OUTCAST five, Social Seen
This episode tasks the designers with creating an evening dress “fit for a socialite.” Nicky Hilton was represented to the TV designers as an important public figure. Karen argued to forego dressing Nicky in favor of designing for a dyed-in-the-wool, card-carrying socialite who might at least be here in town. [Good idea.]
First hurdle, where to find such a creature, Karen wondered? In their natural habitat, where else? Direction Highland Park, nationally renowned shopping center where jewel box buildings housing the likes of Chanel, Hermes, Prada, and Jimmy Choos’ line the cut stone sidewalks punctuated by Spanish moss draped oak trees. Karen circled the parking lot several times hoping to both see an approachable affluent-looking shopper and locate a parking spot amongst the pack of Jags. However, Karen was beset with an overwhelming stalker-like feeling which urged her to re-think her initial on-the-street-reporter approach. Maybe asking one of the boutique personnel for help would offer a greater chance of success, she told herself.
Now, which boutique? Karen later recalled to me how very intimidating the elaborately chiseled facades seemed overlaid in her mind against her mentally rehearsed soliloquy: “Hi, I’m Karen Garrett. I am not on a TV show called Project Runway. I am instead sitting alone at home in my workroom sewing one-of-a-kind mostly useless garments for my own enjoyment. Do you know any socialites? No, I am not a stalker. Honest.” “Excuse me while I go call 911,” the alarmed sales person is heard to politely remark. Later, while the police cart Karen off she is somehow comforted to remember jail time didn’t seem to hurt Martha Stewart any.
Fortunately, Karen rightly reasoned the Jimmy Choos would potentially mount the least resistance to her request due in large measure to the soundly logical assumption they would not view her as competition. She leaned against the massive glass bulkhead that served as the entrance and struggled her way into Jimmy Choos. Scott, the in-store manager glissed effortlessly up to Karen and insisted “on a hug” before inquiring into her needs. “Darling, love your pants [Karen’s Tumbleweed Trousers], Scott cooed. Karen would later describe first, deeply inhaling and then launching into her pre-rehearsed socialite appeal. Scott, clearly amused, Karen told me, repeated for clarity his understanding of Karen’s request by asking concise follow-up questions. “So you are looking for a true socialite. Pretty. Thin. Wears clothes well. A real fashionista! Right? “Yes,” Karen exhaled! “I have just the person, if she’ll do it. I’ll give her your number, Scott encouragingly offered.
Later on in the day, Karen’s workroom phone rang with her caller ID ominously flashing “Private Caller.” Do the police call you before they serve you with a stalking arrest warrant, she alarmingly asked herself? Karen was both relieved and beside herself with excitement to hear Heidi Dillon, a prominent Dallas socialite and president of Fashionistas, Inc., would herself agree to “take a meeting” with Karen at her award-winning Highland Park “swankienda” the very next day. My telephone answering device would record a breathless Karen speed-talking an unintelligible message I later deciphered to mean Karen’s socialite hunt had proved fruitful.
The next day, I can tell you my normal I-could-care-less demeanor wandered between anxious and morganatic resignation as the day’s tentacles lengthened into evening, all during which Karen maintained strict radio silence. My ringing phone cruelly stabbed the air much too late that night. “Don’t worry, I’ve got it all handled, Karen explained on the other end of the phone. Heidi Dillon has accepted to be PO’s socialite stand-in, she wants Michael Faircloth to judge the dress, and I have to have it [the dress] ready by 11:00 tomorrow morning for the final fitting and photo-shoot at her home.” “This is all very exciting and sudden,” I answered. We’ll post tomorrow night, Karen instructed. Click.
I’ll take a paragraph or two here to back up and write down Karen’s take on her first meeting with Heidi. Since I was not actually present, Karen’s own impressions are paraphrased here for the reader. Karen described driving into the veritable center-city forest defining the posh and exclusive neighborhood of Highland Park to arrive at a stunning post-modern Frank Welch designed masterpiece that is the Dillon home [see PaperCity for a photo tour]. She shared with me her mounting trepidation as she drove past 100-year old rolled lawns in her rented gray smoke-impregnated Ford Taurus. You see, her adorable Dakar yellow sports car was having its’ bumper and fender repaired from an unsightly blemish unmercifully gouged into it by an oversized SUV in the Michael’s parking lot the week earlier. While Karen is not materialistic, her “coach” did give her that kind of after-midnight-Cinderella-feeling that makes a girl feel inferior. [And please don’t write me with some pedantic argument intended to label Karen as lacking confidence or shallow! You drive through Highland Park in a smoky non-descript mid-sized sedan and see if you don’t feel like the “help” as you wind your way past vintage MG’s and flocks of glistening Mercedes cabriolets.]
Okay, back to the Heidi meeting. Once parked in the auto court, Karen dutifully pushed the “call” button on the intercom station located beside the glass and steel door. Heidi answered the intercom herself and the door opened and Karen followed Heidi’s instructions to come right in and join her in the kitchen on the second floor. Heidi, having just then returned from her kickboxing workout, greeted our designer with courteous grace and unassuming style. Karen, loaded down with several examples of her work, peered through all the ruffles and pleats to introduce herself to Heidi. Once mutual introductions were exchanged, Karen got down to business laying out each garment on the kitchen’s colossal stainless island food preparation counter.
Karen did share with me her first reaction to the vast kitchen was to wonder how many people lived there since the kitchen could obviously prepare food for legions.” Heidi began by interrupting Karen mid-stream, “Is the challenge to make me something you like, or something I like? Karen rightly responded she would be privileged to make Heidi something she would like. Good girl. “I like black, it’s my trademark. Let’s go upstairs and I’ll show you my closet,” Heidi instructed. I though we were already upstairs, Karen mused. They both arrived at Heidi’s “closet” which Karen can only describe as being a cavernous richly carved hardwood-lined room, impeccably arranged with many parallel wooden clothes rods spaced with mathematical precision and lit with boutique style lighting. “This is my “everyday” closet, here is my couture closet [couture closet!? OMG!],” Heidi pointed out as she swung opened the double-doors to reveal long rows of Swiss clock engineered surgical steel dress supports, each containing uniformly spaced garments, all black. Karen told me it quite literally took her breathe away. Heidi continued the tour by thumbing through several dresses revealing the original designer’s signatures, hand-signed in very chic silver ink. You can imagine the heart-stopping thrill of the moment as Karen fingered each dress signed by uber-desingers Karl Lagerfeld, Muccia Prada, Tom Ford (Gucci) and even Michael Kors! Black is okay with me, Karen told herself.
Back through Heidi’s to-die-for dressing room, past the autographed picture of Michael Kors, and down the spiraling monumental center-piece stairs to the Paul Bocuse inspired kitchen Karen went trailing Heidi. Once back at the stainless island, Karen handed Heidi her design drawn [in 30-minutes] earlier in the day. Heidi thought the design was “enchanting,” as long as it would be rendered in black. “Black it is,” Karen confirmed. They both openly worried black would not photograph well, but Karen understandably realized Heidi’s endorsement far outweighed any potential technical issues which could be worked out by the web team. [Thanks Karen.]
Karen worked late into the night, PR-style, to ensure the garment was finished in time for her Heidi-fitting. Her chic little black dress, a veritable staple of any socialite’s wardrobe, was cut to really "fit." The bodice itself contained hand-sewn beaded kerfs which took over 5 hours to complete. Karen headed back to Heidi’s for her fitting and photography. She related to me later the ceaseless prattle of the rented Ford’s front passenger seat served to intensify her angst. After all, she day-dreamed, what if the dress did not fit?; what if Heidi loathed the dress; what if while driving through Heidi’s neighborhood in her gray Taurus she was victimized by Highland Park police profiling and was taken in for questioning? All seemingly legitimate concerns to Karen during the ride over.
Karen was again buzzed into the Dillon estate and invited to meet Heidi on the third floor dressing room where, under the watchful eye of both Michael Kors' and Coco Chanel’s autographed pictures, Heidi put the finishing touches on her refined makeup and coiffure. Relief abounded after Heidi pronounced the dress “adorable” and slipped it on. A perfect fit! Whew! No offending wodge of errant fabric or serpentine seam anywhere. Karen tried to describe to me the relief which passed through her body once Heidi confirmed she was truly pleased with the dress. Then the unthinkable happened. When Heidi twisted into her dressing chair, one clear white bead popped off. Then another. Karen blushed and explained she only had time to glue on the beads that form the infinity shaped outline on the front of the dress due to the rigid time constraints. “No problem. I have my glue bottle right here, Karen said. After which she assured Heidi the beads would all be hand-sewn before the dress was delivered to her for her use. Heidi found the whole scene amusing and commented she felt it added that theatrical opening-night feel to the whole thing. Heidi wanted Karen to know she had contacted her personal photographer to take the pictures, but finally, felt the amateurish quality of Karen’s photos lent a more camp feel to PO. I must unabashedly proclaim Heidi was stunning in this little black dress and looked radiant in the naturally lighted pictures.
Once the photos were taken, off to Michael Faircloth [on the other end of town] for his review. I won’t offend his considerable sensibilities by my feeble attempt at encapsulating his review here. It can be read elsewhere in the website dedicated to the Social Seen episode. However, I can comment on Michael’s familiarity with Heidi’s impeccable taste and demands for laser precision fit. Michael was quick to praise how well Karen fit the dress to Heidi and knowingly allowed “she [Heidi] would have not agreed to be photographed in it if her highly refined and educated taste was not satisfied.” Spot on observation Michael! That truism could [and should] be applied to any appearance conscious socialite regardless of pedigree. Challenge met.
Postscript: Karen did remove the offending glued on beading and spent two days hand sewing new beads onto Heidi's dress. And yes, Karen did hand-sign the dress in silver ink before shipping it over to Heidi where it now presumably is stabled in the couture closet with the other hand made thoroughbred creations.