OUTCAST Episode Six, How much is that dress innuendo?
This is my first Podcast, but since we here at PO do not have the requisite technical skills required to produce and upload an actual Podcast, our viewers will have to settle for a transcripted version we call an “OUTCAST.” And, we of course do not have a reasonable facsimile of Tim Gunn (who does), so any substitute oratory epistle would not have that stamp of verisimilitude that only Tim’s voice can add to what would otherwise be a bald and unconvincing narrative (to paraphrase Trevanian). Where is Santino when you need him?
I will begin with Episode Six, and proceed retrograde until I have completely regressed, so to speak. The challenge was to design a day-into-evening outfit for the Banana Republic customer. The PO production staff (that would be Karen) was disheartened to learn this was to be a “team” challenge, the spring 2006 fabrics were to be supplied by BR, and the designers would be displaying their work in a BR window. Okay Karen, how is this going to work? You have two days. Thankfully, my diminutive role as PO’s designated geek did not extend to pesky logistical production issues. Whew!
My first blush logistical concerns were heightened after Karen confessed she was not acquainted with any local designers, models, or anyone in BR’s management structure. Even her nearby Hancock’s had ceased business just the week before. I sympathetically responded by informing Karen the PO web team would be out of town starting mid-morning Friday. Post late Thursday night, or wait until Sunday evening. “Let me know,” I urged.
Karen ratcheted up her typical tornadic energy level and first focused on finding a teammate, a BR storefront window and a model. First stop, BR in Highland Park. The in-store manager, Hope, was mildly receptive to the idea, but wanted Karen to run it by the national window designer, Wendell (no kidding) who would be in sometime. Meanwhile, Hope offered to run the idea up the BR chain of command. “I’ll get back to you,” she assured Karen.
Don’t dwell, move-on I encouraged. Karen placed a call to Heidi (her socialite), who graciously referred her to Krista at the Dallas Fashion Incubator. Great, one-stop shopping, Karen hoped! Karen met Krista at the Incubator's South Dallas studio, where Karen dutifully described PO’s mission, this week’s PR challenge, and PO’s widening list of shortfalls. Voila, fret no more, Krista would supply Karen with the name of one of their brightest designers and Mark would make window space available in the Incubator window downtown! Krista also provided Karen with a contact at The Campbell Agency where it was hoped Karen could seduce a model into wearing her design and then posing in a downtown store window. No problem. [Yeah, right!] Karen phoned me with the update. Okay, now we are getting somewhere, I cautiously thought.
Enter Italian-born and raised local wedding gown designer Cristina. Karen telephoned Cristina at home, and learned she had just that night arrived back from Italy where she had a chance to preview the Milan 2006 couture collections. Perfect! Cristina agreed to collaborate with Karen and PO on this challenge on what was literally a moment’s notice. Bravo Cristina! Cristina pledged to watch the PR episode that night to hear firsthand the PR challenge.
The next day (Thursday) in the workroom, Karen and Cristina meet for the first time to work on their design. Karen learns Cristina’s gowns are not sewn together, they are piece-constructed. “You don’t know how to sew,” Karen politely asked? Okay, let’s just concentrate on our design,” Karen offered. Cristina was influenced by the avante garde couture she had recently experienced in Milan and felt the dress should embody some of these elements. Specifically, transparent fabric with applied lace-like patterns.
Karen called me, waaay too early I might add, to update me on Team Outcast’s progress. I wondered out loud to Karen whether or not BR’s spring fabric inventory encompassed this Italian-influenced style. “I doubt it,” she asserted. “I’ll let you know what we find at the fabric store, and by the way, both Cristina and I don’t want to copy Wendy’s navy charmeuse. And I was just crucified for using black on the Social Seen challenge, we both eschew silver, Cristina is sick of white [understandable] so we’ll see. My phone rang later that morning with Karen’s fabric progress report. “We could not find any suitable spring-like fabric, so we decide on fall. “WHAT, FALL?!” I opined. Strike one!
I deftly shifted to inquiring about her progress with a model, less she suffer the same slings and arrows which had befell her each time she handled the modeling chores herself. “Good news,” she exclaimed! The Campbell Agency is providing us with one of their top models, and they have already sent me her measurements. Plus, they will let us photograph her on their runway! “You are going to measure her yourself,” I probed with my best leading question intonation. “No time. I’ll just make minor adjustments to the garment at the final fitting and make it work,” Karen confidently responded. Strike two!
Later in the day, I made it a point to stop by Karen’s studio workroom to survey the designers’ progress. Cristina had already gone home to presumably recover from her jet-lagged frenzied day and attend to some things. The team had basically finished the garment, except for the jacket and skirt which were left long to adjust to the model’s height, whose name was Deana, I learned. I looked at the garment on the dress form. Okay let’s review; I thought. The dress’ fabric was actually transparent with leaf-like shapes applied to it. Since I was horrified to see more dress form than dress, kind of like looking through a screen door, I gasped. Karen sensed my discomfort and rejoined my drop-jawed stare with a soliloquy revealing the Milan-inspired impetus behind this design element and adding the model would be wearing attractive panties of some description underneath the dress.
Needless to say, while my testosterone impregnated heterosexual hormonal response shouted, “alright!” my feminine side blessedly took over. What followed is best described as a rant covering everything from fabric choice to polite feminine grooming You the reader, can fill in the blanks as you see fit. Karen, always focused on seeking a solution, threw up her hands in defiant pleading gestures while quickly spiraling around her studio in ever widening circles, all the while spit-balling a list of potential “fixes.” Let’s all calm down,” I croaked. Nice try, It didn’t work.
Since my position at PO is seated at a computer, not a sewing machine, Karen reminded me that when “she wanted my opinion, she’d give it to me.” Enough said. At this point in the day, Karen was almost out of challenge time. “I’ll make a slip-like lining for the dress out of this,” she announced while holding up a jagged remnant of some non-descript off-white fabric. I relieved myself of a heavy sigh and offhandedly mentioned this fabric might be a bit strident since it was basically white. Karen dismissed my concern with her plan to dye the fabric a coffee-colored shade in her coffee pot. Silly me, why didn’t I think of that?
Segue way to very late in the day, where Karen had arranged for a fitting and photo shoot at The Campbell Agency and eventually, the Incubator window downtown. She was rejoined by Cristina, and of course, their lovely model, Deana, herself a perfect picture of feminine pulchritude. It was planned I would post the resultant pictures once I received them before I left on my weekend jaunt.
Karen would remark to me later that night, "one look at Deana gracefully unfolding from her car, she knew the measurements given her were galaxies off." The reality of Karen’s first observation was soon revisited the instant Deana tried to pry on the jacket. Karen later recalled to me her mind flashed that infamous quote “If it doesn’t fit, you must quit!" Too late now. Might as well shoot it going down the runway, Maybe Deana’s striking appearance would overshadow the lousy fit. “Oh, we don’t actually have a runway here, we just use the hall,” The Campbell Agency's John Peter soothingly explained. Strike three! You’re AUT!
Sufficed to say, the remainder of the fading day and night careened from ordeal to crisis and back again. Deana’s husband, himself a model, arranged for the board room scene and Cristina simultaneously scouted the restaurant bar location. And of course, the time dedicated to the window design was forcibly narrowed to almost nothing. But alas, the design itself played the real leading role in this Greek tragedy.
Karen did have ample opportunity to postpone the challenge to accommodate the web team’s impromptu sojourn, and even remake the entire garment. But her high integrity level does not allow her to contemplate such thoughts. When I opened the email containing the challenge photos, I dialed up Karen to ask her if she really wanted me to post these photos, or should I wait until my return on Sunday. Karen’s response was quick and decisive. “Post them, maybe they [the viewers] will allow me one botched challenge in exchange for my bonus challenge, Paper Chase.” “Do you know what fat chance means,” I asked?