Saturday night at the "Chicken Ranch," a crowd of about 100 people saw the only student runway show this semester. Jesse Deckard, a senior majoring in fashion design through the Individualized Major Program, said goodbye to IU with style. In a rustic setting on the outskirts of Bloomington, friends and family gathered under a white tent to see Deckard's final project, "Because I'm a woman." Before the show started, all of the guests received a free glass of wine. The speculation was present on everyone's face as they looked at the white 50-foot runway bearing the collection name "Esseja Creations." The event was complete with flowers on each table, a cash bar and a decorated runway. Anticipation was hard to contain as old classmates returned to Bloomington to see the show everyone had been talking about. Allison Elkins, a 2003 graduate of the Costume Construction Technology Program and Deckard's tutu model in the 2003 Apparel Merchandising fashion show, was excited to see what Deckard had put together.
"I haven't talked to him since I graduated," Elkins said. "This is everything I expected."
The extravagant show was an ode to Deckard's idol, singer and songwriter Dolly Parton. Each piece was a reflection of Parton's town trash-inspired image. Deckard even dressed each model in a Dolly Parton wigs and make up. Each model had a male escort that represented Deckard's expression of his chosen lifestyle. The models played off of each other, with the female models spanking the male models, and the female models singing to remixed version of Dolly Parton songs.
Michael Vollbracht, head designer of Bill Blass, said he was proud of Deckard for sticking to his guns. Deckard interned at Blass for three seasons. It was there that Deckard had chance to work with Vollbracht and explain his vision.
"I love someone who has a point of view," Vollbracht said. "I am happy he did not give into the fashion industry and he went along with the Dolly Parton theme because she is not that fashionable."
Vollbracht said he completely understands Deckard's inspiration, and he can relate to how he feels.
"As a person in love with Elizabeth Taylor during the 1950s, I understand his love affair with Dolly Parton," he said.
The crowd cheered when the first model, Cissy Saylor, arrived on the runway wearing a teal green sequined strapless mini dress with a teal organza princess seamed overdress. She was followed by a male model wearing a teal organza shirt with green satin drawstring pants.
The third look on the runway was an alternative piece called "I Can See the Light of The Clear Blue Morning." This piece was a red butterfly silk dress with a diamond neckline, puff sleeves and glass panel inserts. The male model, CJ Vallero, wore a glass panel male corset with black leather striping and clear vinyl hot shorts over a red butterfly g-string.
Deckard, who said he lives by the Pantone color book given out New York Fashion Week, was right on time with the outfit titled "High and Mighty." The entire outfit was pink, with model Kerry Hall wearing a hot pink sequined strapless princess dress with a metallic pink organza overdress that draped off the shoulder and sleeves. The look was completed with thigh high gold boots. The male model, Robert Kane, wore a stretch organza turtleneck top with an open back and hot pink sequined shorts. "High and Mighty" was one of his more conservative looks, but the color pink and the sequence commanded attention on the runway.
"It took hours to make the fabric -- we stretched it and pulled the yarn with rubber gloves to get the squiggly look I desired," Deckard said. "I was amazed at how well the model pulled off the essence of the dress, with the whole high and mighty theme."
Deckard said the models and their display of the clothing was what he was looking for.
"I think all my girls transformed on stage and that is what I wanted," he said.
Deckard said he wanted the models to own the runway and not show the clothes in a traditional way.
"I didn't want it traditional; I didn't want a traditional walk on the runway. I wanted them to own that runway and say we are here and we are not messing around," Deckard said.
The next look was one of Deckard's favorite pieces. It was an alternative piece called "Shine," made completely out of mirrors. The crowd oohed and aahahed as the model slowly strutted down the runway in a black bra and panties underneath a bandeau-style dress with fringe made out of mirror. The look was paired with black thigh high boots, which complimented the outfit as model Vanessa Brenchley sang to the music.
"The model for the mirror dress worked it," Deckard said. "She looked really good."
Both the female and male models had a chance to express their sexuality with the outfit, "I'm the queen of the sleazy tabloids." The models danced on the runway clad in black faux leather. The theme was inspired by a dominatrix with the female model wearing a black leather top with a sheer front panel, a fitted mini skirt with black sheer die panels and chain detail. The male model was dressed in a black sheer shirt, with a black satin collar and chain lacing. The black leather pants had a sheer front and back panel, worn with a black satin g-string and laced up the side with chains.
The outfit embodied the homoeroticism of the show as both male and female models were shakin' it to the music.
Deckard said he choose to do menswear for several different reason.
"Nobody ever does menswear at IU," Deckard said. "I thought how could I convey me as a person struggling through high school with my definition of self."
Deckard said he felt the audience appreciated the homoeroticism of the show -- and he received no criticism for making it such a big part of the show.
"I think they enjoyed seeing something like that on the runway if anything, they thought it was going to be worse," Deckard said. "When people see homoeroticism, they apply a negative connotation to the word, it's not negative it's a part of people. It was a part of the creativity of the show."
A hush came over the crowd as model Kate Walter walked down the runway in the final piece. The outfit was titled "Heartbreaker," wedding dress made of white silk brocade trimmed with mercury beads, sequins, and mercury crepe flounces. The model had a custom-made parasol, and a kimono brought back from Okinawa, Japan by Deckard's grandfather. The male models were more like flowers boys dressed in white silk hot shorts with matching mercury beads and sequined neck ties. Deckard was most proud of this ensemble.
"I think my favorite piece of work was my wedding dress, and the mirror dress comes closely behind," he said.
The crowd cheered and clapped to the music as Deckard came out to thank his friends and family for all of their help and support.
"Without all of these people who have helped, this show would have never lifted off the ground," he said.
After the show, the audience let loose, ate catered food and watched performances by Miss Gay Indiana 2003, Alana Steele, and newly crowned Miss Gay IU 2004, Bianca Defy. Deckard said he was pleased with how everything turned out. He said everything down to the last detail was a reflection of him. The audience seemed to love the event, and many were not surprised at the magnitude and extravagance of the show.
"As usual he exceeded expectations, but I knew it would be something fabulous," Elkins said.
Kate Rowold, an IU fashion design professor and curator of the Elizabeth Sage Collection, agreed.
"I knew it would be terrific, it was a wonderful culmination of the program," she said.
Deckard had so much fun with the show, he is looking into having another on campus open to the public.
"I would love to do an encore show to represent my work, the students and the quality of the students at IU," Deckard said.
Deckard isn't sure if an encore show is possible because of funds, but Deckard's mother, Marcella Brinson Ruth, had one thing to say.
"Anyone who didn't come to the show missed a spectacular event," she said.
For more information contact Jesse Deckard at email@example.com.
-- Contact assistant arts editor Patrice Worthy at firstname.lastname@example.org.