Wearable wonders

Extravaganza offers haute couture, Alaska style

Posted: Sunday, February 16, 2003

Seasonal Affective Disorder had no chance of rearing its ugly head Friday night during the Wild Mind third annual Wearable Art Extravaganza benefit for the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council. Artist Joanie Waller made sure of that.

"A girl can't just rely on the weather, no, no, she has to emanate from within," said emcee Collette Costa as Waller modeled her "Anti-SAD Dress" in the first act of the show.

The off-white dress was made of lamp shades and more than 30 glow sticks - enough to light up Waller when the lights dimmed and she flitted down the stage to the tune of "Singin' in the Rain."

Waller's costume was one of many at the show that left audience members laughing, clapping and sometimes gasping. The displays represented Juneau's various artistic leanings, from brightly colored silk dresses one could wear to a ball to cocktail dresses covered in napkins to political statements about war and golf courses.

"Osama Bin BushWear," designed by Paul Gardinier and modeled by Tom Schwartz to the tune of "War, what is it good for?" is perfect "whether you live in a cave or in the White House, whether you sell oil or sell weapons," said the emcee in a statement written by the artist.

Wearable Wonders Slideshow

The outfit consisted of shredded scraps of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights, a U.S. flag bandanna, a camouflaged jacket, sunglasses and a bottle of motor oil.

Jeff Brown, who designed and modeled "Safe Cruising," came up with the idea for his costume when he bought an old orange life preserver from state surplus "and history went backwards from there," he said.

The costume consisted of a life preserver suspended around Brown's waist, with multi-colored beads dangling around his legs, a gas mask on his head and a full-body Tyvek suit "for protection," he said.

"Because you never know what you're going to come up with when you're cruising," he said.

If the ship sinks, a passenger wearing Brown's suit would go down in fashion, he said.

Nearly 500 audience members paid $20 each to watch the fashion/art show. Artists paid $15 for the glory of walking down the runway and the chance to win one of three prizes awarded by an audience vote.

While waiting for the show to begin, a silent auction of items such as airline tickets, massages, art and dinners with local politicians kept the audience entertained and provided another revenue source for the JAHC, which uses the event as its largest fund raiser. Sybil Davis, JAHC executive director, could not say immediately how much money the evening garnered.

The Aurora Strings provided gentle background music as pre-show entertainment, and a group of hip-hop dancers called Scream kept the energy level up while the votes for best of show were counted.

And the winners? "Galaxy 49 in Red," a dress designed "for maximum attraction" by artist David Walker and modeled by Emily Windover took third place; "Eve," a walking vagina created by artist Tara McGuiness and modeled by Margaret Bonnell, came in second; and the "Anti-SAD Dress" took top honors.

Christine Schmid can be reached at cschmid@juneauempire.com.

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