Medieval – No Wait, Baroque – Fashion on Project Runway


Or, what normies think about historical costume.

We wouldn’t normally cover a modern fashion show like Project Runway (even if Kendra and Trystan watch it religiously), because it’s modern, right? But the spring 2016 All Stars version had a challenge that was all about medieval baroque fashion, and there’s a lot that’s entertaining about that.

For anyone who doesn’t watch Project Runway, it’s a reality show about fashion design. Each week, the designers are challenged to come up with an ensemble — sometimes the theme is as vague as “show us who you are as a designer” or as specific as “make a modern fashion design inspired by a fairy tale character but only drawing on literary references” or “make something ‘athleisure’ for Alyssa Milano’s line of women’s sports team apparel.” They’re always very much making modern fashion. They’re given a budget, a limited time to shop for fabric and supplies, and a limited time in which to make the ensemble. Then, there’s a fashion show judged by a panel. The All Stars edition features contestants from previous regular seasons.

Now, on to the episode entitled “Going for Baroque”:

First of all, in today’s corporate tie-in, the designers hear about their next challenge at MEDIEVAL TIMES. In NEW JERSEY. LOL. That is just inherently funny. Alyssa Milano, the host of All Stars, rides out on a white horse, wearing a hideous blue lace muumuu, and surrounded by Medieval Times performers who are clearly committed to thorough historical accuracy. (We know, they just wear whatever JoAnn’s Casa Collection costume is shoved at them, but we can still mock).

2016 Project Runway All Stars

I mean, what’s with the hair on girl-in-yellow in the center? And the glasses? — Kendra

2016 Project Runway All Stars

Those are the designers, front right. I feel like this is what the Field of Cloth and Gold looked like. — Kendra

Alyssa explains that the show is there because “as we know, the medieval era was important to the history of fashion and led directly to the baroque era” (we’re paraphrasing, but she essentially said this). YES. THERE WAS NO RENAISSANCE IN BETWEEN. Thank you for our history lesson, Project Runway.

Anyway, so the designers are challenged to make couture gowns that are modern but draw on baroque design. Designer Sam explains that baroque means lots of lace, lots of detail, lots of everything. They’re given $300 and two days to do this. Oh, and the winner of the challenge would get to co-design something for fashion design house Marchesa (one of the house’s designers is a judge on the show).

So, various designing-while-watching-the-Medieval-Times-show, drama, and sewing ensues, and finally, here’s what the designers come up with:

2016 Project Runway All Stars


I have a feeling I’m going to be asking “how is this medieval baroque?” a lot… — Sarah
Um, they had pearls in the medieval baroque period? — Trystan
I like that the fabric has texture. Would have worked much better with HUGE skirt. — Kendra

2016 Project Runway All Stars


I’m guessing the designer was going for Japan, because that’s really not medieval baroque in the least. — Sarah
Capes! Capes are inherently historical!  — Trystan
It seems more Game of Thrones-y to me. (FYI, this was the winning look.) — Kendra

2016 Project Runway All Stars


No clue. — Trystan
The judges hated this, but I actually kind of liked it. Apparently the fabric sucked in person. But I think the gold lace on black print certainly seems oldey-timey in a non-butterchurn-y way. And the puffed sleeves and full skirts also seem more baroque than the narrow silhouettes above. — Kendra

2016 Project Runway All Stars


No. Just… No. — Sarah
Whoever said high-low hemlines are medieval baroque needs a smack to the head. — Trystan
They did glued-on macaroni art in the medieval baroque era? — Kendra

2016 Project Runway All Stars


I think there’s been some kind of mistake. — Sarah
I don’t think they’d even use this on Reign. — Trystan
The judges loved this one too, and I SO don’t get it. This just screams Ibiza to me. — Kendra

2016 Project Runway All Stars


Ok, I think I can detect a flavor of something ever so vaguely Elizabethan here. — Sarah
Since when is sternum a medieval baroque erogenous zone? — Trystan
So at least Valerie went for a faux-corset look with the applied black ribbon? — Kendra

Project Runway All Stars: Going for Baroque


Ugh. — Sarah
Tragic David’s Bridal mishap. — Trystan
I don’t love it, but it does seem more medieval baroque-y than a lot of these. Maybe with a skirt that went better with the top and peplum? — Kendra

Project Runway All Stars: Going for Baroque


I would love this if it had nothing whatsoever to do with the theme it’s allegedly based on. — Sarah
I take back what I said about capes. — Trystan

Project Runway All Stars: Going for Baroque


I shit you not, I made a dress almost exactly like this for my senior project in design school. It didn’t go over well. — Sarah
This even fails as a riff on 1920s fashion. — Trystan
The skirt has potential. The appliques on the bodice have potential. They just need to be combined in a totally different way. — Kendra

Project Runway All Stars: Going for Baroque


Ok, maybe I’m delusional, but I can actually sort of see where Kini was going with this: the 16th-century ruff as inspiration for the skirt treatment. — Sarah
I can see that too (that’s TOTALLY Kini’s thing), but why did he stick the ruff into a cheongsam? — Trystan
First of all, someone did an umbrella skirt the week before. Secondly, why is the umbrella top leaning to her left/our right? Thirdly, the appliques were a good idea but need to be placed in a totally different, less clunky manner. Fourthly, I guess red satin and gold lace is baroque-ish? — Kendra

According to the Project Runway judges, Ken was the winner, while Valerie and Sam were runners-up; the loser was Mitchell, with Layana and Alexander sharing the same of being on the bottom.

27 Responses

  1. MoHub

    I am so thrilled you decided to tackle this. I will say that designers were tasked with creating modern looks with Baroque influence rather than actual Baroque designs—not that they succeeded on that front either.

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to post the link for this on the privately managed Rate the Runway Disqus site, where we simply can’t get—or give—enough snark.

  2. Susan Pola

    None. They’re disastrous. I would not dress my mastiff or lap dog in them. They are hideous and are not even period in any sense of the word. Not even in the Reign universe.

  3. Adina

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!! Project Runway is a guilty pleasure for me (it’s trash, but it’s entertaining trash), but this episode just bugged me so much. I spent the whole time going “Nope, do any of you even know what baroque is?”

  4. val

    I am a Project Runway fan. But this episode confused me. I don’t think ANY of the designers understood Baroque (or medieval or Renaissance or any proper historic era). Hell, they even missed the point with the fairy tale episode.

  5. eadon216

    Putting aside the fact that these dresses are supposed to be baroque (medieval?) inspired, they’re still all sooooooo ugly!!

  6. Cheryl

    Thank you for this article!!! I got really excited about the baroque theme (tho the medieval stuff was a weird lead-in) but everytime i heard a designer describing baroque i was dying to know what you ladies were thinking haha. Oh project runway.

    As an aside… Im curious… Do you ladies have any examplea of modern-fashion inspired by old timey that you do think works? Just curious!

    • Trystan L. Bass

      Personally, I love modern gothic fashion inspired by historical eras (& I’ll have a class at Costume College all about that). And there are modern designers that pull from historical eras in beautiful, fascinating, creative ways, like Vivienne Westwood & Alexander McQueen did. Those two examples are the pinnacle IMO because they used obvious historical elements — corsetry, panniers, ruffs, bustles, etc. — and combined that with radically modern elements, whether in the fabrics (leather, zippers) or style (super short, tight, punk, bondage). You could see the historical fashion but you could see a change / twist on it too. They made it their own.

  7. Becca

    I stopped watching PR a while back so thanks for recapping this for our delectation/wincing. They should have taken them to the Frick Collection instead of Medieval Times!

    • MoHub

      But the Frick Collection wasn’t going to buy sponsorship credit, and Medieval Times has been injecting money into a bunch of reality competitions, and those programs “foller the dollar.”

    • lisaolga

      Seriously This… all that angular and geometric stuff. Not. Baroque. Anyone who has cursory knowledge of art history knows that Baroque is all about the S Curve.

  8. Adam Lid

    I didn’t see anything that really said “Baroque” to me but there were some nice designs. I miss Alexander McQueen.

  9. Cheryl

    I keep hoping one season they’ll have costume project runway, or historical clothing project runway… wouldn’t that be fun!?! :) You ladies could be the judges!

    • Kendra

      I would so watch that!! Whatever happened to Mad Men designer Janie Bryant’s fashion reality show that was going to have some vintage elements to it?