Kini american girl doll
Kini's American Girl Doll inspiration was Samantha. His final dress used the same fabric that the doll's dress used. Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

“Project Runway” Season 13 episode 9 had a small challenge, literally. They had to make kids wear for girls ages 8 to 12 inspired by American Girl dolls. Each designer was assigned a specific doll to be inspired by. The American Girl dolls are historical dolls that each came with their own backstory. The designers had to make something modern for kids but also inspired by the doll’s history.


The designers were all a little nervous when they saw their tiny mannequins. Emily has a daughter and a children’s line, so she has designed for kids. However, the rest of the designers felt somewhat out of their element. “I don’t know what 9-year-olds like to wear. I just don’t,” Korina said.

Tim Gunn had plenty of designers change their looks. He told Kini to make a different dress when he saw the white dress under a black and white coat. Tim worried that it felt too mature. Kini made a red plaid dress, but the design was still pretty mature.

Both Sean and Char made vests with fringe, but Tim wanted them both to ditch the fringe. Sean listened but Char decided to ignore Tim’s advice.

Sandhya still wasn’t making friends in the competition this week. The other “Project Runway” designers didn’t understand why the judges liked her work so much. Even Tim admitted that he couldn’t understand her designs.

“I have serious difficulty understanding a lot of your color relationships and your proportions but the judges keep loving your work,” Tim said.

When they went back to the apartments, Sandhya broke down crying in front of Emily. She said that she respected the other designers and who they are, but she didn’t understand why they couldn’t return the feeling.

Top Three

Korina: Her graphic, red dress was inspired by Josephina. In the books, Josephina wears a yellow flower in her hair, so Korina hid yellow on the underside of the flaps on the dress. The judges loved the look. “It induces movement, which is great,” Zac Posen said.

Kini: Samantha is a rich orphan, so Kini just updated her. He made her a little girl who took her credit card to Chanel. His red plaid dress had some modest cutouts and structured ruffles. The outfit was topped with a white and black plaid coat. “It feels like something American Girl would sell,” guest judge Heather Northrup (senior design manager for American Girl) said.

Char: Kaya, a Native American doll, inspired Char’s dress and fringe vest. The judges loved that the vest was clearly inspired by Native American culture and that it didn’t feel too costume-like. “I don’t know of a little girl or little boy who don’t love fringe,” Nina Garcia said.

Bottom Three

Sean: San Francisco in the 1970s era—where his doll Julie is from—inspired Sean’s jumper in a liberty print and a denim vest with a peace sign. Guest judge Elizabeth Moss (actress on “Mad Men”) pointed out that his peace sign was missing a line. The judges said that “Project Runway” designers shouldn’t be this cliché. “Safe doesn’t cut it anymore,” Heidi Klum said. The judges felt like he didn’t take enough risks and didn’t have enough originality. “It’s something that exists already,” Zac said.

Sandhya: Caroline, a sailor doll, inspired Sandhya’s bright pink look. Her jumpsuit had a peplum on the hips and snaps up the back and a little sweater. The look didn’t go over well with the judges. “That just looks silly,” Heidi said. They thought it felt like a onesie. The challenge was to make a look for girls ages 8 to 12, and the judges thought it seemed too immature. “She looks like a circus flamingo,” Zac said. Sandhya respectfully disagreed with the judges and said she loved her design.

Emily: Rebecca, a Russian doll in 1914, inspired Emily. She made a dress that was inspired by 20th century Russia but also allowed a kid to play dress up. Emily created a large, dark, dramatic skirt with bright tulle and a shrunken sweater. The judges hated the look, largely because of the dark colors. “For a child, there is no joy in this outfit,” Nina said. Zac complimented the craftsmanship in the sweater, but it still didn’t feel like something a little kid should be wearing.

Winner: Kini

“Two [wins] in a row! Eat that!” Kini exclaimed. However, winning challenges no longer gives designers immunity.

Eliminated: Sandhya

“Actually, I’m happy I went [home] on something that I believed in,” she said.

“Project Runway” Season 13 airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. EDT on Lifetime. Do you think Sean would have done better if he ignored Time’s advice? Sound off in the comments section below!