Zonta style

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Supermodels they were not, but the women -- and a few men -- who sashayed down the catwalks at the Zonta Fashion Show sure looked the part.

Walking down the platforms, swinging around in flared skirts worn with leather go-go boots, throwing their shoulders to show off a fur band on a cape or shifting their hips to showcase a silver belt, these women worked the crowd as if modeling were second nature.

And while it wasn't like the shows in Paris, Milan or New York, Monday's event provided a glimpse into what Cape Girardeau women will be wearing this fall and holiday season.

The annual Zonta Fashion Show gives the community a chance to enjoy an evening of fine dining and see shimmering gowns for the holidays or the latest look in business dress.

Models walked short platforms situated throughout the University Center Ballroom and then circulated by the tables, giving the audience a chance to touch the garments or ask about how a piece felt or was made.

There were touches of embroidery on blouses and sweaters, colorful skirts and jackets paired with slinky boots and pant suits with long jackets.

"There's really something here for every woman," said Denyse Hinckley. "There are so many different accessories and different details, from the very simple to the very elegant."

This year marked the show's silver anniversary. And in 25 years, the fashions and the show have surely changed. The Zonta Fashion Show used to be an all-out production with several stages, emcees, entertainment between segments and strobe lighting for the finale. This year was the first to include segments on bridal wear and accessories, and the only year the show didn't end with a finale of furs.

But some things remain constant. "The formals have always been beautiful," said Polly Holten, event chair. "Glamour hasn't really changed."

But the fashion look at the show has gone from the flared pants of the late 70s to the power suits of the 80s and the sexy styles of today.

"We've not done anything outlandish," Holten said. The club has always relied on local stores to supply the fashions, and plenty of women say they choose their outfits based on what models have worn. "That's what keeps the stores coming back," she said.

Behind the scenes at the University Center Ballroom at Southeast Missouri State University, the models were a little nervous and hurried as they dressed for their parts. Blouses were being steamed, hair curled and sprayed, necklaces fastened.

Though she'd modeled in previous shows, Courtney Verhines was a little shaky before the start of this one. She'd practiced her walk and studied a diagram showing her how to maneuver through the crowd.

"I've put it all in order to know what I'll wear," she said. She was modeling for Annie-Em's.

Each of the five stores represented -- Cape Girardeau Pendleton, Annie-Em's, The Woman's Store, Carlisle and Weekender -- had up to seven models for each of the segments: casual, business casual, career wear, evening wear and accessories. Precious Memories joined the group for the evening wear segment. And there wasn't much time between segments to change -- sometimes only five minutes or less.

So keeping organized was key.

"There's not much room in there, but you'd be surprised at how easy it is to get dressed," said Julie Hendershott as she walked out of a dressing room for Cape Girardeau Pendleton. Because each model had specific items to wear, choosing outfits off the rack wasn't that tough.

A few joked that the clothes they modeled were the only ones in their sizes, so that's why they'd been chosen for those outfits. In reality, almost all the models had a hand in choosing what they wore. Most of the store owners and representatives wanted the women to feel comfortable in the clothes, so they let them choose the outfits.

There were a few last-minute shuffles as models hurried to find their necklaces or sunglasses or scarves before rushing into the ballroom.

Susan Dean of The Woman's Store chose outfits for her plus-sized models that "you wouldn't see anywhere else," she said. She selects only a few pieces in each size so that every woman who shops in her store will find a distinctive outfit.

Amy Lanzotti, an audience member, saw a few outfits she'd consider wearing if she wasn't expecting. The show offered a nice variety, since there are times when you're looking for clothes to wear to work and times when you're looking for something to wear out, the women at her table agreed.

"You don't always have to shop with a purpose," Lanzotti said.

ljohnston@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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