a winter wonderland in their apartment. While the set-up is a little cheesy, the designers should have guessed the challenge.

The biggest takeaway from the premise was the abundance of “real” materials that the designers could have grabbed. From tree skirts to ribbon, these items were not really unconventional.

Looking back at previous seasons, those challenges were much more difficult. Sure, paper and wreaths might not have been great options, but ribbons could be transformed into some type of party dress. It isn’t simple, but it is doable.

In a way, it seemed that many of these designers fought the “idea” of this challenge. Some seemed to be indignant and others just seemed overwhelmed. Where this holiday inspired, party dress could have been a fabulous way to celebrate unconventional materials, there wasn’t as much holiday cheer as it might have seemed.

Project Runway
PROJECT RUNWAY — “Sleigh the Runway” Episode 1803 — Pictured: Christian Siriano — (Photo by: Barbara Nitke/Bravo)) /

It was clear that the designers that seemed to have a direction, even a wonky direction, were able to be safe. Instead of fighting the materials, the designers who embraced them excelled. Additionally, the designers who were smart with time management made it another week.

While the workroom might have looked like Pier One threw up over everything or Santa’s workshop after Christmas Eve, the runway was more successful than a disaster. Since the Project Runway season is still early, the majority of looks were safe.

It would have been nice to see some of the safe designs. For example, how Nancy made a cape with her materials. She made two pieces and that aspect should have been discussed.

The top three designers were Sergio, Victoria and Shavi. These looks were festive, forward thinking and really pushed themselves.

Sergio’s look was definitely, and literally, jingle all the way. The look was impeccable and no one would have realized it was a paper dress on first glance.

The dress was elegant and refined. He proved that unconventional materials can be a vision on the runway.

The same description can be said of Shavi. The best thing that happened to him was that he had to use the floral petals for his top. Sometimes a mistake can be a blessing.

The cinched waist and the volume were well proportioned. It fit well and it really made a presence on the runway. In many ways, anyone would happily wear that holiday cocktail dress.

Victoria’s dress was clearly an unconventional material look. The added berry accessories and mixed patterns were a lot of look. Still, it got the judges’ attention.

In the end, Sergio earned the win. Based on his manipulation of the paper and the technique application in his look, he earned the top spot.

Unfortunately, the bottom designers were quite obvious. The bottom three designers were Brittany, Alan and Tyler. While there was only one designer who was sent home, there could have been more.

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PROJECT RUNWAY — “Sleigh the Runway” Episode 1803 — Pictured: Brittany Allen — (Photo by: Barbara Nitke/Bravo)) /

After winning the first episode, Brittany really fell flat in this challenge. While she didn’t appreciate working with the paper, her vision never came to fruition.

Yes, she had an idea but she wasn’t able to execute. Whether or not she got hit in the nose during the materials scramble, she needed to find a way to push through the design. She got flustered from the beginning and never recovered.

Still, the judges could see the idea behind her look. More importantly, she has proven that she can produce a good outfit. That fact probably saved her.

Alan was just too much, but that is Alan. Everything from the accessory wall doesn’t need to be in one look. It definitely a lot.

Overall, he said that he was just praying at the end and in a way he needed all those prayers. His look showed a lot of skin.

As the judges said, it was snowy Burning Man not holiday cocktail party. Yes, those furry boots needed to stay on the accessory wall.

Lastly, Tyler had probably the least finished look of all three. While he didn’t want to show a candy cane dress, the super, super short dress was too revealing. To say that it was a holiday don’t is an understatement.

Project Runway
PROJECT RUNWAY — “Sleigh the Runway” Episode 1803 — Pictured: Alan Gonzalez — (Photo by: Barbara Nitke/Bravo)) /

The smartest choice that Tyler made was owning his mistakes. He was clear that this dress was a hot mess. While the judges couldn’t overlook the walking disaster, the honesty was appreciated.

In the end, it came down to Tyler or Alan being sent home. Since his taste level was questionable, the look was too over-accessorized and his comments on the runway, the judges sent him home. It was not the holiday present that he wanted under the tree.

Overall, this Project Runway unconventional materials challenge was a little underwhelming. It would have been nice to see something different. Maybe one time all the designers will have to use the exact same material.

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What did you think of this week’s Project Runway unconventional materials challenge? Would you wear any of these looks to your holiday party?