Lady B: Who is hosting the ball today? Let me consult my diary. Hmm. Miss Neville. If she doesn’t arrive in five minutes I shall send a footman round to Lady Sarah MacLean for an emergency appearance. She is never late.
<squawk> No lobster patties for Miranda <squawk>
[Miranda rushes in, sticking pins into her hair]. I’m here, I’m here. So sorry Lady B. I’ve been busy with revisions.
Lady B: The other ladies manage to perform their hostess duties and finish their books. Look at Lady Sarah. She has four books to write but she’s always on time. I have a mind to give her all your dates. I suppose you’ve been wasting time reading indecent novels again.
Miranda: No, really, I haven’t. I’ve been working hard. [Lady B raises an eyebrow] All right, I admit it. I was catching up with Project Runway on television.
Lady B: Television? Project Runway? Pray, explain yourself.
Miranda: Err… [considers, and discards, the notion of explaining television to Lady B] Project Runway is a competition for fashion designers.
Lady B: Do you mean seamstresses?
Miranda: I suppose so, though many of them are men.
Lady B: Male seamstresses! How very novel. What form does this competition take?
Miranda: Each week, the seamstresses have to make a look – er create an ensemble – according to certain rules. For example, they might have to design a bathing costume, or a uniform for an airline stewardess.
Lady B: What’s that?
Miranda: [Muttters] This is harder than I thought. [to Lady B] A sort of female footman.
Lady B: Female servants could wear livery, but they wouldn’t be able to show their legs.
Miranda: You’d be surprised.
Lady B: And do these seamstresses have access to the best silk warehouses?
Miranda: When they are lucky they get to go to Mood, an excellent establishment. But sometimes they have to make the clothing out of very odd materials, such as they might find at a greengrocer or a stationer’s, or, most recently, a shop for pet supplies.
It’s all right Albert. They weren’t allowed to touch the animals.
Lady B: How are these gowns displayed?
Miranda: The designers fit them on models – very beautiful girls.
Lady B: You shock me, Miranda. Since many of these “designers” are men, it sounds most improper.
Miranda: It’s all right, Lady B. The majority of them are not interested in women that way, if you know what I mean.
Lady B: I do. My cousin’s sister-in-law’s niece married William Beckford, but we don’t talk about it.
Miranda: Besides, most of the models are much taller than the male designers, well over six feet tall.
Lady B: Good heavens! Giantesses. It must take a good deal of cloth to cover them.
Miranda: No, they are all very thin.
Lady B: Emaciated giantesses. Poor dears, we must invite them here and feed them some supper.
<squawk> Not the lobster patties <squawk>
Miranda: Once the designers have completed their looks, the models display them in front of the judges. The best gown is named the winner. The one deemed the worst dressed is sent home.
Lady B: Sounds like rather like Almack’s. Who are these judges?
Miranda: You’ve got something there, Lady B. The judge bear a distinct resemblance to the Patronesses. Fraulein Heidi Klum could be Princess Esterhazy. Señora Nina Garcia has much in common with Mrs. Drummond-Burrell, and Mr. Michael Kors is a dead wringer for Lady Jersey, if she were male and had a suntan.
Lady B: Almack’s! No wonder the poor dears are starving! There’s never anything worth eating there.
Miranda: [Aside] Almack’s refreshments, the Regency equivalent of Diet Coke and cigarettes.
Lady B: Do the seamstresses have any assistants? It’s quite difficult to make a gown in one day.
Miranda: They do it alone, but they have advice from Mr. Tim Gunn, who’s a bit like Mr. Brummell, only much nicer.
Lady B: Miranda! You’re blushing.
Miranda: I must confess, Lady B, I have quite the tendre for Mr. Gunn. Unfortunately he isn’t interested in ladies, either.
Lady B: It all sounds very interesting. I’d like to be a judge myself.
Miranda: They have a guest judge every week. Sometimes an established seamstress, sometimes an actress, and sometimes a socialite … er a member of the ton.
Lady B: Splendid. Arrange it for me Miranda. I wish to be a judge on Project Runway. And darling Albert shall help me. He has exquisite taste and always knows what goes best with my peacock gloves.
And so, ladies and gentlemen, I bring you Regency Project Runway. Candice Hern (check out her wonderful traditional Regencies, now reissued as ebooks), whose website is a fabulous resource for Regency history and artifacts, was kind enough to scan some particular outrageous examples from her collection of fashion plates. For non PR watchers, the judges on the show usually chose a top three and a bottom three. If you can pick a worthy winner from this lot, good luck. I invite you to nominate the three worst, and your candidate for being Aufed (For the uninitiated, a reference to Heidi Klum’s traditional Auf Wiedersehn to the loser). Scathing comments, another Project Runway tradition, are encouraged. (Also, I’m dying to hear who you think is going to win this year’s competition. Anya? Anthony? Oliver?)
Lady B, with the help of our commenters, will deliver the Auf on Wednesday.