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Make it work!
Tim Gunn

Project Runway is a fashion design Reality Show hosted by Heidi Klum, originally on Bravo but now airing on Lifetime "in search of the next great fashion designer." Twelve to sixteen or so designers compete in weekly design challenges, and in each episode, one designer is knocked off until reaching the final three (or four, in one season). These last three then get $8000 and twelve weeks to go home and make a twelve-piece collection, which they then show at Bryant Park during New York Fashion Week. After this, the winner is selected and receives prizes that vary from season to season, but always include $100,000 to help kickstart their own line.

The challenges are very diverse, testing different aspects of a designer's aesthetic and abilities. There is usually one challenge featuring unusual materials — such as plants, edibles, apartment furnishings, and recycled goods — per season. Occasionally, the designers must create an outfit for a celebrity (or quasi-celebrity), including Miss USA Tara O'Connor, actress Brooke Shields, entertainment reporter Nancy O'Dell, and figure skater Sasha Cohen. Most of the other challenges fall into one of three categories: provide new pieces for an already existing line (like Sarah Jessica Parker's "Bitten" or Diane von Furstenberg), work around a given theme (such as bridal, cocktail, or prom), or "Inspiration" basically either sending the designers out with cameras or assigning them a style icon, and having that be the inspiration for their designs.

Each challenge lasts 1-2 days; the first two-thirds of the show show the behind-the-scenes work the actual construction, the catfights and visits by Tim Gunn, who is unbelievably badass awesome for an old gay guy in a suit. The latter third of the show is devoted to the runway show. Host Heidi Klum, designer Michael Kors, and fashion magazine editor Nina Garcia make up the panel of regular judges, and there is typically a guest judge each week, generally a celebrity, designer, or fashion insider. The judges deem six (until there are six or fewer contestants left) designers "their favorites and least favorites" and question them more closely about their design. In the end, there is one winner and one designer gets sent home, with an "Auf Wiedersehen" and cheek-kiss from Heidi.

The show has had nine seasons and an All Stars season made of eliminated designers from other seasons. Previous winners are Jay McCarroll, Chloe Dao, Jeffrey Sebelia, Christian Siriano, Leanne Marshall, Irina Shabayeva, Seth Aaron Henderson, Gretchen Jones, Anya Ayoung-Chee, and Mondo Guerra in All Stars.

Project Runway has received a lot of critical acclaim and, as far as reality television goes, doesn't make the viewers feel like their IQs are dropping as they watch. Additionally, it has brought Tim Gunn into the public eye, who is probably the coolest guy on television at the moment.

Tropes used in Project Runway include:
  • Accentuate the Negative: Michael Kors tends toward hilarious descriptions such as "she looks like a pole dancer in Dubai" or "this looks like a Handi-Wipe gone wrong". Nina Garcia is prone to similar descriptions, but without the humor.
    • The judges generally fall into this mode when judging the last challenge to amplify the drama going into the finals.
  • Alcohol Is Poison: The often-pregnant Heidi Klum goes out of her way to make it clear that she is not partaking in the champagne the contestants usually enjoy during the parties.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: happens sometimes. Most clearly in Season 8 with Michael C.
  • Anime Hair: Christian from Season 4.
  • Asexual: Though he defines his sexuality as "homoromantic", Tim Gunn hasn't been in a relationship since the early 1980s and says he has no interest in being in another one.
  • Author Appeal: April Johnston more often than not sent her models down the runway in architectural black clothes with messy buns and dark makeup...similar to how she dressed and styled herself,possibly bordering Author Avatar, remarked upon once or twice by the judges.
    • Althea Harper from Season 6 also styled her models' hair in a bun and with a headband- just like her own!
    • And Joshua M from Season 9 had this memorable exchange with Tim Gunn:

 Tim Gunn: [The zipper on these men's pants]... it really draws your eye to the crotch.

Josh M: Right. [smiles]

    • Josh M. might be the first male designer to blatantly tell the hair and makeup stylists to make his model look like him.
    • Tim Gunn also offered this as the reason why both Michael Kors and Nina Garcia broke for Gretchen to win Season 8.

  “Oh, boy. I’m going to get in trouble for this. Michael [Kors] was campaigning for Gretchen. He said, ‘We need a sportswear designer to win one of these seasons.’ “I thought, ‘Well, Mr. Kors, you just want to validate yourself. But do you want to validate yourself with Gretchen?’ I wouldn't. Nina [Garcia] was very much in favor of Mondo, and then Michael nudges her and he says, ‘You know, Gretchen listened to every word of advice that you gave her. Mondo didn't listen to you at all.’ So suddenly, Nina is, like ‘That’s right! He didn’t! I’m going with Gretchen.’ So that’s how it all happened.”

    • In Kenley's final collection in Season 5, most (if not all) of the models wore feather hair accessories, like the ones she wore throughout the season.
  • Berserk Button: Don't touch Vincent's (Season 3) laundry! The deadpan expression of the guy he was yelling at is a classic.
  • Big Applesauce: Where the show takes place.
  • Big No: Michael Kors have a particularly memorable one, which while not too loud on the volume front, definitely had the emphasis of one.
  • Bilingual Bonus: During Season 3's challenge where the designers had to design an outfit for the selected designer's mom, Heidi and Uli's mother conversed in German, Heidi asking her if she liked the dress.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Season 9's Olivier, of all people. In both challenges that required the designers to use everyday people instead of models, Olivier spent the majority of the episodes complaining about how they were too big and were interfering with his vision. He was surprisingly vocal about it, and even worse in the individual interviews. He clearly does not think highly of too many people.
  • Bow Ties Are Cool: The male designers are frequently seen wearing them.
  • Buxom Is Better: Inverted. When the designers have to design clothes for regular women instead of models several of them freak out over having to design around BOOBS, Olivier in particular.
  • Camp Gay: It's a show about fashion designers. It's honestly easier to count the straight people, especially the straight men.
  • Catch Phrase: Tim Gunn has a number of them. Though out of them, "Make it work!" is most well-known. Christian Siriano also had a habit of describing things he liked as "fierce" and things he disliked as a "hot tranny mess" (which would get him into a spot of trouble with some LGBT groups)
    • Heidi, before the runway shows: "As you know: in fashion, one week you're in, the next week you're out".
    • Season 5's Blayne tried his damnedest to make his ever present "-licious" suffix into one of these.
    • Season 9's Viktor: "Oh my Lord of the Rings."
  • Channel Hop: From Bravo to Lifetime.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: Kara Saun, arguably the first season's favorite, called in a couple of favors from a friend in preparation for the finale. Guess what happened?
    • Season 3 saw Keith eliminated for having illegal pattern books and Jeffrey facing accusations of cheating while creating his final collection. However, Jeffrey's didn't stick, as his misstep was going over his given budget (and it wasn't a large amount).
  • Clock Punk: Was attempted in Season 9 by Team Nuts and Bolts. It was not well received
  • Cloudcuckoolander: The show portrayed Elisa (season 4) as one of these. One of her quirks was that she'd spit on her fabric before sewing. Ping from season 7 also qualifies.
    • The judges in season 8, according to Tim Gunn in his video blog; he called them 'crack-smoking judges'.
    • Guadalupe from season 2 combined this with Jerkass.
    • Austin Scarlett from Season 1, to the point that he makes Santino of all people look like the Only Sane Man in their show together.
    • Casanova of Season 8 alternated between this and Only Sane Man.
  • Completely Missing the Point: Happens now and again, though one extreme moment occurred in season 8, when Gretchen was receiving some negative feedback from the judges. When she was declared safe, Heidi warned her that constructive criticism was not her enemy. But when she went to the back room to tell the others what happened on the runway, she said that Heidi 'Hated everything she did' and that her words weren't constructive criticism but full on trashing.
    • Anyone who makes a beeline for the most fabric-like textiles during unconventional materials challenges. In later seasons, Heidi and Tim have specifically warned the designers against doing this, though some competitors still ignore their advice.
  • Confession Cam
  • Cool Versus Awesome: Austin Scarlett and Mondo Guerra being among the competitors in All-Stars. They regularly place in the top three.
  • Costume Porn: Well, duh.
    • Many a straight man has commented on the outstanding quality of Tim Gunn's suits, too.
    • Mondo Guerra once managed to upstage his own model with the particularly creative outfit he himself was wearing.
  • Crack Defeat: Mondo Guerra's loss to Gretchen in Season 8 is widely regarded as this. Tim Gunn of all people practically invoked the trope by name, having referred to Nina Garcia and Michael Kors as "crack-smoking" based on their support for Gretchen.
  • Curtain Clothing: Part of an unusual materials challenge
  • Deadpan Snarker: Season 8's April was rather snarky.
  • Death Glare: Kors and Garcia occasionally do this when a particularly atrocious outfit comes down the runway.
  • Dirty Old Man: Season 3's Vincent and his constant assertion that his designs "turned him on."
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Bradley (season 3).
  • Drag Queen: Chris March, season 4, as well as a design-for-drag-queens challenge
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: A lot of them have this going on at some point, but the stand out example is Austin Scarlett from Season 1. According to his fellow designers, the most butch they had ever seen him was when he modeled a mail carrier uniform for women.
  • The Eeyore: Olivier Green, as highlighted by an exchange with his student partner during the avant-garde challenge.

 Student: What kind of music do you listen to?

Olivier: Depressing.

  • Elimination Catchphrase: "You're out. Auf Wiedersehen."
  • Establishing Character Moment: While everyone stood gaping at Daniel Franco, when he returned in the first episode of Season 2, Chloe immediately stepped forward and gave him a big hug. She remained a class-act during the entire Season, and then into Season 3, when she spoke up to give Mychael Knight the benefit of the doubt.
    • Season One's Wendy Pepper received two of these. Upon meeting her competitors, she portrayed herself as the Team Mom, spouting off warm, fuzzy platitudes about self-care and togetherness. In one of her first Confession Cam appearances, she admitted her intent to use her team mom status to manipulate her peers because This Is a Competition and she wasn't there to make friends.
    • Season 9's Laura Kathleen Planck, upon hearing Bert and Olivier conversing in Italian: "Are you guys speaking foreign?" This would later set up her portrayal as a bit of a Rich Bitch, although as with the Jeffrey and Santino examples below, it's been suggested she or the editing deliberately played up this angle for television.
  • Fan Nickname: The elimination catchphrase itself has a fan nickname, as fans have come to use the term "auf'd" when referring to elimination in general, be it who was eliminated or might be eliminated.
    • As for contestants, Ivy from season 8 has rapidly become known to fans as both Poison Ivy and Hivy, whereas Gretchen is now commonly called Wretchen.
    • Sourpuss judge Nina Garcia told a story about a fan who saw her in the street and called her "Mean-a Gar-zilla".
    • Recappers Tom & Lorenzo nicknamed the overly-delicate Olivier "Precious Moments."
  • Fashion Show
  • Follow the Leader: In her final collection, Season 5's Kenley produced pieces that were very reminiscent of earlier designs from McQueen and Balenciaga.
  • Fridge Logic: Seth Aaron stated that his winning collection for Season 7 was inspired by 1930s German and Soviet aesthetics. After a lot of people went "Uhhhh... wait, doesn't that kind of include the Nazis?", he had to hurriedly explain that wasn't what he meant.
  • Genki Boy: Andrae from Season 2, who would generally go through a door twirling and dancing.
  • Genre Savvy: Joshua M has ridden the "be a drama-causing Jerkass for ratings" reality TV formula all the way to the top four. Lampshaded by Bert of all people, who responded to a Josh hissy fit with "Go back to central casting!"
  • Gentle Giant: Chris March from Season 4.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Bert talks about getting "a job" at Studio 54.

 Laura: Is that where you got your Halston job?

Bert: No, I got it in a balcony, third row.

  • Giftedly Bad: There are occasional accusations of this coming from both fans and designers. It's usually a point of friction and drama in the workroom.
  • Gollum Made Me Do It: Season 2's Zulema had an alter ego in Shatangi.
  • Granola Girl: Leanne from season 5 and Gretchen from season 8
    • Santino described Kara Janx this way.
  • Gratuitous German: Uli in Season 3, and, of course Heidi Klum herself.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Season 8, where Nina translates a question to Casanova in perfect spanish pronunciation.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: Acknowledged in-show with the mantra "It's Project Runway, not Project Seamstress!" - you can work your fingers to the bone tailoring a garment, but that doesn't automatically make it fashion.
    • Viktor Luna of Season 9 has been hit hard with this trope. Several episodes in a row, the judges have praised his workhorse ability to create multiple well-tailored garments in the same amount of time it takes his competitors to cobble together one dress... right before they hand the win to somebody else.
    • Becky Ross of Season 9, attempting to defend an auf-worthy outfit, told the judges she had made and re-made the skirt three times in an attempt to work with the ugly prints her team was stuck with. Michael Kors informed her that if the skirt was so simple she could remake it three times, there was no design in it.
  • Harem Nanny: Tim Gunn. Ok, so it's not exactly a Harem, and at that, it's a mixed one, but still, he definitely has the personality of one...
  • Heel Realization: Mondo Guerra straightforwardly admitting "I was kind of a dick" about Michael Costello, after which they genuinely became friends for the rest of the season. This was in particular contrast to the rest of the designers continuing to gang up on Michael.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Stella, season 5, couldn't live without her "leatha"
  • Heroic Fatigue: Laura Bennett was well into the big stages of her pregnancy towards the end of Season 3, so she was allowed to take breaks during work hours.
  • Hide Your Lesbians: Zulema Griffin
    • That case is particularly noteworthy because otherwise the show massively averts Hide Your Gays; it's extremely common for male designers to call, Skype or sometimes introduce in person their boyfriends/husbands.
  • Hidden Depths: Often revealed when Tim Gunn makes his traditional home visit to the final three/four designers.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Michael Kors catch-all phrase for any particularly raunchy outfit.
    • Sometimes couched in a film reference, as in "She looks like Shirley MacLaine in Irma La Douce".
  • Hopeless Auditionees: Though it's not relied upon as extensively as in most talent shows.
  • Hot Mom: Heidi. She's rarely not pregnant, and she looks good even in maternity clothes.
    • Laura from Season 3 also qualifies.
  • Hurricane of Excuses: Gretchen Jones' infamous meltdown trying to defend Team Luxe on the runway, first declaring the team was proudly united even if the judges didn't like their work, and then when the judges didn't like their work she promptly started fumbling for reasons to blame everything on teammate Michael Costello.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: To the degree he can be considered a villain, Season 9's Viktor Luna. Basically, while he's portrayed as one of the most vociferous This Is a Competition blusterers and comes across as a bit of an Arrogant Tailoring Guy, in practice Viktor seems mostly to channel his competitiveness into perfecting his garments. His perfectionism and intense work ethic almost never guarantee him the win, and he's suffered a few crack defeats to boot. This has garnered him some sympathy even from viewers who aren't in love with his personality. It also helps that fellow competitor Joshua M is a HUGE Jerkass to everyone in sight, and while Viktor isn't here to make friends, he mostly confines the worst of his trash talk to the "privacy" of the Confession Cam, and unlike Josh doesn't go out of his way to actively antagonize the other designers.
    • The introduction of Viktor's Adorkable long-term boyfriend during Tim Gunn's home visit softened him to Jerk with a Heart of Gold status for many viewers (if you considered him a jerk in the first place).
  • Indy Ploy: Invoked by Tim Gunn to the contestants. Hence, make it work.
  • In-Series Nickname: Dirty Diana from Season 2.
    • "Morganza", model Morgan Quinn from Season 1.
  • Insufferable Genius: Jeffery (Season 3). Season 8 has Gretchen, who likes to walk around the workroom giving unsolicited advice to the other designers. Kenley has shown shades of this in the All-Stars season.
  • Intergenerational Friendship:
    • 57-year-old Bert appeared to get along best with the youngest designer of Season 9's group, 22-year-old Olivier.
    • Mila Hermanovski and Maya Luz in Season 7.
  • Jerkass: Seemingly a prerequisite for reality shows. Includes Santino (Season 2), Jeffrey (Season 3), Kenley (Season 5), Irina (Season 6), Ivy (Season 8). And Gretchen (Season 8), who managed to anger/offend Tim Gunn.
    • Season 3 was full of these, with Jeffrey, Laura, Angela, and Vince all filling that role at one time or another. Not to mention Keith, who also angered Tim by getting kicked off of the show for cheating.
      • Jeffrey is the King of Jerkass in Season 3 with making a fellow designer's mother CRY.
    • Santino seemed like he might be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, or at least a jerk with a sense of humor.
      • Santino and Jeffrey (who in real life auditioned for the show on his friend Santino's recommendation), have stated that they emphasized the Jerkass behavior intentionally, believing that it would be good for the show's ratings and therefore giving them better chances of survival.
      • Pretty much confirmed a Jerk with a Heart of Gold with Santino's show on Lifetime with Season One's Austin Scarlet, where the two travel around the country making dresses for "real-life" women. If anything, Santino often comes across as the Only Sane Man to Austin's Cloudcuckoolander.
    • The judges have also been getting in on this in the recent seasons. For example, Season 9's "real women" challenge, in which Michael and Heidi mocked the real women modeling their outfits if they spoke up and said they liked them.
    • Wendy Pepper in season 1 is very much the defining example of this, repeatedly achieving Elimination Houdini through manipulating other contestants into vulnerable positions while reaching the finals with a limited skill set.
    • When Season 7 model Cerri criticized Jay Nicolas Sario's work at the reunion special, he replied by calling her fat and saying she had bad teeth. This was such a Jerkass moment that Emilio Sosa, who had been a bit of a jerkass himself up until that point, immediately snapped "You need to apologize to her."
    • Season 8 had Gretchen, who spent an entire episode bullying her teammates and then contradicting herself. Plus trying to pin the blame on Michael C.
    • There was also Ivy, who stirred up drama (again against Michael C) and accused him of cheating.
    • Season 9's Bert Took a Level In Jerkass in the Team challenges.
    • Also from Season 9, Joshua M. Having the two of them on the same team was a recipe for disaster. Ironically, by the time Bert got eliminated they'd actually become friends, and even seemed to have a level of Ho Yay going (which, considering that both of them are actually gay...) To say nothing of the way Joshua repeatedly badmouthed Anya because she beat him in an earlier challenge, treated Becky like a seamstress earlier in the season when in a team with her, and accused Viktor of "getting aggressive" when Viktor committed the crime of politely and reasonably disagreeing with him.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • In Season 7, Emilio Sosa took a pretty strong This Is a Competition/I'm Not Here to Make Friends approach, and earned a bit of a Jerkass reputation as a result. Even so, he was the first and only to directly call out Jay Nicolas Sario for insulting model Cerri's appearance.
    • In Season 8, when Ivy was trying to drum up cheating accusations against Michael C, Gretchen said it was pointless drama.
    • In season 9, Bert being among the people calling out Joshua M for his Wounded Gazelle Gambit of calling Viktor "aggressive" was definitely one of these moments, and probably helped rescue him from the Scrappy Heap with some fans.
    • Season 1's Wendy Pepper taking Kara Saun to task for pretending her custom-designed footwear had the same monetary worth ($15 a pair) as the sample-sale shoes she and Jay were using.
  • Keet: Anthony Ryan of Season 9, especially evident in this video.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Gretchen in the team challenge of Season 8, blaming the loss on Michael C. (Here's a summary.)
    • Josh M browbeating Becky until she was reduced to tears. From a later episode, there was also him referring to having lost to "a beauty Queen" when talking about Anya in a derisive tone.
    • Jay Nicholas Sario's smirking attack on model Cerri's "big legs and bad teeth," which was followed by a moment of dead silence from a room full of designers and models (it was the reunion show).
  • Last-Name Basis: (Rodney) Epperson and (Carlos) Casanova
  • Manipulative Editing: Of course!
  • Mad Libs Catchphrase: Michael Kors is fond of describing bad outfits with some variation of "She looks like a [mother of the bride/stripper/nun/waitress/AlwaysFemale occupation] on her way to a [funeral/disco/wedding/other event] in [geographic location]."
  • Momma's Boy: Michael Knight of Season 3 made it a point to call his loving mother every day.
  • Mondegreen: A fashion spread in Mary Clair magazine
  • Men Don't Cry: Enthusiastically averted by Season 4's Ricky Lizalde, who cried in just about every episode except, ironically, the one when he his eliminated and Season 8's Michael Costello.
  • Mentors: Tim Gunn
  • Mistaken Nationality: More than one recapper assumed Viktor Luna was from somewhere in Eastern Europe (perhaps due to the spelling of his first name?). He was born in Mexico.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Logan from season 6. The other designers, male and female alike, often commented on how gorgeous they thought he was, and he did make it surprisingly far in the season considering his designs were frequently in the bottom three.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Gretchen of all people, during the Reunion Show, looked back at her behavior during the course of the season, and was flabbergasted at the way she treated everyone. Although we don't know if she was just playing it up to gain a sympathy card.
  • My Greatest Second Chance: Project Runway: All-Stars. Most of the contestants that season subverted this, though. Except the final three.
  • Never Work with Children or Animals: On the contrary, there have been a few challenges involving children over the course of the show's run, and they often humanize the designers. No matter how much tension exists in the workroom, or how sassy/bitchy a given designer is, they tend to be on their best behavior with kids. A great example was Viktor Luna during Season 9's avant-garde challenge, in which the designers were paired with student artists; in the Confession Cam at the beginning of the episode he expressed reluctance about working with kids, but then proceeded to be good-humored, respectful and patient while his endearingly bossy 12-year-old partner gave him an earful on what he needed to do differently with his design.
  • Nice Guy: Tim Gunn of course. Also, Rami Kashou from Season 4.
    • Also Seth Aaron Henderson from Season 7, who may have looked badass and rebellious at first, but turned out to be extremely nice and likable — not to mention very family-oriented.
    • Anthony Ryan Auld of Season 9 was a fan favorite for this reason, since he even got along with Joshua M and gave Anya $11 that he had leftover when she lost her money envelope in Mood. This continued up to and including his elimination where he remained gracious and positive.
  • Nice Hat: Frequently. The designers also tend to bring their own impressive headgear from home.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Anthony Ryan reportedly put back some of his own fabric at Mood in order to spare Anya $11 when she lost her money. She won the challenge and had her garment sold online; he was eliminated.
  • Non Gameplay Elimination: Keith from season 3, Jack from season 4, Maya from season 7, and Cecilia from season 9, not to mention many of the models.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Anya Ayoung-Chee's repeated emphasizing that she "only learned to sew four months ago" fooled many people into underestimating her design skills. Especially since she had already launched two clothing lines before applying for Project Runway, and almost never mentioned that she does have design degrees from a top school in Trinidad as well as from Parson's (although not in the field of actual garment construction, which means her claims of sewing inexperience are technically true). Even more so now that she won the season, and she admitted that even she was surprised that she made it all the way to the end
  • Oh Crap: The universal reaction among the designers whenever the dreaded Button Bag makes an appearance.
  • One Judge to Rule Them All: Ostensibly averted, but Nina Garcia is widely regarded as the key to the judging panel. It's definitely not Heidi, as evinced by her passionate but ultimately futile advocacy for Mondo Guerra to win Season 8.
  • One-Liner: "I didn't take the bitch's dye!" (Jay in Season 1).
    • "Where the hell is my chiffon?!" Season 2. Though nobody was sure who said it, the bets were on Andrae.
    • "Where's Andrae?": How Santino would start out in order to get in-character for his Tim Gunn impressions.
    • Shatangi to her crying partner Kara on Season 2: "I don't care if you got to cry and cut, but you got to cry and CUT!"
  • Only Sane Man/Only Sane Woman: Tim Gunn. Come on. In a show where the designers are steeped in drama and the judges eating more and more slices of Jerkass Cake, Tim Gunn is our rock.
    • Casanova was turning into one for Season 8. Until he got the boot, of course.
    • Mychael Knight from Season 3, who refused to get dragged into the backbiting that went on in the middle of the season. Laura Bennett also qualifies.
    • Kimberly Goldson in Season 9, perhaps most notably when she was on the extremely dysfunctional "Team Nuts & Bolts," and basically decided to make the dress she felt like making rather than engage with her teammates' interpersonal drama.
    • April Johnson in Season 8, stating that she felt like she was Surrounded by Idiots.
  • Papa Wolf: Tim Gunn has stated that he feels like the final 5-10 designers are like his kids, and he hates hearing them get torn apart by the judges.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Anytime there's an avant-garde challenge
  • Precision F-Strike: Zulema demanded a walk-off during Season 2.

 Daniel: "It's a motherfucking walk-off!"

  • Pregnant Badass: Laura from Season 3 completed most of her challenges while she was heavily pregnant.
  • Product Placement: Heidi Klum would like to remind you that you can win a fashion spread in Marie-Clare magazine, that the contestants are using HP products, the hair is being treated with Garnier Hair Salon, various supplies are from Macy's, the makeup is provided by L'Oreal, and much, much more.
    • There are often challenges that involve designing for a national chain, or even for Barbie dolls, that amount to an episode-length commercial.
    • Challenges that design for a celebrity often have an element of this, as the outfit may be intended to be worn on another televised show.
    • This trope was used for good in Season 9, with an episode focused on designs from students at Harlem School of the Arts. The institution had nearly shut down due to financial difficulties the year before.
  • Reality Show Genre Blindness:
    • Designers who helped Anya finish her sewing, seeming to forget that This Is a Competition, and were outlasted by her.
    • Mondo also showed a touch of this by disregarding Nina Garcia and Michael Kors' suggestions to take the sleeves off his bubble dress for his finale collection (i.e.: not following the direct orders of the people who were deciding the winner).
    • Any time the prize involves the winning look being mass-produced for sale online, there are inevitably competitors who don't realize they should probably make something that can be affordably mass produced. Designers who pride themselves on their intricate tailoring skills can get particularly tripped up on this.
    • Viktor Luna during the print challenge. He designed a beautiful gown with a handmade Rorshach-style print. Keyword: handmade, which probably tanked his chances of winning a challenge designed to showcase HP's awesome computerized print-making products. It's also been suggested that Viktor was penalized on the real women challenge for making his own cute accessory rather than taking one from the Piperlime wall.
  • Really Seven Hundred Years Old: One running joke is that Austin Scarlett from Season 1 is really from the eighteenth century.
  • Real Women Wear Dresses: Uli from Season 3 quite frequently designed dresses.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Seems to be the point of the After The Runway special after the show in recent seasons, with designers giving these to each other to "clear the air."
  • Reunion Show: Once a season; After the Runway seems to be the Reunion Episode on an installment plan.
  • Sassy Black Man: Anthony Williams of Season 7.
  • Scary Black Woman: Zulema's alter ego Shatangi
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • Santino's elaborate tales of Tim and Andrae.
    • During Season 7's print challenge, Tim Gunn misread Emilio Sosa's personal print "ESOSA" as "E (HEART) SA" and went: "Emilio loves Seth Aaron?!"
  • Shocking Elimination: Austin Scarlett (Season 1), Shirin Askari (Season 6), and April Johnston (Season 8). Also from Season 8, many consider McKell's elimination as one of these, as fans seem to agree that McKell's dress was not the worst of the bunch and felt she deserved to stay over at least 3 others who were saved. When she had to go, Tim assured her he stood by his statement that he found the dress adorable.
    • The first season ends with multiple challenge winner Kara Saun being edged out by Jay McCarroll, who often placed high, but never actually won any of the challenges.
    • Daniel Franco in season 2. He led a team that produced a beautiful set of well-constructed lingerie that was nonetheless felt to be "boring" by the judges, while Santino was guilty of some very poor construction in the other team's taste-challenged and Stripperiffic designs, which the judges felt to be edgier and therefore more interesting.
    • Mondo Guerra's second-place loss to Gretchen Jones in Season 8 was perhaps the most shocking of these.
    • In season 9 there were many Big NOs during the Piper Lime challenge, when fan favorite Anthony Ryan was eliminated instead of Smug Snake Joshua M. Twitter practically exploded when that happened.
    • Viktor Luna placing third in the Season 9 finale caused an uproar.
    • Rami's elimination in the All-Stars season.
  • Shut UP, Hannibal: After Josh M got reamed by the judges for his Epic Fail 1970s outfits, he went on a rant to the other designers that he was suffering unfairly because he hadn't even been alive in the 1970s. (Implying the other designers somehow had it easier.) He went on and on with tension in the room mounting until finally Viktor cut him off, very calmly but bluntly explaining this was a lame excuse because a lot of the other designers were close to Josh in age. When Josh attempted his trademark Wounded Gazelle Gambit by accusing Viktor of being "aggressive," Bert and Kimberly jumped in to cut that off and say that Viktor was right.
  • Sincerest Form of Flattery: Season 1's Alexandra admitted to knocking off one of Michael Kors' own designs for a look she sent down the runway. It didn't work.
    • One Season 2 challenge involved designing a party dress for Nicky Hilton. After seeing a dossier of looks Hilton has worn in the past, Marla essentially copied one of them and attempted to pass it off as her own design.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Many of the contestants, but Gretchen especially stands out. If you pay attention to her interviews and voiceovers, you'll notice that if she isn't badmouthing another designers outfits, she always turns the conversation to make it about herself, even things like Mondo's AIDS revelation.
    • Joshua M of season 9 too, which is one reason why many viewers detest him.
  • Smug Snake: Keith from Season 3.
    • Wendy in Season 1, who would repeatedly position herself as a trusted advisor to the leader in team challenges, then go on the runway and declare that the team failed because of inadequate leadership. This enabled her to outlast many more-talented designers. There was also an incident of a picture of her daughter being vandalized, which she claimed was her only copy. When another designer stated that Wendy probably did this herself for sympathy, she was told that this was farfetched. But none of the other designers would have had the opportunity, and Wendy never denied this accusation...
    • Joshua M of Season 9, who talked down to other designers (including Becky, who he treated like a seamstress) and, as the judges pointed out, had trouble taking criticism and separating himself from the narrative in his head to let his garments speak for themselves.
  • Sore Loser: Joshua M of season 9, who was very offended that he lost to Anya in the L'Oreal challenge, mostly because he said he needed the money more. On the After the Runway special following the episode, he got thoroughly chewed out for acting like he was the only one with money problems. On the next episode he seemed very offended that he'd lost to a "beauty queen" with a tone that made it obvious that he did not think that was a good thing.
  • Spin-Off: On the Road with Austin and Santino, Tim Gunn's Guide to Style, Models of the Runway, Project Accessory and Project Runway: All Stars, which features a different mentor and set of judges.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Heidi Klum, naturally, and most of the models, which sometimes results in amusing height differences between the designers and models (such as season 9's Victor, who comes up to roughly his models' shoulder, and Laura from the same season, who's even shorter next to them) and Kimberly from Season 9 is noticeably taller than most of the other women on the show, standing at about level with her models.
    • Season 6 runner-up Althea Harper fits this trope to a T.
  • Stealth Insult: April Johnson infamously compared Gretchen to Hitler in Season 9

  April: "Do you really want to hire Hitler? Seriously?"

  • Stop Being Stereotypical: Some gay men evidently feel this way about Joshua M of Season 9, since he's an extremely stereotypical catty gay guy.
  • Stripperiffic: Wendy's candy bikini (Season 1) comes to mind.
    • Wendy was also criticized for this over a sheer top in the finale.
    • Casanova's dress in the Season 8 opener was considered something like this by Michael Kors.
    • Emilio's metal washer and pink string bikini from season 7.
    • Also, Zulema's supershort dress from the "Clothes off Your Back" challenge in season 2.
      • Which she promptly blamed on her model, saying that she had "a lot of booty".
    • Season 1 Alexandra's itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny green Missoni striped bikini surely qualifies.
  • Studio Audience: Beginning with Season 8, the designers are miked while the models are walking, allowing for live chatter during the runway show instead of voiceovers.
  • Take That: April's comment comparing Gretchen to Hitler.
  • The Stoner: most seasons have at least one contestant who comes across as or mentions this.
    • Some cokeheads, too. Blayne from Season 5 was making such conspicuous snorting noises that they were noted in the closed captioning, and this is the most likely explanation for Morgan's erratic behavior in Season 1.
    • From Season 2's Garden Party challenge, which required the designers to construct garments out of plants:

  Kara: "Now I've got a pile of green. And the only thing I want to do with it is smoke it, to tell you the truth."

  • Team Pet: Swatch, the infrequently seen canine resident of Mood.
  • Technician Versus Performer: A perpetual source of tension, both among the designers and judges: do you eliminate the person with interesting ideas who can't execute, or the person who can tailor beautifully but isn't the most "fashion forward"?
    • Season 9's Viktor (technician) and Anya (performer) are practically a textbook example of the trope.
  • Third Person Person: Suede referred to Suede quite frequently in the third person. It's debatable whether this was charming or irritating.
    • So that's where Suede went...
    • Noted by Michael Kors, who commented that Suede had not yet done anything to justify referring to himself that way.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Josh M's rant during the HP challenge in Season 9. He WILL. NOT. HAVE IT! BERT!
  • Too Clever by Half: Poor Viktor Luna's fate in the Season 9 finale.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Peach's "good china" in Season 8.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: During Season 9 during the Piper Lime challenge, Anya was wearing a dress with no pockets, so she put her money envelope between the strap of her dress and her skin. When it fell out somewhere in Mood she then had no money, and had to use $11 that Anthony Ryan gave her to get a small amount of fabric to go with the muslin they allowed her to use.
  • Vindicated by History: Mondo, whose loss to Gretchen in season 8 was followed by him winning the All Stars season.
  • What an Idiot!: Keith, according to Laura.

 Laura: "Keith...what an asshole."

  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Olivier Green's accent from Season 9, which causes a lot of debate among viewers as to whether or not it's fake. If his statement from After the Runway is anything to go by, it's apparently because he moved around a lot to very different places, from Ohio to Taiwan to New York, so it seems to fluctuate with his mood.
    • Season 3's Malan Breton also fell into this category.