Selma Blair guest judge season 8 premiere

Guest judge Selma Blair on the season 8 premiere of "Project Runway." Photo courtesy of Lifetime

Seventeen "Project Runway" fashion designers descend on New York City's Lincoln Center with their suitcases in hand for the cruelest of reality-show twists: They're not exactly on the show yet!

In the much-hyped premiere of season 8's new 90-minute format, we learn the cast is really assembled for a final tryout.

And sew it begins:

The Challenge: The wannabes are told by host Heidi Klum and mentor Tim Gunn to pull an item of clothing from their bags to incorporate into an original design.

The Twist: The designers must pass this coveted possession to the virtual stranger to their right, who will then use it for their look.

The Workroom Drama: Hopeful Casanova (um, yes, that's his name) has given up his Dolce & Gabbana pants, which cost the 33-year-old lover boy exactly $1,070. What follows is tearful product placement for couture brands.

Everyone else is nervous because they are not "on the show" yet. But they are, natch.

The Guest Judge: Actress Selma Blair, looking rather matronly grown up in a boxy jacket and blouse, plays mean girl as she picks on the mom-ish capri pants pulled from the suitcase of 50-year-old prepster contestant Peach Carr. What did she expect? Short-shorts?

Best Runway Moment: Judge Nina Garcia sighs heavily and rolls her eyes at Casanova's barely there dress and having to interpret for him because his English seems limited. "Or," she speculates, "he's deaf."

Best Line by a Judge:
Blair redeems herself with the mom-jeans crowd by describing Casanova's vulgar belly-dance dress this way: "It looks like it comes from some weird store in the mall called Dazzles, where they sell wigs and dresses."

Who's In: Oregonian Gretchen Jones, 28, who specializes in "sustainable" clothing, takes flight in the baggage-claim challenge for an elegant black dress that the judges call "perfectly done."

Who's Out: The judges put six designers on the chopping block, but zero in on new Utah mom McKell Maddox for a dress Gunn calls adorable (thus beginning the setup for his stated annoyance with the season 8 judging).

StyleList was bothered more by the boxy black thing thrown together by 33-year-old Greenwich, CT, landscape designer Jason Troisi. (Did he use his hedge clippers on it?)

Is there a Christian Siriano in the bunch?: StyleList is keeping its Fashion Week-finale eye on challenge winner Jones, Palm Springs designer Michael Costello, 27, and Mondo Geurra of Denver, whom Klum, 32, says "blew us away" at his tryout.

For more "Project Runway" news, read what Gunn had to say about the new season and its "crack-smoking" judges.