After a Fashion

Read all about the peacock-themed Christmas tree fit for a Style Avatar!

'TWAS THE SEASON I shopped a dizzying array of Austin retailers in pursuit of Christmas decoration perfection this year. Before Thanksgiving, I was already concerned about my Christmas tree. While my tree was splendid last year, it told me everything I wanted to do differently with it this year. I assembled the tree in mid-November -- yes, it's an artificial one, since I like being able to shape the tree to suit the ornaments -- and of course used the large revolving stand that twirls the tree around in its glittering finery. I knew I'd be doing peacock colors again -- purple, blue, green and gold -- but even more vibrantly this year, with additions of lime green, violet, and aquamarine. I draped myself in the lights that I had (and clipped on a few glass balls for good measure), modeling in front of the mirror like a ghastly, glowing apparition with really bad taste in accessories. The scheme was simply OK, and while I wasn't wild about it, I knew I wanted to make it work. Of course I shopped at the Famous Christmas Store (5339 N. I-35) several times this year. They have the largest assortment of decorations in town (dependably overpriced, but glorious in their selection). The first time, I bought lights in green, purple, and blue (I already had plenty of chartreuse lights from last year), but I also found these fabulous ones with large, purple, teardrop-shaped bulbs, and I knew that the variation in sizes and intensities of the lights would be cool. I also bought more of the glittery, golden fern fronds that I'd bought last year -- I thought they added a deliriously over-the-top effect -- and dozens of new ornaments, including these fabulous iridescent dragonflies. It was there that I discovered the little packs of ornament animators that make the ornaments spin. A three-pack was $15, so I bought a pack... but three was not enough. After I set several of my showiest ornaments spinning on my tree, I knew I had to have more. I went back to the Christmas Store a second time, and they were sold out. I had also gone back because, while my lighting scheme sounded good, it just wasn't working. It was missing something -- a certain color that would tie the scheme together. In a blinding flash of revelation, I knew I had to have teal-colored lights that would suddenly make everything come together. And more golden fronds. My accomplice Madame X and I had so much fun shopping at Garden Ridge (5151 Hwy. 290 W.) and Target (5300 MoPac S.), we decided to make it an annual event. Garden Ridge is amazing for what it is; I found magnificent peacocks that could clip to the tree, spreading their brightly colored feathers against the foliage, which suddenly made the entire peacock-colored theme come alive. I bought every single one of them, and made a harried salesclerk climb up a ladder to snatch them off a display tree for me. But certain elements of the merchandise had us in stitches on the floor, reminiscing over Christmas crafts from our childhood. We howled over the Christmas angels we made from liquid detergent bottles and a Styrofoam ball, and those Christmas trees made by folding every page of a catalog or phone book a certain way. My favorites were the jewelry boxes we made by gluing macaroni onto a cigar box and spray-painting it gold. We were both merry and jolly, as the season required, and shopped like we were possessed. At Target Greatland, I found huge cracked-glass balls in turquoise and aquamarine and purchased all they had, knowing they would not be there after Christmas. I also found these sparkling confections that looked like spiny sea urchins in three shades of blue. At Michael's (5501 Brodie), I bought clusters of grapes in purple, teal, and gold, and yards of golden fishnet. Some of the most exquisite ornaments came from the charming gift and card store Gossip (1712 S. Congress) and the gift shop at the Austin Museum of Art (823 Congress). Both of them had variations of a collection of Polish glass ornaments that seemed to be designed for my color scheme. Some were chartreuse glass orbs with wavy bands of purple and blue velvet edged in gold glitter, some were blue glass with green velvet dots ... and all of them were spectacular. For trinkets and toys for Christmas swag-bags, I went to Robin's Party and Bridal Shop (2149 S. Lamar). Owner Ruth Petty was in attendance. I told her I'd never been in there before and that it was one of those places I'd driven past a thousand times. She told me that after 39 years, she was closing her store, edged out by the behemoth corporations. The store was named for Ruth's 13-year-old daughter, who loved parties -- celebrating at one even the week she died of leukemia. "Robin would have loved the store," said Ruth, "and we were an unusual kind of store for a long time, but between the big party-supply stores and Target and Wal-Mart, the small places can't survive." Petty is looking for other retailers or buyers who might be interested in purchasing her entire stock. For after-Christmas shopping, my sister insisted on taking me to Pecan Square Emporium (1122 W. Sixth), which along with its sister store in the next block, Necessities & Things, might as well be called We Three Queens ... another place I'd driven past a thousand times, the shop is loaded with marvelous gifts, both big and small. But their selection of Christmas decor? Totally divine. At half off, I still spent another $125 on ornaments, but would have gladly paid full price for them. The owners have exquisite taste and give excellent service. I also found the ornament animators there -- at full price, they were 30% less than at the Christmas store -- at half-price, I bought a half-dozen three-packs. They even had the animators that make the ornaments bob up and down, so naturally, when I got home, I had to redo my tree to accommodate all of them. The end result was incredible: a twirling tree with ornaments that spin and bob, glittering and twinkling in a way that would have dazzled me as a child. When I view it as an adult, the tree is pure magic, and after all that work, may possibly stay up all year long.

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