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Project Runway User's Guide: And the Winner Is...

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Images via Bravo

The final episode in a long-simmering competition, one that has captured the imagination of Americans nationwide, aired last night, and despite a general public sense that the contestants were focusing too much on personality and not enough on sheer talent, thousands of TV watchers turned out. And also Project Runway ended. (Zing!) We do wonder if there's some hidden reason the finale was pitted against the third and final presidential debate—maybe a McCainian conspiracy to keep the population of Portland so distracted by local girl Leanne that they'd forget to drive their Priuses to the voting booths come November? Anyway, last night the three final contestants—Korto, Leanne, and Kenley—showed their collections at Fashion Week. Here's what happened:

Biggest surprise: Kenley listened to something Tim Gunn said! During his pre-show visit, he advised her not to show her wedding dress (which the judges had already seen) as her final look. After only a couple minutes of snarling, she decided he was right. Hallelujah!

Feud of the week: Everyone was a little too overwhelmed by Bryant Park to feud much. Even the show's reliable source of controversy, Kenley, behaved herself, in her own way. J. Lo, you might recall, was supposed to be the guest judge, but she had to back out because she "hurt her foot." (It didn't stop her from running a marathon that weekend, though.) When the show began, Heidi announced that J.Lo's part would be played by Tim Gunn. Kenley: "Hey, maybe I should have improved my attitude!" Ha...ha?

Best smackdown: The judges were mostly too busy being sentimental to say anything particularly bitchy, but Kors is irrepressible. "I'm just nervous that you're going to be known as the Queen of the Petals," he told Leanne, whose collection showed the same leafy shape over and over. "You're going to be Petals Marshall, which sounds like a stripper, not a designer."

This week's loser: Heidi seemed to take great pleasure in saying "Kenley, you're out." Ultimately, her problem was less her attitude than her refusal to educate herself about what other designers are doing. One of her dresses looked exactly like something Balenciaga showed in Spring 2008 (which Jennifer Connolly wore to a premiere, so it's not like it then languished in a closet somewhere) and yet she barely seemed to know who Balenciaga was.

The winner: Leanne Marshall, whose white-and-teal designs, some made of sustainable fabrics, struck the judges as sophisticated and well-made.

Designers who cried: All three cried at judging, and Korto even said "My heart is bleeding" when she had to leave the stage.

Designers who were robbed: Here's the thing. We'd been rooting for Leanne the whole time, but this episode swayed us a bit towards Korto. Her collection hinted that she's more creative. Leanne's architectural shapes, clean lines, and Malibu color palette were all completely in keeping with the trends of Fashion Week this year, but that's both a strength and a weakness—she's trendy. We don't know if Korto was robbed, exactly, but we're hoping there's more to Leanne than Petals Marshall.
· Live From New York: The Project Runway Fashion Show & The Case Of The Missing J. Lo [Jezebel]
· Jennifer Connelly in Balenciaga: Love It or Hate It? [FabSugar]
· All Project Runway Coverage [Racked]