Jessica Simpson took her seat as guest judge at Thursday's "Project Runway" show at New York Fashion Week in a super-short, sparkly silver minidress, but she had nothing on the models, who wore an extraordinary number of hot pants.
Ten aspiring designers showed their collections to Simpson, Heidi Klum, Michael Kors and Nina Garcia, although several knew they already didn't make the cut and won't be the Season 8 winner. But because the Lifetime show takes advantage of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week backdrop for its finale, extra designers needed to participate to keep secret the winners and losers of episodes that haven't yet aired.
"Project Runway" was one of the big events on the day's roster at Lincoln Center, the new home for the seasonal fashion previews. Christian Siriano, an alum of the show, was to show his spring styles later in the day.
Opening the show, Klum, wearing a bright red menswear-style pantsuit and blouse, said she was particularly fond of this group. "I have never gotten so emotional or attached to the designers."
She promised the audience, which included singer Jordin Sparks and designer Betsey Johnson, that they'd see color and fantasy on the catwalk. The crowd also saw an uneven mix of runway-ready, masterful looks and gimmicky ones — especially those micro mini shorts that don't typically garner the best reviews when top-tier designers bring them back.
Sparks, now starring in Broadway's "In the Heights," said before the show that she couldn't imagine what was running through the designers' heads even though she was essentially in the same position on "American Idol." The difference, she said, was that she felt in control of her destiny because she was being judged on her voice.
In fashion, there were other players, including models, makeup artists and hairdressers, all contributing to the final product.
"I wish them all luck," Sparks said.
Johnson, a guest judge this season, said she saw "sparks of talent" among the designers but none of them quite captured her own signature flirty-girl look when they went off on a challenge to incorporate party supplies into wearable clothes. "It was not up my alley, but there definitely was talent."