By Pete Zamplas- Asheville’s fashion genius was in full force in the Costume Drama: A Fashion Show benefit for Asheville Community Theatre education.
ACT was the venue for the competitive fashion show July 6, in its eighth annual sold-out edition. ACT’s wide stage is ideal as a long runway. Five judges chose winners from 19 entries spanning four categories, and best overall costume. There were cash prizes.
The designer’s challenge is to assemble “upcycled” (recycle into a valuable outfit) materials from various outfits and other sources — for a unique, catchy look.
Overall best of show went to Ray Fawley’s paper flowery gown, modeled by Lauren Rivas. It also won the Paper category. Fawley aimed to make out of paper what “doesn’t look like paper” — and he succeeded brilliantly.
The character was “My Fair ‘Beetlejuice’ Lady,” Fawley said. His gown’s fluffy lower portion had attached what looked like red rose petals. They were cut tissue moistened into wavy “spitballs,” Fawley said. He told The Tribune the pseudo-leather corset was made of paper doilies, as he deployed “different textures.”
Fawley shifted careers drastically last year, from lawn care to fashion designing. Rivas is mainly an actress, not a model. She earned a BFA in theater from A-B Tech, in 2013. Her cross-training fits the show’s cause. Its proceeds benefit ACT youth classes, Costume Drama host and ACT Ex. Dir. Susan Harper told the crowd.
Rivas was very animated with a mix of subtle and showier facial expressions and gestures, on the runway. Fawley’s gown is floor-length on her. Rivas comically shuffled ahead using quick, small steps for an illusion of gliding.
“Modeling is acting. It should be having fun on stage” for the audience to share in, Rivas said. She said that is her style, rather than “looking angry” with modeling’s standard serious and aloof looks.
Oceania, the new category, was won by Danielle Chaboudy’s warrior princess outfit modeled by Misty Brooke. Chaboudy decorated the ornate headpiece with pearls, shells, sea glass and glowing florals. Breast and pelvic plates were golden and shiny. She said the final touch was subbing sandals for shoes.
The winning Artistic License design was a nature theme by The Graces — Charlotte Cat Murphy who won best of show in ’18, with Hanna Black and Susan Sertain. Their forest faerie outfit featured twigs, a thorny headpiece, and ornate top with flowing ragged green sleeves.
Veteran model Emma Dubin modeled it with her usual sophisticated flair. This is her fourth Costume Drama. She immersed herself into that fairy character — flowing with motion and gentle gestures.
Dubin was eager to “capture the fae (faerie supernatural) quality, and its magic that still exists.” She was inspired by English fantasy landscape illustrator Brian Froud’s quote about how “all women are part faerie” when “portals to her own land are open; when the full moon sings its insistent song…”
Also in Artistic License, Jenny Hall used a chicken wire frame for the wide gown she designed and Anna Knights modeled. Though that gown is heavy, Knights stayed mobile and curtsied. Hall waxed its flowers and was relieved bright stage lights did not melt that wax — as ACT stage hands warned just before showtime.
Generalized Artistic License also featured Sandra McDaniel’s stately gown — with an historic backstory. She designed the floral-patterned gown with regal white headpiece propped behind the head, based on an illustration of what Elizabeth Stuart (1596-1662) wore in the 1600s.
English native Elizabeth Stuart became Bohemia’s “Winter Queen” in 1619, but fled civil war into long exile.
She was also dubbed “Queen of Hearts,” for helping others. Her grandmother was Mary (Stuart), Queen of Scots and Elizabeth’s father was British King James VI.
For added reality, McDaniel matched the outfit with model Jenna Goforth, who closely resembles red-headed Elizabeth Stuart. McDaniel sought to “create a portrait, to step off of the canvas onto the stage.”
Goforth said she moved slowly to personify a royal, mustering up a haughty “look at me, you peasants” glance and gesture.
Show-stoppers included the fairy-winged, glow-in-dark costume that won the Light category. Kathleen Frederick was both its model and designer (as Kat of All Trades). She stated, “The stage lightning, my body position and colors in my wings shifted constantly” as she moved. As she unfurled or waved her wings, they took on hues of green. Her gown shifted from off-white to shades of red and purple.
The audience saw a video of each designer describing the outfit, and its meaning and materials. Kelley Ann Ross noted she used 3,000 paper cups adorning her skirt that MaKenzie Coil modeled. Sheila Thibodeau made a Papier-mâché robot costume, that Ryan Moor moved in on stage.
Tricia Ellis spoofed social media, with the outfit she created and wore. Her theme resonated with many The Tribune spoke with ranging from senior citizens to Becky Highsmith, 22, and Tuscola rising senior Mclain Youngwood, 17.
Highsmith has a psych degree. She saw how the gown’s train of tag-along, multi-colored balls represented the multitude of diverse people who “follow” a person on Facebook. She noted Ellis wore a lantern covering her head, making her anonymous like many who post social messages.
Youngblood recognized how the lantern’s smiley face on its front and frown on its back stood for range of emotions in oft-impulsive social messaging.
Pat Deck, 74, said she felt calm in this her modeling debut. She modeled for designer Leslie Lang and Givens Estates in Asheville, where Deck lives.
Several designers and models told The Tribune it amped them to help raise money for ACT classes. “This show is a creative outlet for designers, and helps a creative cause,” Brooke said.
She said acting like modeling “builds confidence.” Dubin said ACT encourages “magic of children exploring characters” from serious to “silliness,” and expanding personality. ACT’s Harper said youth “find their ‘voice,’ and their tribe” through acting.
For more on ACT shows and programs, check ashevilletheatre.org.