Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Just Because You Get Paid For It Doesn't Mean You're Good At It

On July 19, thanks to the fabulous Plumcake's fame, charm, and media passes, I got to attend the Austin Fashion Awards, complete with some time hanging out on the "red carpet" with equally fabulous photographer
Nathan Black. We watched folks saunter down said carpet, got some posed pictures, got some candid shots, and were frequently... um, let's say... impressed by some of the fashion choices we beheld.

During the awards proper, we were treated to the reading of nominee names in various categories, envelope tearing, and actual acceptance speeches -- just like one finds at most awards shows. This being Austin, it was also viewed as an opportunity for some live music, which I was totally down with. The music was played behind mini-fashion shows featuring work by UT design students. I am sorry to report that most of the student designers' work, with one exception, ranged from mediocre to downright hilarious. As the clothes appeared, Plummie & I took a whack at dissecting the personalities and influences of each of the designers represented based on the garments they showed -- "former cheerleader from Dallas," for example, or "wishes she'd been at Studio 54."

And then this bobbled down the runway:

Holy cow. And what you can't see? The shiny confetti bits all over the front of the dress appeared to be holographic. You know, that silvery iridescent rainbow plastic stuff they make into the covers of the Trapper-Keeper your sixth-grade daughter carries to school. My goodness, was it shiny!

As this sparkly, shiny, frothy, ruffly, bubblegummy confection bounced down the aisle, I turned to Plummie and said, "This kid is a big ol' 'mo who just wants to grow up and design pageant gowns."

(This model was... er... "spunky." She took the whole runway model stomp-walk thing to new heights.)

So far, so uninspired. These are pretty conventional prom & party dresses of the sort you could find at most small-town "special occasion" boutiques all over the country. But, oh boy, things ratcheted up a notch at the next exit:

Good googly-moogly! I'm having a flashback! It's like Fashion 'Nam! (Also -- how do you know you're at a Texas fashion show? The models are all bone-thin. With D-cups.)

Seriously, these bear a striking resemblance to the horrifying gowns from the Miss USA pageant that I featured here in April.

And ya know why?

Well, lookie who it is! With a model and a minion. I don't know who the Louise Brooks wannabe with him is -- she wasn't a model, she walked down the red carpet with him. If she's his beard, she's not a very successful one.)

If you're a regular Project Runway viewer you'll probably recognize this guy from Season 3. His name is Kayne. His full name appears to be Johnathan Kayne Gillaspie, and guess what! He designs pageant dresses!! In all the excitement of the awards show (and by "excitement of the awards show" I mean "three glasses of champagne I'd put away while milling around in the lobby pre-show and at intermission") I'd completely forgotten about seeing this minor celebrity on the red carpet earlier that evening. In addition, there wasn't a separate introduction for his part of the fashion show; they just sent his goods out on the heels of one of the student designers, so I didn't realize right away that this wasn't the work of just another student.

Now, I know that someone's got to design the pageant dresses. Goodness knows, we can't leave such an important endeavor to chance. I mean, we don't want our beauty queens just picking random gowns off the rack at Dillard's, heaven forfend! And without the pageant gown designers, the world would be deprived of things like this:

I mean, really... Who wants to live in a world without dresses like this?

Me. I do. And as soon as possible.

This thing is about 67 different kinds of awful. The "design" is shockingly tacky, the fabric is cheap-looking, and the construction!! Good lord, they appear to have basically just bought a bra and covered it in that cheesy stretch lace, then attached a panel at the center & Linkmade it into a skirt. For pete's sake, you can see the outline of the underwire!!! (And the same for the sparkly purple number in the picture above.)

I hate this dress. I hate all these dresses, and I can't believe anyone chose this guy to be featured in a "fashion show." This is not, I repeat, NOT fashion. Pageant wear is costuming, pure & simple. One of the other guests on the red carpet at the Fashion Awards was Corey Lynn Calter, who is an actual designer who makes actual clothes, some of which are pretty great.

(Photo by Jake Holt)

Here's Corey on the red carpet, wearing her own designs and a BRILLIANT vintage Christian Dior necklace that Plummie & I could have easily gotten into a slap fight over. I really love those pants she's wearing, they're some of the most successful of that sort I've seen yet. Even Plumcake, who is not a fan of the whole harem genre, had to admit those looked great, and we both loved how she worked her shoes over the pants:

I'm going to be looking for some of those. Calter had a Pop-Up Store during the Fashion Week that led up to the Awards, but they didn't take the next step and give her some time on the runway, which I think is a dead shame.

But back to the sequined abominations. I have to say, even for pageant gowns, these dresses are bad. When you go to the website & look at them en masse, they become, unbelievably, mind-numbingly dull. Just one long, sparkly, skin-tight sausage casing after another. Even the colors are bad -- garish or predictable or both. I know Austin is pretty small beer, fashion-wise, but still. This was the best you could come up with for a "fashion show"???? I mean, helloooooooo!!! Corey Lynn Calter -- RIGHT THERE. WITH A BUNCH OF HER CLOTHES.

But as I like to say, the cutting edge of fashion here in Austin is pretty dull. It's getting better -- there are a few boutiques that have opened in the last few years that are actually selling some interesting clothes. We have a Neiman Marcus now, although you wouldn't believe the comparative amount of floorspace devoted to St. John ladies-who-lunch knits; and we have a Barney's Co-Op, although it seems mostly given over to Marc by Marc Jacobs (no more puffed sleeves, Marc, I'm beggin' ya) and DVF (great clothes, but not exactly challenging). The whole world seems to be a lot more fashion-aware these days, thanks to television shows like Project Runway and The Fashion Show, and most of all, our friend the Internets. I'm not hopeful that Austin is ever going to become a major Fashion Capital -- the trophy for the Austin Fashion Awards was shaped like a cowboy boot, for pete's sake. That's okay -- there are lots of other things that we do extremely well (music, Mexican cuisine, dog-friendly public spaces).

Besides -- if everyone in Austin suddenly became brilliantly fashion-literate, what would I have to feel smug about? I'd be out of business! So when I think about it that way, I guess all I have to say is, "Bring on the pageant dresses!"

Images except where noted: Nathan Black

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Plumcake said...

Hey now, I am one of the biggest harem-apologists out there! How quickly we forget that I was all over those Spanish pantalones you posted a few months ago.

Anonymous said...

Oh, that is disappointing. I live in Portland, Oregon, Austin's pale, socially awkward cousin in capital-W Weirdness. "Fashion" here seems to consist solely of Dansko's more colorful clogs and poo-colored recycled-poly rainwear. I feel your pain.

Nini's Style said...

I really like her blue harem pant.

Deja Pseu said...

I don't think any self-respecting drag queen would get within ten feet of most of those dresses...

Dot said...

Oh, darling, we're going to have to get you over to London somehow!! You're like a fish out of water there. There's this fabulous guy named Dario, in Berlin, who's been doing something amazing (several times) in Berlin. It's wacky, and as far from Texas as you can get.

I'm on Long Island now and can't send emails... here, try this link: