Sheer, sometimes madness
On Gallery Night, you often have to pick your battles. There is much to see, little room for parking, and the hors d’oeuvres and booze will only last for so long. Now take that experience, but get really dressed up, amp everything times 10 — and you have the Milwaukee Art Museum’s annual “RunUp to the Runway” fashion show.
Even by 7:30, Windhover Hall rattled with excitement. In the long hall currently containing Minjun Yue’s Chinese warrior statues, the Mount Mary College fashion students competed in an audience-voted contest featuring glamorous hairdos. Top prize, a $1500 scholarship to the school and $500 gift card from Lela Boutique, was a tie. Winners were Abby Janiszewski (with hair and make-up help from Ashlee and Martina). Her co-winner was Shoua Yang Lee (with help from Rayna).
The first local designer of the evening was Amanda Ergen, known for her Mink line of knit dresses and handbags. Drawing inspiration from the female form and colors, Ergen’s dress designs began a common theme for the evening: sheer material, georgette in nature. The opening models looked as if they had stepped out of a 1980s music video, with gold or black short dresses that swooped and appeared to be one-piece in design, but it was the incredibly hot pink number that drew the most “whoa” from the audience.
Next up was Terry Michael Designs. Refreshingly (for me at least), it began with male models in fine, tailored suits. While the style designs were familiar, it was the material that rose eyebrows. His charcoal suits looked freshly mined from a quarry, the shiny gloss still covering the rock. Suit colors were muted, but accented with ties that popped with rich color. Michael’s collection for women, gave the opening sense of polo players, complete with little versions of a riding helmet. These dresses dealt mostly in blacks or reds with large, stark silver jewelry accessories, ranging from earrings to bangles. One dress even featured a corset-like front, sparkling with silver and glistening jewels.
J. Rath’s collection was perhaps the most daring of the evening, reminding the viewer the models were women, not just mannequins wearing clothes. Given that Rath has made her bed with boudoir wear, some of the outfits stayed on this delicate path. The second outfit appeared to be cambric white, of such a wispy yet opaque material that you forget where you are. There was touches of ‘flapper girl’ whimsy in the collection, with camisoles and swishing, glittering waist accessories.
Delanie Couture specializes in “custom gowns for any occasion”, but there was also some comments for fall needs included here. The first model came out with a noticeable scarf against a black dress. The second came out with an enormous red scarf that wrapped over the top of her head and around the neck. Other dresses in the collection dealt in creamier shades of white, with ruffles and textures in play. Most striking was a ball gown that could have doubled as a wedding dress, had it not been for the black belt that dripped with the essence of pashmina, complete with long fringes.
Linda Marcus Designs is all about the handbag. Both compacts or full-blown purses ended up on stage, based on her signature concept: Bark, Fur, Water. The initial items featured a strong silver metal stripe at the open, while later bags went furry like Tribbles from Star Trek. Many of those in the middle reminded me of a cowgirl-themed design, while others in the black “bark” variety were ominous.
Violetville Village, the entity created by Tina Poppy, often finds one-of-a-kind items from a different era that transcend a period of style. There was a definite pattern of color and sensibility to what she presented this evening, ranging from elegant, light peach ball gowns to dark, stiff purple ensembles that appeared straight from Mad Men. While working with simple elegance, the most noticeable outfit in the collection was the sparkling silver top with separate sky blue a-line skirt.
The “most dedicated to a signature style” award goes to Miranda Levy. Her collections are often militaristic — as if the women lived in an alternate 1984 universe — a statement meant not as a dig, but as the logical comment to make after watching the spartan red, plaid dress with the low-cut V in the front (worn on a vivacious model). All the outfits worked either in a military dress uniform green-red or brown-blue of a European variety, with many angles and accented with fur stoles or pelts.
There was a break in the action part-way through for a dramatic number by the MHSA dancers, followed by the featured work of Ra’mon Lawrence. Earlier in the evening, Lawrence worried about the perhaps-controversial nature of the thin material — showing off more skin on the model than clothing. This was far from the reality by this point in the evening, as Lawrence showed outfits on men and women alike with only the mens’ knees showing. The beginning of the line-up was impressive, as the fabric seemed to flow off the deeper elements of a Pantone chart. The effect in color depths gave the models an added dimension. Dealing in teal and wine colors, the models seem to flow down the runway as if in a river.
The second half of the collection went off the grid. Mostly in black-and-white, sometimes champagne-and-black, there were wide circles inside circles, horizontal thin lines, the appearance of snakeskin and TV holding patterns, and others which cannot be described. Here’s the most descriptive we can get about one gentleman’s outfit: a model in a black suit was dipped in wild, white paisley designs up to the navel, and then the trouser legs were cut off. It was madness.
One of each of the outfits from each designer was later auctioned off at the Iron Horse Hotel for the Wisconsin Breast Cancer Coalition, which also benefited from the proceeds of drink specials at the afterparty. ThirdCoast Digest photo intern Lacy Landre got a front floor seat for the action, and delivered the images in this article as well as a complete set seen below and on our flickr.com set.