The Austin Chronicle

After a Fashion

By Stephen MacMillan Moser, November 21, 2003, Columns

THE SOCIAL DIARY The private party for the opening of the accessories department at Vën in Davenport Village was an interesting, entertaining, and unusual assortment of characters. The selection of accessories at Vën is small but very fabulous -- from the hosiery and tops by Wolford to wonderful bags by My Flat in London (also providing luxurious body-care products with gorgeous packaging). Vën boys James Rowley and Gustavo LaGrave also debuted their own collection of shoes: stiletto ankle boots in dark creamy-colored leather embellished with embroidery and narrow fur trim, snub-nosed pumps in gray and pink, and a host of other delicious designs. I called the glamorous Deborah Carter, owner of Pink Salon, at the last minute. "Hi! Wanna go for a ride in my new car?" she asked. I said, "Yeah, wanna go out with me tonight?" "Sure," she said. "Where are we going?" I told her, "The Blanton 40th Birthday Bash." "I'll pick you up at 8:30." What a dame! Ready for action at the drop of a bobby pin. As we approached, we could hear some band playing Beatles music. "What's up with that?" I wondered. Then we entered to see a group of young lovelies in early-Sixties couture. I screamed, "You look faaabulous! What's with these great outfits?" "Well, it is the Blanton's 40th anniversary!" Then it became clear that 40 years ago was 1963. The Beatles music (by the wonderful EggMen), the costumes -- this was a Sixties party, which I might have known if I'd read the press materials more closely. Fortunately, I was wearing a wild and glittery Versace shirt with a black suit and ever-present sunglasses, and Deborah, with her Cher-hair and eyeliner and vintage evening gown looked fab anyway, and many presumed we'd dressed specifically for the occasion. Not true; we'd dress like this to go to Taco Bell. Fortunately we blended right in -- as much as possible, anyway. We gazed at the art, rocked out to "For Your Love," visited with public affairs officer Nicole Chism Griffin, and were interviewed by The Daily Texan (note to self: Never mention the state of art in Austin to Deborah ever again unless I have several stiff drinks and lots of free time). The Blanton has a wonderful collection and a new building in the works to house it -- a subject of much debate -- but it was clear that the art could be shown off better in a different kind of space. But they throw a fun party, and few things are more important than that... We missed the Todd Wolfson performance by inches, but we did finally get to see Sunny Harrelson's boutique, rubypearl. Located in the old Gomi space at South First and West Mary, the store is already noted for its reconstructed dresses based on vintage slips. With bits of lace, fur, and silk scarves added, the one-of-a-kind dresses have a funky sweetness and a large following, not to mention a very Austin look, and an Imitation of Christ approach. I like Sunny's dresses a lot, but I do find myself wondering, "What's next?" The inherent problem with reconstructed one-of-a-kind garments is that they are hard to sell, offer limited sizing, and basically lock the designer into being a shopkeeper, since having your own boutique is about the only way to sell things of this nature. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, either. The boutique offers a few other collections as well as accessories.

DO YOU KNOW I recently watched Mahogany starring Diana Ross. Again. For the 20 millionth time. I think Mahogany is the most important film ever made. Its lessons in life are eternal, Diana Ross is a diva to beat all divas, and, as an old friend said, "The clothes pee." You have to understand this is a very high compliment. Peeing is old-school queens' vernacular meaning to excel at presentation. I pee, you pee, the dresses pee. And they do pee. Omigod, as a teenager, I was smitten with the clothes -- said to have been designed by La Ross herself, an unlikely scenario. But they are deee-vine anyway. The African Princess dress in white with a bib of colored beads at the throat was Seventies chic-ness at its best; the violet gown with the fur accessories that she wore in the fountain was delectable; the form-fitting kimono-dress with the dragon embroidery was magnificent; and the Halston-ish yellow sheath with the rainbow-colored chiffon overlay was to die for. But the finest moment is the Kabuki Finalean array of outré gowns designed to give a drag queen an orgasm. Did I mention something about the lessons in life Mahogany teaches us? We learn that you, too, a bus-riding simple girl with a simple dream, can achieve fame and fortune as a model and a designer and still walk away with Billy Dee Williams. As I said, the most important movie, and a camp classic that's a must-see for fashion fetishists.

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