Arts : Clothes-minded

Fashion analysis by Leigh Baldwin

Local designers on the runway

Linda Pace’s mirrored igloo, featured prominently as the catwalk’s pivot at this year’s Art of Fashion fundraiser for the Southtown Mainstreet Alliance. Appropriate, given its references to vanity, or maybe there was just no way to stage the show around it. My companion was hopeful the models would magically emerge from the igloo, despite the concrete floor.

Now in its 15th year, Art of Fashion draws a capacity crowd, easily three or four rows standing behind the several dozen chairs surrounding the runway. As the room filled, the heat of the building increased and we were all thankful to see the first model appear — a good hour after expected. Luckily, the show began with one of its strongest collections, by Ana Martens, which was inspired by The Wizard of Oz and the only collection to feature menswear. The first model wore a French-cuffed shirt in Dorothy’s iconic blue gingham and a sky-high starched white collar (he was carrying a bulldog stand-in for little Toto — also a crowd pleaser). The rest of the characters were likewise subtly referenced, especially in a military-style suit of grey flannel and silver lamé.

Art of Fashion organizer Angelina Mata’s collection at the end of the hour was a true finale. Her theme, French picnicking, was effectively rendered in her fabric choices — printed cottons in polka dots, florals, and gingham checks in red and black and trimmed with grosgrain and lace — and the silhouettes of the dresses. A strapless hobble dress (in which the hem is taken in severely below the knee, producing a mincing walk), a mini-dress of black lace over ticking-stripe cotton with a bustle back and lace jabot at the throat, and a ballgown with a ruffled apron all conjured shapes from the ultimate French picnic, Seurat’s “Sunday Afternoon on La Grand Jatte.” Mata’s use of uniform black knee socks and black hairpieces wrapped around the chin and neck created a “frame” around each ensemble, highlighting it as a work of art.

Other highlights of the evening included local favorite Agosto Cuellar’s collection of unbleached-muslin baby-doll dresses, accented with lace and vintage brooches. Mary Alice Medina’s collection, as much about architectural hair as the Carmen Miranda/Marie Antoinette clothing, ended with a spectacular black satin evening gown with a mermaid train and bustle of turquoise and lime tulle. Rodrigo Virgen’s evening wear was feminine and wearable, especially a dark-brown sheer-lace top with a high neck and long sleeves over an ethereal tulle ball skirt, and a two-piece outfit featuring a very cleanly cut satin A-line skirt with pockets.

While overall a good mix of theatricality and professional design, Art of Fashion suffered in some spots from hesitant models, repetition within collections, and poor construction. But given the standing-room-only crowd, perhaps San Antonio is ready to support more than one annual review of local designers.


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