After a Fashion

Local merchant Blackmail made a decadent splash at the recent Club DeVille Spring Fashion Extravaganza.

CLUB DE VINE My hands hurt from clapping, and my face was sore from smiling. You can't get a nicer review than that unless you're at a funeral. Unfortunately, there is not enough room in this column to adequately cover the events that transpired on April 26 at Club DeVille's Spring Fashion Extravaganza. It was the culmination of what felt like Austin's Triple Crown of Fashion: three fashion shows in three weeks, including UT Fashion Group's glamorous Erwin Center show and last week's refreshing Neil Diaz/Atomic Cafe production. (Diaz conjured up such a success for Atomic that they've hired him to do PR. Good work, Neil, and let's see lots more of it!) Anyway, the CdV show was the coup de grace. Hosted by the wickedly funny Joel Mozersky and Emily Fawcett, the show featured presentations by Pink Moon, Shiki, By George, Therapy, Vintage Kat (the coolest new kid on the block, with great men's clothes), and Blackmail. Everybody did a fabulous job, and I wish I had a video of the whole thing to remember all of the hysterical moments that occurred. But I don't, and I didn't take notes because I couldn't take my eyes off the runway for even a second without missing something. Like some drug-induced freak show, hellish visions of Ike & Tina Turner, Neil Diamond, Joan Jett, Iggy Pop, and so many others, in get-ups ranging from the subtle to the sublime, electrified the senses. The clothes often took second place to the antics onstage, but, who cares? It was totally fabulous.

Shiki's tribute, Cher Through the Ages, was a scream. We had the Cher(s) of "I Got You Babe," "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves," and "Half Breed," among others. As the Cher of today in a Mercurochrome-red wig, the magnificent Eva Anoma writhed and slithered down the runway. The girl has a look in her eyes like a panther stalking its prey. She is the kind of model designers pray for because of the life she can give to the clothes.

FASHION AS THEATRE But the finale, my dears, was to die for (pun intended). With the theme of Minimalism Is Dead, Mme. Gail Chovan of Blackmail knocked our socks off. With the decadent excesses of late 18th-century Paris as her theme, she sent out model after model made-up and styled in the fashion of Marie Antoinette. The ensembles presented -- all dazzlingly black, of course -- were combinations of Blackmail's exquisite vintage collection, mixed with a few of the contemporary pieces the store carries, as well as creations from Chovan's own Blackmail Couture. The vintage pieces were incredible, setting the tone for the outfits. The new pieces were nice and did their job well, but it was the addition of the dreamy Blackmail Couture pieces (often made of vintage fabrics) that stole the show. Chovan knows her fashion history. For this occasion, she deftly combined it with the best elements of modern fashion and created some breathtakingly imaginative theatre. But you'd only notice all that if you could peel your eyes off of the wigs! The glorious, billowing white coiffures -- enormous, cloud-like confections -- were painstakingly handcrafted by Philip Thomas. With the make-up by Kathy Miller, the parade of girls in their divine decadence was spectacular. Then, in the midst of all of this opulence, out sauntered a model in a -- gasp! -- nice simple white slipdress -- the kind you've seen on every little starlet for way too many years now. Barefoot and without jewelry, her look is stark among the other baroque-ly bedecked ladies, who by this point are mortified, and a riot ensues. The contrast was obvious. So was Chovan's statement. Things neatly came to a "head" when a guillotine was wheeled out and the offensive minimalist was beheaded. Bravo, Gail! And dear, I have a word of advice for you: Hire a competent manager to run your store so you can spend your time designing.

Club DeVille does such a wonderful job on these shows that I fear I will sound like an ingrate for complaining, but as I pointed out last time (and this was true at the Atomic Cafe as well), getting a drink -- always a big plus at a club -- is virtually impossible. Not that I needed a drink so desperately, mind you, but it always occurs to me how much more money these clubs could make off their liquor sales if they had adequate staffing. A couple of extra servers for the night, or even a temporary bar set up close to the crowd, would be a minor investment that would yield tremendous returns.

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