Bob Mackie's fall ready-to-wear collection is parading the runway at a glitzy fashion show in Newport Beach. The room is crammed with 400 women anxious to see what one of the biggest names in Hollywood costume design has to offer for offstage dressing.
That the audience is influenced by the entertainment industry is obvious. Near one end of the runway is a Sue Ellen Ewing look-alike in a broad-brim black hat and decolletage, and an Alexis Carrington type in a beribboned straw skimmer and body-hugging silk suit is just a few seats away.
In a sea-foam green ensemble striped with rhinestones is another Mackie fan, a la Vanna White of "Wheel of Fortune." Yet another fan looks as if she, like Meryl Streep, has just ventured out of Africa, complete with pastel shawl, safari shirt and skirt and ivory jewels.
Mackie, who draped TV-costume history on the lean and leggy bodies of Cher, Carol Burnett and Marie Osmond, has geared his Hollywood wear to the masses--or at least those masses who can afford to pay up to $10,000 for a beaded evening gown or $2,500 for a daytime ensemble.
Though Mackie shows outfits for day as well night, these women applaud his day wear only occasionally. They politely clap for the sweaters appliqued with oversize nose-to-nose profiles. And they give a hand to the designer's geometric chemises with Mondrian-style striping.
Enter the glitter--in any form of bead, bangle, bauble or thread--and this crowd at Amen Wardy's hoots, howls and yells "bravo!"
When Mackie's gray jersey gowns sparkle only from the sheen of their metalized leather belts and the studs on their matching flared jackets, there is little applause.
When the glitter returns, so does the applause. Shrieks at the sight of the bronze-and-gold beaded gown with flapper-fringed hem. And similar reactions to vibrantly beaded striped dresses that swirl softly on the body.
Mackie says his customers "like dresses that always look right--clothing they can put on and not have to work at wearing."
Despite a stage full of Hollywood glamour, there is at least one voice of reality at the show. A woman with a well-rounded silhouette whispers to her friend: "Now, I could wear that," pointing to the red-and-black jersey tabard-and-skirt ensemble on the runway. Not blinded by glitz, she sees that, like many of the Mackie fashions, this one is designed to slenderize and lengthen the look of any body.
"Hollywood costuming is just making every star look as good as she can--and the secret is to always make her look as thin and as tall as possible," Mackie explains.
Translating that to ready-to-wear, Mackie uses vertical stripes and elongated torsos to create long lines and skillful draping to camouflage bosoms that have sagged or fannies that have drooped.
In a season when other designers have offered waistline definition and bold beltings, Mackie most often skips over the middle.
"I can put Cher in almost anything and she looks fabulous and makes a statement. But it's the rare woman who can carry that off--and it's the rare woman who wants to."