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Episode 3: It's Never Too Hot to be Cool

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Last night's episode of NBC's Fashion Star—the third—featured musical performances, swimsuit models, acrobatics, bidding wars, and family reunions. Also, some fashion design. Unlike episode 2, also an hour in length, it seemed less glossed over. We got a little more time with designers, a little more detail.

The hour opened with another micro recap. Tiny, top-hatted monstrosity Oscar Fierro featured heavily—hopefully that will be the last mention of him. Anyway, you know the gist: There are 12 designers left in the competition; they're fighting for a $6 million contract. This week's challenge: Hot summer looks.

And with that, the show begins in earnest. Elle MacPherson hits the stage dressed exactly like I Dream of Jeannie. Not satisfied with only disappointing us with her look, she introduces LMFAO and Quest Crew. The band—are we calling whatever they are a band?—croaked and danced through whatever their hit song is. The spectacle, which obviously features swimsuit models, served mainly as a reminder to hopefully everyone that no one should ever wear white-framed glasses. It is clear, especially at the performance's opening, that John Varvatos wants to die.

It ends. MacPherson: "Wooooow."

And we're off—cut to the studio. It all starts with Orly "I always wanted to do fashion" Shani, Barbara Bates and Ronnie Escalante. Shani declares that mixed prints are her hot summer trend. And Nicole Richie—well, she's unimpressed. Instead, she suggests a long, hard look at color trends (this is the first of many, many mentions of POC—or Pop of Color). The suggestion sends Shani into a pit of self doubt; but not to worry! Her family is suddenly backstage to cheer her on! And with that, the designer totally switches gears and throws together a sherbert-hued tank dress (above) with a contrast waistband and contrast inside pockets.

Varvatos wholeheartedly approves and Jessica Simpson wants it in all three colors ("You didn't even have to make anything peel off!") Immediately, there is a bidding war between Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue. The bidding open at $70,000 and tops out at $120,000. The dress goes to Saks; Terron Shaefer calls it "very trend-right," "absolutely a wow." Shani, well she's "schwitzing."

Bates, meanwhile, is determined to sell something this week—or else she's opening "a can of whoop ass." Her look, a shirt dress with a menswear collar in three distinct fabrications. Despite a lot of love from Richie there are no bids—it's not "special enough."

Escalante's fate is similar: Richie pulls for the designer, citing his background and praising his presentation. But no one wanted his bouncy, ruffly, fluffy, printed day dresses. The draping is off; there is too much fabric.

Suddenly, it's time for another dance routine. This time, the soundtrack is provided by yet another candy-colored nothing: Katy Perry. Also, another flagrant product placement—stylists the world round use Suave.

And the next set of showcases: Nikki Poulos, Sarah Parrott and Nzimiro Oputa. First we check in with Poulos, who hopes to expand past her comfort zone of swimwear and create an easy-sell basic for all women: A jumpsuit (above). It's all semi-disastrous—she declares that her pants look "pooped in," that she's being haunted by "frontal wedgie." Varvatos: Jumpsuits are "never that commercial," and "they weren't executed the way they should've been executed." No matter: Caprice Willard from Macy's offers $50,000. She "love[s] a good jumpsuit;" but admits that "we'll probably need to work a little bit on the fit."

Parrott also identifies her hot summer trend as print mixing and POC and slops it all on a set of printed maxi wrap dresses. Varvatos didn't like the prints, Simpson disagreed, Varvatos chuckled, and Nicole Christie, from H&M, offered $50,000. "Our customers will come running for this dress," it fits perfectly with H&M's summer "glam trend."

Cue the acrobats.

Oputo-time: The designer determines that his summer moment involves injecting fun detail and color and trend into menswear (which, we might remind, is exactly what he did with his last two entries (both of which sold)). His garment: Color-blocked shorts (above) (that kind of just look like swim trunks). Richie is sold, though one of the designer's curtain-like prints leaves a bad taste in her mouth. She proves her point by peeping through a swatch curtain-style—it's adorable, love her, and he loses the pattern. Simpson, "crushing on" Oputa, calls them a "Hamptons party in the pants;" and H&M offers $50,000.

We are 34 minutes in and there are already more sales than in last week's episode. But before more sales can be made it's time for a little about the mentors. Simpson: "The moment I heard that other people wanted to wear what I was wearing ? " Were people ever clamoring for whatever Simpson was wearing? We're having visions of those high-waisted denim jeans—those fat pants that left the entire gossip-reading public incredulous. Anyway ?

Next up: Ross Bennett, Lisa Vian Hunter and Luciana Scarabello. Scarabello is, once again, barely mentioned. Vian Hunter, who did sell a dress last week, is glossed over as well. Why? She designs something called a "couture t-shirt." Bennett, however, finally takes the advice of everyone who has given him advice and leaves the old ladies and their structured bouclé fabrics in Texas (Richie describes his aesthetic as "those old actresses that are on yachts;" he replies: "Yes, that's my world"). Anyway, the result is a tailored short with pleating in a few jaunty colors and prints. And those result in a minor bidding war between Macy's and H&M. Opening at $70,000, Macy's gets the look for $120,000.

The final showcase features Kara Laricks, Lizzie Parker and Edmund Newton. Laricks—who is just really charming and becomes emotional over her transformation from a closeted lesbian elemetary school teacher to a designer with a maybe burgeoning career—develops a tuxedo pant. Though her "wardrobe stays the same year round—black, black, black, black—Varvatos convinces her to go summery. She does, with a look in ivory. Saks buys the look for $50,000, with Schaefer calling it "very sophisticated, very well done." It's also worth noting that Laricks has the best hair on the show. She must use Suave.

Meanwhile, White fails to excite with his Sunday-inspired print maxi and Parker straight up fails with her heavy metal-inspired zipper-front-for-no-reason frock.

And that's that: The buyer's bottom three are Parker, Scarabello, and White. Simpson uses the word "because" four times in one sentence when she announces that the mentors will be rescuing White from the chopping block. Back to the buyers: Parkers lack of "range" is a "concern," as is Scarabello's possibly limiting Miami aesthetic. They end up eliminating Parker—who is gracious and lovely and still elated that she sold her first look to Macy's.

Final line: It's never too hot to be cool. MacPherson is a sage.

So, yeah—Parrott's dress and Oputa's swim trunks are now online at H&M. Bennett's shorts and Poulos' jumpsuits are available at Macy's. And, Shani's dress and Laricks' tuxedo pants are at Saks. Shop here, for whatever's left.

· Fashion Star [NBC]
· All Fashion Star coverage [Racked]